Loading up with gear is one of the best things about picking up running as a hobby. There are unlimited combinations of electronics, apparel, footwear and nutrition to help propel you in your running goals. You’re probably not alone if you’ve set out for a run feeling totally ready and equipped only to find yourself unbearably uncomfortable before you close the first mile.

Runner’s World has a great tool called What to Wear that helps take the guesswork out of what to put on when you head out. You simply fill in a short survey answering gender, temperature, conditions, wind, time of day, intensity of your workout and what it feels like outside and they’ll tell you how to gear up. Another site called DressMyRun does the same using temperature, wind speed, cloud cover, time of day and conditions (rain, snow, sleet, mist, fog). It even gives you nifty little Amazon links showing you examples of what you might need.

But, if you’re not able to access these sites for any reason, you need to know how to dress yourself without it. Read on for a few rules to guide you in determining how to dress for runs in any season. A key that you’ll see throughout...dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer than it actually is to stay comfortable throughout. Think about how your body will feel, what temperature it will be halfway through your run, not just when you start.

Spring

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Springtime is always complex. It could be perpetually rainy, unseasonably warm or even snowing...or swing through all of these in a matter of days. The unpredictability of this season makes it difficult, but the key is versatility and layers. You want to pick pieces that are each light on their own, but provide a nice cover when combined. Also items that are easily removable and storable as your temperature rises (think a vest you can fold in on its own pouch and clip to your belt, gloves that can be clipped to other clothing or tucked into a waistline). For your base layer (what is closest to your skin) you should choose sweat-wicking materials and avoid cotton. For your feet, utilize water-repellent spray for your shoes and wool running socks that will keep your feet both dry and warm.

Summer

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In summer, it’s more about materials and self care when you dress. You should avoid anything cotton because it holds your sweat and takes forever to dry (and will cause chafing). Sweat-wicking is just about the only way to go. You may also want to look into some newer technology that provides UV protection as well. Keep your colors light and clothing loose. Always wear at least sunglasses and, ideally, a hat or visor. NEVER forget sunscreen (but choose a sweat or water resistant variety).

Fall

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Fall is just about the best season to run, in my opinion. It’s a fine balance to wear enough to keep you warm, but not enough to cause you to overheat. It’s a delicate balance like in spring. Again, you want to keep the base layer sweat-wicking and use a combination of clothing...longer pants with a sleeveless shirt or shorts with a long-sleeve shirt. Choose bright colors over darker colors because it starts to get dark a little earlier and you don’t want to blend in with your surroundings. If fall in your area is trending cooler, pay close attention to your extremities and utilize items that can be easily removed if you start to get too warm (gloves, headbands and vests...all good options in this season too).

Winter

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Stay inside. Just kidding...I hate running when it’s really cold and always tend to overdress. I’ll pile layer on layer and be miserably hot 10 minutes into my run, all for the sake of not being cold as I get warmed up. Don’t do this. If you do decide to train outside in the winter months, you’ll need to invest in a good pair of water-resistant shoes to keep your feet dry and good moisture-wicking wool socks to keep your feet warm (choose socks that come above the ankle or just below the knee). Keep the base layer moisture wicking in this season too, but use a long-sleeve shirt as the next layer. Invest in a few good pairs of warm running tights...gear designed or labeled specifically as cold-weather. Compression is great if you can get it. As your top layer, you’ll want to choose a fitted, wind-stopping softshell and gloves. You can add accessories like gloves and a neck warmer to help combat the winter air too. Don’t forget the sunscreen (even if it’s overcast) and Chapstick. Never forget your reflective gear because winter days are much shorter than summer ones.

Do you have tips to share to guide getting dressed for runs in any season? Please put them in the comments below!

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