How to run in comfort during Northwest winters

  • By Debra Smith, Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, December 26, 2013 2:38pm
  • Life

For many runners, it’s hard to lace up the shoes and get out the door when the weather turns bad.

Dressing properly can make a cold, wet run more enjoyable during the dark days of winter. If you’re still wearing a stocking cap and sweatpants, there are far better options.

Companies are making clothing with fabrics that can keep you dry, warm — and safer, too. Jackets, hats and gloves now often come lined with reflective trim, which helps drivers see you better when daylight is in short supply.

Most of the new generation of running clothes is better designed, too. You’ll find running tops with thumb holes in the sleeves to keep hands warm, and pockets to stash a car key or a phone. There are even hats that feature a hole to slip ponytails through.

Grant and Jennifer Harrington are co-owners of Endurance Sports Northwest in Mukilteo, which caters to athletes who run, swim and bike. The store sells gear and clothing and serves as a gathering point for athletes.

Both Grant and Jennifer Harrington have done their share of running. They both have competed in the most grueling of triathlon races, the Ironman. They’ve tested the products they sell. Whether you’re a casual runner or a more serious athlete, Grant Harrington offered a few tips for dressing properly for a run during the winter in the Northwest.

Do not overdress. The most common mistake runners make is wearing too much clothing, Harrington said.

“Someone once told me at the start of the Seattle Marathon that if you are comfortable at the start, then you are too warm,” he said.

After about the first mile, your body warms up. If you wear too much clothing, you’ll end up overheating, chafing or stashing clothing in bushes. Expect to feel a little chilly when you step out the door.

Know the difference between waterproof and water resistant. Water-resistant clothing is good for a slight mist or a short run in the rain, Harrington said. Expect to get wet.

Waterproof means just that: You won’t get wet. Clothing labeled “waterproof” is heavier and can get very warm. Keep that in mind as you dress.

Keep the extremities covered. We lose most of our body heat through our head, hands and feet. Keep those covered, and the rest of your body will follow, he said. A good hat, gloves and socks are important in keeping warm. They’re much lighter than a heavy coat.

Gore-Tex is not always great for runners. Gore-Tex is a material that is warm and water-resistant. It’s also rigid, heavy and too hot for runners, Harrington said.

Choose a shoe based on fit. Saucony makes a shoe called the Omni 12 that is Gortex-lined and designed for inclement weather. While these are nice options, the most important thing for runners is to choose a shoe that is comfortable and offers good tread.

“The feet are usually doing so much work they stay warm unless they get soaking wet,” Harrington said.

Most high-end runners he works with don’t buy shoes designed for weather. They worry more about fit, and that’s good advice for casual runners, too.

Running gear: What Jennifer Harrington is wearing in the photo.

  • Thermal Skull Cap from Pearl Izumi. A big improvement from a stocking cap. Lightweight and water-resistant, this hat also has reflective tape so runners will be more visible to drivers. Women with long hair will appreciate the hole they can slip a ponytail through. $22.
  • Women’s Thermal Lite Glove from Pearl Izumi. Lightweight and warm, these gloves also have grippers on the fingers. $15.
  • Women’s Xlite Membrane jacket from 2XU. This jacket features a special membrane fabric that is water-resistant, breathable and easy to move in. The jacket features an inside pocket and reflective trim to improve visibility. $149.
  • Women’s Thermal Compression Tights from 2XU. These tights feel super light while keeping legs warm.The compression feature reduces fatigue and muscle soreness. Runners will appreciate the lack of chafing. $129.
  • Women’s Low Rise Performance Sock from 2XU. Socks that are too thick can hold moisture and cause blisters and chafing. These socks are lightweight, comfortable and warm without the sponge-like quality of standard cotton socks. $14.

Source: Endurance Sports Northwest, 4201 Russell Road, Mukilteo; 425-493-8444; endurancesportsnw.com

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