Earlier this winter we covered layering strategies for winter running, but more recently we’ve been seeing quite a few questions about how to keep your hands warm when out running in frigid temps. A lot of the advice offered online has been relatively generic and because a phrase like “Heavy Mittens” means something different to someone living in Northern Minnesota than it does to someone living in Georgia we thought we’d share some specifics. Here in Vermont we’ve recently been spending a lot of time in single digit and negative temps so we’ve had plenty of opportunities to work on our systems.
Before we get too far into this let’s establish exactly what we mean by Cold Weather. Here in Vermont when we say Cold we’re typically referring to temperatures below 40 degrees. That said… every individual is different. I used to climb with a guy who could handle cold, wet, ice climbing gear in below freezing temps bare handed with no issues. I on the other hand am generally a mitten person in the winter because not matter what I do I can’t keep my hands warm. So, take any advice with a grain of salt.
Below I’m going to explain my current glove system for running here in Vermont. This is what I use to keep my hands comfortable and so far I have yet to encounter a situation this system can’t deal with.
Winter Glove System Components
Black Diamond Lightweight Fleece Glove – These are just typical light fleece gloves, perfect fall cool fall days.
Black Diamond Lightweight Softshell Glove – This is a stretch woven softshell with a lightly brushed interior. It offers a bit more wind protection than fleece.
Black Diamond Midweight Softshell Glove – This glove is almost identical to the lightweight version, but it adds a light liner which increases it’s warmth.
Black Diamond Stance Glove – Basically this is a synthetic puffy coat for your hands. It’s super warm, and only comes out on the coldest of days.
CAMP Wind Mit’n (discontinued) – These are crazy light nylon overmitts. They’re compact enough to fit into the gel pocket of your shorts, and can be added to any of the above gloves to provide additional wind protection and warmth.
Above 40 Degrees
Above 40 degrees I typically don’t worry too much about gloves. I know I’m going to eventually warm up and won’t want gloves so I’ll often tuck my hands in my sleeves for the first little bit. As we get closer to 40 degrees I will sometimes wear gloves and when I do I use a pair of Mountain Hardwear Butter Gloves. These are extremely light fleece gloves that offer just a tiny bit of warmth, cut the wind, and provide a convenient place for we to wipe snot.
In these temps I will often wear my fleece or lightweight softshell gloves. If it’s super windy out or on the cooler side I’ll trend more towards the softshells. At these temperatures I find it’s really just the beginning of the run when your hands need some protection. Once you warm up gloves tend to be unnecessary. Both of the above options are light and easy to carry in your hands, or tuck into your waistband. If your nose tends to run the fleece gloves are more absorbent and provide a better place to wipe your nose.
In these temps I’ll start reaching for my midweight softshell gloves, or use one of my lighter gloves in combination with the overmitts. I tend to prefer the overmitts with my fleece gloves because they’re warmer at the start and after removing the overmitt better snot wipes.
In these conditions I’ll pair the overmitts with the midweight softshell glove. Again it’s about starting warmer with the overmitts and then removing the mitts once warm.
Below 10 Degrees
When it gets this cold I reach for my stance gloves and the overmitts. This is an extremely warm combination and has kept me comfortable in temps well below 0°. My only issue with this system is that it’s often too hot once I warm up… even after removing the overmitts. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay to not have freezing cold hands at the start.
Pro Tip: Start Your Run Warm… Many of us turn our heat down at night. If you run in the early morning it’s often chilly in the house when getting ready. If you head out the door and your body is already cool your hands are going to be the first things sacrificed. Instead do some dynamic stretches, squats, jumping jacks… Anything to get your heart rate up a bit and get your blood moving before you head outside. You should probably be doing these things anyway, so why not stack the odds of remaining comfortable in your favor.
If you have really cold hands you can always add a chemical hand warmer, and if you’re tackling a longer run and will be far away from your car or some other safe, warm place you should consider bringing extra dry gloves just in case.