The Best Winter Running Top at Every Temperature

Layering is not an option (or at least not a comfortable one)

January 7, 2019 9:00 am

In life, layering is the key to dressing comfortably in cold weather.

Sitting in a conference room with an aggressive heating policy? Drop a layer. Uber driver refuses to roll his window up in February? Add a layer.

But going for a run is not life. Too much bulk, and you’ll be sweating and ornery for the duration. Wear too little, and you’ll be shivering and risking that cold your mother warned you about.

The goal, then, is to identify the single layer that will keep you comfortably protected from the elements without overheating. This obviously means having a few such layers for different conditions, each one tailor-made to a specific section of the thermometer. Below, we’ve compiled five of our favorites, and indicated the temperature range for which we deem it best suited.

Stay toasty out there (but not too toasty).

Below 30° F: The Gannet by Mission Workshop
With its padded elbows and super-warm, stretchy Polartec Pro fleece, the best use case for this sweatshirt might be as a primary layer under a wind shell on the ski mountain. But we’ve found that it also doubles as a great single layer for those days when the weather report keeps most runners inside but you suck it up and hit the asphalt anyway. The fabric is water-resistant outside and moisture-wicking inside, and it’s also soft enough that it won’t chafe if you forgo a T-shirt underneath. Plus: two zippered pockets for your keys and phone. Caveat emptor: if you wear this puppy at any temp north of 40°, you’ll feel like you’ve been locked in a steamroom.


30-35° F: The Running Hoodie by Nike
With mitten-style sleeves and a louvred back for ventilation, Nike’s running hoodie is built for cold weather. Like The Gannet, it’s thick and well-insulated without weighing you down, and also offers solid moisture-wicking properties. But the real boon here is the structured hood, which will actually stay put if you opt to wear it — something that can’t be said of lesser hoodies.


35-40° F: Surge Warm Long Sleeve by Lululemon
It’s got all the little details that have become pretty much compulsory for great running gear — looped thumbs, a discreet zippered pocket for keys and metro cards, reflective material for visibility — as well as a tightly woven four-way stretch material that’s light on the hand but surprisingly resistant against seasonal blusters.


40-45° F: Wolaco Highline Hoodie
Your correspondent likes to think of this lightweight hoodie as the ultimate “cold outside, warm inside” garment. It’s comfortably shepherded me through runs in the mid-30s, but I’ve also worn it into the pit at an indoor rock concert without issue. It’s made from a wind-, water- and sweat-resistant Italian microfiber that’s form-fitting but breathes exceptionally well, and it feels as light as a polyester workout tee to the touch. If I had to make do with just one garment from this list, it would be this one.


Over 45° F: Men’s Merino 150 Base Layer Long Sleeve by Smartwool
Merino has become a go-to material for activewear companies in recent years for good reason: it’s a bit of a chameleon when it comes to temperature regulation, with a level of breathability that few (if any) synthetic fabrics are able to recreate. That means it’s warm when it needs to be, but also surprisingly light and airy when the sun comes out. Reach for this one on those early spring mornings when the temperature can shoot up 10 degrees over the course of your run.


Main image via Wolaco

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