Dashing through the snow doesn’t necessarily require a sleigh. With the right gear, you can continue to hit the snow-packed single track all winter long. These winter trail running essentials include gear for a variety of budgets and levels to keep you warm, comfortable and moving while the snow falls.
Footwear and Traction
Traction is essential for confident footing on winter trails. Fresh snow might be grippy enough for regular trail shoes, but packed snow and ice needs a little more bite. Occasional winter runners will do well with Kahtoola's, a traction aid which fits over your trail shoes. Their NANOspikes are ideal for icy sidewalks and flatter trails but I recommend the EXOspikes for sure footing on steeper, rougher terrain.
Those planning on putting in serious mileage on snow and ice should consider a shoe with built-in traction like the iconic Salomon Spikecross. With 12 spikes and a GORE-TEX membrane for complete weather protection, this shoe is reliably grippy and warm. It’s a unisex shoe with an advanced lacing system for a snug fit on most feet.
Winter running tights need to be light and flexible enough for those long winter climbs but also warm enough to protect your butt and thighs from wind chill. Put the capris away and opt for a longer length to keep those ankles covered.
Smartwool’s Merino Sport Fleece Wind Tight is a multi-tasking hero with interoir brushed merino for warmth and with a wind-proof front-panel for protection from wind where you need it most. These are available in men’s and women’s, have a generous inseam and a coveted drop pocket on the leg for your essentials.
MEC’s Cold Rush Thermal Winter Tights, with moisture-wicking nylon and spandex to stretch and move as you do, are a great no-frills alternative.
Wool is your best bet for a trail running base layer that will keep your body temperature regulated on hard climbs and long descents. Wool will also keep you feeling dry, even when you are sweating.
Ibex Woolies Tech Long Sleeve ¼ Zip is an awesome base layer that is available in men’s and women’s and allows you to self-ventilate on those tougher efforts. The 80 per cent wool mixed with nylon and elastane means you get an athletic fit that lasts without compromising on temperature regulation. MEC’s Merino T2 Base Layer is also a great option, with 46 percent merino for warmth and wicking. Both come in at 180gsm.
Probably the biggest investment you will make as a winter trail runner is your jacket. Most runners will need something with some degree of water repellency, wind resistance and warmth. Ideally it will also pack small, fit athletic and have plenty of pockets for stashing your essentials.
One of the best all-rounders out there is lululemon’s Down for It All jacket. It is water resistant, windproof and has a combination of Primaloft insulation and 700-fill goose down for zoned heat retention where you need it. It also has a zip-off hood, zippered pockets, and thumbholes in the sleeves to keep your hands cozy. We also love this jacket for the sporty cut and generous length in the back.
Innov-8's Thermoshell Pro Insulated Jacket 2.0 is another great option, with synthetic fill and narrow quilting for an agile fit.
From a beanie to a headband, everyone has their favorite cold-weather running headwear. Shade your eyes from snow glare with TrailHeads' Trailblazer. These fleece running caps come with a fold-down ear warmer and, in the ladies version, a hole for your ponytail. Alternatively, grab Innov-8's Thermo Beanie 2.0 for a pocket-sized performer.
The temperature of your hands will make or break your run. Fact. Mitts are warmer, also fact. But not everyone loves them. Get the best of both worlds with Smartwool's Sport Fleece Wind Mittens with a finger hood for optional extra warmth or grab a pair of MEC’s Goto Fleece Mitts for mid-weight heat that’s easy to layer with touchscreen-friendly overlays.
Removable neckwear is a powerful addition to any trail runner’s gear arsenal. Adding heat or allowing for ventilation, it is an accessory that packs a punch for its size.
Invest in a lightweight Merino Move Multifunctional Neckwear from BUFF® as your go-to layering buddy for reducing air drafts, covering chins and ears, and doubling as a toque, headband and sweatband. Or check out Rabbit’s Cocoon 2.0, a cozy fleece-lined turtleneck which transforms into a hoodie with a breathable face mask, perfect for when the wind bites and you need a little extra protection.
Love them or hate them, gaiters can provide essential protection and warmth when you are postholing.
Altra’s Unisex Trail Gaiters will keep snow out and you can use them year-round to keep dust, debris, and rocks out too. Salomon’s Unisex High Gaiters serve a similar function, but with the added benefit of ankle bone protection.