Fleet Feet Sports Chicago

Essential Accessories for Surviving a Chicago Winter Running Season

Different temperatures call for different running accessories.

And different people call for different running accessories. This is primarily due to genetics.

Why are you talking about genetics?

Some of us run "hot" and warm up quickly and stay comfortable while others run "cold" and never quite get to a pleasant body temperature. This is mainly controlled by your thyroid. The thyroid, an endocrine gland just above the collarbone, controls your body temperature. Due to you genetic predisposition, if your body produces too much thyroid hormone, body temperature rises, thus you'll run "hot", and vice versa.

Other variables go into regulating body temperature such as your ratio of brown adipose tissue(brown fats), the same fats used by hibernating mammals, which produces heat in its thermoregulation function, and white adipose tissue(white fats), which is accumulated primarily by diet and does not produce heat.

With that being said, in "cold" temperatures, some may find it necessary to gear up with essentials. Others may not.

Essential accessories in cold conditions: 35-50° degrees

Hat or headband: Pictured: Smartwool NTS 250 Reversible Headband

In cold temperatures, we recommend a light hat or headband to cover your exposed skin that is susceptible to colder temperatures as you build speed during your run and create windchill.

The NTS 250 Reversible Headband has a double layer allowing it to offer double the protection from wind and cold as well as two looks in one. Mid 250 is the thicker of Smartwool’s baselayer materials and these hats and headbands have twice the amount of it.

Visibility: Pictured: Amphipod Xinglet Lite
A visibility piece should be included in all of your fall and winter runs as daylight is becoming more scarce.

The Amphipod Xinglet Lite Plus provides 360° reflectivity coupled with Central front and rear safety zones for extra reflective visibility with LED docking base that add further to your visibility while you run. Plus, it's a cheaper alternative to a fully reflective jacket.

Hydration: Pictured: Nathan Speedshot Plus
Even in colder temperatures, hydration is just as important as running in warmer temperatures. More on that later.
This handheld holds 12 ounces of fluid in a double-wall insulated and hi-viz reflective SpeedDraw Flask with Race Cap offers quick bursts of fluid and keeps liquids cooler longer. Fully adjustable hand strap with thumbhole enables grip-free running. Large, expandable, zippered pocket carries phone, keys, ID and other running essentials.

Lightweight gloves: Pictured: Smartwool Liner Glove
For many runners, their hands are the first thing to get cold, not only because of the weather, but because of poor circulation due to their running form.
With the Liner Glove you can have lightweight and flexible coverage.  The knit won’t add bulk and you’ll have all the thermoregulating benefits of merino wool. That’s not all, these gloves are touchscreen compatible. Available in Glacial Blue (pictured) and Black.

Sunglasses: Pictured: Suncloud Zephyr
While it definitely doesn't feel like it, the sun is actually closest to the Earth during winter months. You are still susceptible to harmful UV rays and sunglasses are your first line of defense, especially against the suns reflection against the snow. As always, please use a form of visibility as daylight is becoming more rare during these months.
These stylish sunglasses offer a polycarbonate lens, polarization, and 100% UVA/B/C protection.


Essential accessories for colder conditions: 20-35° degrees

As the above accessories vary in use from person to person, these accessories are necessary for any runner going on their run in "colder" conditions.

Hat or headband: Pictured: Smartwool NTS250 Cuffed Beanie

 A merino wool hat should be used to keep heat trapped at head-level.as you know, up to 70% of heat is lost through the head.

This beanie is a do-anything, all-season essential made with merino wool and with an adjustable ear band for more or less heat, and clean seams for a no-bulk fit.

Medium weight gloves or mittens: Pictured: Manzella Hatchback Gloves

A heavier glove or mitten is recommended to prevent frostbite.

To provide extra protection from the wind, pull out the lightweight, windproof finger hood; when no tin use, stash in stow-away pocket on the back of the hand. 4-way stretch fabric allows maximum and comfort; soft, working interior adds warmth and dryness with reflective trim.

Merino wool socks: Pictured: Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Mini
4 Degree™ elite fit system, ReliaWool™ technology for superior durability and a virtually seamless toe. Men's-specific mesh ventilation zones provide ultimate temperature and moisture regulation where male runners need it most.

Neck gaiter: Pictured: Original Buff
An accessories such as a Buff can be used in multiple ways to help defend your sensitive parts of your face and neck. 
Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. Original BUFF® headwear can be worn more than 12 different ways, from a cap to a balaclava to a hair tie, for a personalized style and perfect fit. 

Visibility: Pictured: Neutron Fire RX Runners Headlamp
When the temperatures drop below freezing, we recommend two types of visibility. A light that projects light so you can be prepared for unseen ice, and an item that absorbs light so that you will be seen.
Lightweight and weather resistant, 200 lumen spotlight, 5 modes, and 30 hours of battery life.

Hydration: Pictured: Nathan Speedraw Plus
Hydration is still just as important as it is during the summer months, just because you don't feel as thirsty, you still need to consume just as much water as you normally would or your run might end short due to dehydration.

Sunglasses: Pictured: Goodr sunglasses
Sunglasses become more important during the cold temperature, not only do they protect against the sun, at this temperature, you're protecting your face from windburn.
Hydrophilic rubber ear and nose pieces for a no-slip fit. Adjustable ear and nose pieces for a customizable, comfortable fit. Vented lenses improve air circulation, prevent fogging. UV protection and polarization.


Essential accessories for the coldest conditions: 20° degrees and below

When conditions turn to "coldest", you're not just downright doing yourself a disservice, you're putting yourself in potential danger if you don't gear up with these accessories before your run. 

Before you head out, check your weather app and don't just look at temperature. Runners should consider wind chill — the temperature it "feels like" outside based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin, according to the National Weather Service.

Take a look at this chart.

The chart below shows how long you can be exposed to certain temperatures before resulting in frostbite. For example, a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind speed of 15 mph creates a wind chill temperature of -19 degrees Fahrenheit. Under these conditions frost bite can occur in just 10 minutes. 

Below are some products and tips to help you overcome the cold and run comfortably.

First and foremost. Avoid wearing cotton.

Cotton is one of the worst materials you can wear during the winter, because cotton holds moisture and loses its insulating properties. If you sweat, get wet from the snow, or if there's any moisture in the air, the cotton will quickly absorb it and keep it close to your skin, making you feel even colder.

With that being said, we have a few non-cotton, merino wool headwear options.

Hat or headband: Pictured: Smartwool NTS250 Cuffed Beanie

It may just be a myth that 40-45% of body heat is lost through the head (actually about 10%), but exposed ears in frostbite level cold can ruin a run faster than about anything. A merino wool hat should be used to keep heat trapped at head-level. Merino wool wicks moisture away from the skin and suspends the moisture in the weave, and can absorb almost 1/3 of its own weight before making you feel cold or wet.

Balaclava or neck gaiter: Pictured: NTS Mid250 Balaclava

While some seasoned winter runners apply a petroleum based jelly such as Vaseline to their exposed face to prevent wind burn, a balaclava or neck gaiter provide exceptional protection to your raw skin from your cheeks, nose, and neck, down to your chest

The NTS Mid 250 Balaclava, available in a few different patterns or black, offers full protection without sacrificing any of your vision. It is made of the same Mid 250 material as the hats and headbands but without the double layer.  

Mittens: Pictured: Manzella Adventure 100

Your hands may be more functional in gloves, but your digits will be much warmer in mittens. Mittens offer more warmth since fingers have skin-to-skin contact with each other and can share body heat. Mittens also tend to have a smaller surface area than gloves, which reduces heat loss, so when in doubt, always choose mittens.

For those who just can't do mittens, go for a pair of gloves that tighten at the wrists for seamless warmth where your hands meet your exposed wrists.

Merino wool socks: Pictured: Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Mini

Merino wool socks will prevent your feet from getting cold. Nothing will make you want to cut your run short than cold feet.

Visibility: Pictured: Nathan Neutron Fire RX Runners Headlamp

Hydration: Pictured: Nathan Speedraw Plus

In freezing temperatures, depending how long you are running, your water can freeze. Using a handheld will prevent your water from freezing by using the heat of your hand.

Sunglasses: Pictured: Goodr sunglasses

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