Gear Geek: Surviving Winter Running in Iowa

We have all felt it - that dreaded chill when you realize a mile into your run that you're not warming up like you expected, and you know you're stuck feeling chilled until your post-run cup of coffee to thaw you back out. Avoid the discomfort this winter with some great products for every body part that will not only keep you warm when temps dip down, but also won't hold you back if the sun miraculously comes out and warms things up.

Though your feet are a small part of your overall heat release, there's nothing worse than feeling like your feet are numb during a run. So what type of socks are best?

Feetures! Elite Merino+ socks are a great merino wool blend that wick away sweat and keep the feet a moderate temperature whether it's freezing cold or blistering hot. Plus Feetures! have excellent, seamless compression through the arch and around the top, a soft, comfy pad along the heel to protect from rubbing and slippage, and they come with a Lifetime Gauarantee! During those extremely cold, windy days, the quarter-height sock is a good choice to protect the exposed skin between your running tights and shoes. 


The core releases tons of heat and can make breathing in the cold very difficult. A lightweight jacket with a thicker vest portion, like the one on the left, is perfect for keeping the core warm without bulking up the arms or getting too hot. Hoods can be annoying, but this one is so lightweight you won't even feel it, but it has enough to protect the heat from releasing on the top of your head. Both jackets from Brooks are awesome for winter running with their packability! You can fold them right up into the size of your hand, or whip it out of a pocket when the sun goes down. The jacket on the right is better for wet weather to help resist absorption of the water to keep your clothes underneath dry and warm. Since it is made of a "swishy" ripstop nylon material, it can also help block strong winds from cutting through your layers. The taller necks are essential for protecting the upper chest and neck portion where wind is likely to cause some burning and tingling.The reflectors on the front and back also make it safe for you to wear during those early morning or late-evening runs during the shorter winter days.


A solid pair of gloves cannot be underestimated during the winter. A nice, thin pair is great for those chilly days and can be layered with a warmer pair of running mittens on top when it's really feeling like a midwest winter. Bonus if they have a tech-friendly material on the thumb and forefinger like these!


Whether you prefer an ear warmer or hat isn't important, but what is is the type you get. It is vital that they are tight-fitting and made of a polyester/spandex blend material. If they are fleece or cotton, they will collect sweat and can actually make you colder in the end, whereas a polyester and spandex fabric will help wick away the sweat and keep your ears and head warm. If you have little or no hair on your head, a hat is probably a better option since much of our body heat leaves from the top of our heads. The logo isn't just for brand recognition, but also acts as a reflector so people can see you well during the dark hours. 


A Runner's Headlamp, like this one from Nathan Sports, is a wonderful product to help with visibility in front of you and around you if you are doing more rural runs or hopping on the unlit trails. But even if you're in town, not all sidewalks and residential streets are well-lit, so a headlamp can provide essential light to make sure you're stepping on good footing and avoiding accidents. The Nathan Strobelights are dual-functioning with their light settings. You can either have them blinking or lit consistently to help you see farther, and make sure those around you see you in plenty of time. Both products are weather-resistant and packed with LED lights to ensure they'll take you through those dark winter runs and keep you safe.

Not sure where to look for your winter running gear? Check out your local running shops! All of these products and more are available at Heartland Soles Running & Walking Store in the Des Moines area.