Winter fitness gear: Everything you need to work out in the cold, from running jackets to cycling gloves

Louise Whitbread
·10-min read
Wrap up warm to exercise with insulated layers that won’t restrict movement or make you too hot (iStock)
Wrap up warm to exercise with insulated layers that won’t restrict movement or make you too hot (iStock)

As local lockdowns have come into place across the UK due to a rapid increase in coronavirus cases, exercising outdoors is one of the few freedoms we can still enjoy, whether that’s in the form of a daily walk or weekend cycle.

Not only is it an opportunity to get out of the house and change your surroundings, it’s also a great way to bump up those feel-good endorphins while following social distancing measures.

However as the temperatures continue to plummet and we head towards winter, wrapping up in the right fitness gear is essential to a successful workout.

Whether you’re a keen walker, regular runner or avid cyclist, there are a few essentials you need before stepping outdoors, from jackets, gloves, bike lights and more.

We’ve found everything you need to be equipped with whatever the weather, come rain or snow, as British winters aren't known for being particularly pleasant.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Walking

Boots

Whether you’re a weekend rambler or like to get half an hour of fresh air on your lunch break with a lap around your local park, investing in the right footwear will help you get the most of your time outside.

In our guide to the best men’s walking boots, these Adidas terrex free hiker parley (Adidas, £170) came out on top, praised by our reviewers for putting a spring in their step during a full-day hike into some of the most remote parts of a national park.

Put your best foot forward on your next hike, country walk or weekend rambleThe Independent
Put your best foot forward on your next hike, country walk or weekend rambleThe Independent

“The upper was extraordinarily comfortable, required no breaking in and was also highly breathable thanks to the Primeknit design that provides ankle support too.

"It also proved to be water-repellant so socks stayed pretty dry even after being semi-submerged in a moorland stream,” they said.

The pair have also been made with sustainability in mind, as the upper is made from upcycled coastal plastic waste.

For the most comfortable fit for women, we loved these Ariat skyline summit (Ariat, £170) that will allow you tackle all types of terrain.

Soft and flexible, this suede leather boot will suit all types of walksThe Independent
Soft and flexible, this suede leather boot will suit all types of walksThe Independent

The leather pair were described by our tester as “very breathable, making them a great boot for use all year round,” and they were especially impressed with their flexibility and lightweight mesh fabric that needed no breaking in.

Jackets

If you’re planning on enjoying refreshing walks in the crisp, wintery outdoors, you’ll need a jacket that will keep you warm without causing you to overheat.

We loved this Fjällräven expedition pack down hoodie jacket (Fjällräven, £275) in our guide to the best women’s mid-layers that will keep you warm in cold weather.

indybest
indybest

We tested this piece on multiple autumn hiked and our reviewers were impressed with the thoughtful design features, including an adjustable hood to a high neck lined with soft fleece, deep, well-placed inner and outer zipped pockets and a hip-skimming length, which offers extra warmth.

“The hoodie fits easily under a waterproof jacket but might be too warm for the mildest autumn days – this is one to crack out when the mercury drops,” they said.

Don’t let a rain shower get in the way of a walk with a waterproof jacket. Our favourite is this The North Face 1994 retro mountain light (The North Face, £325) which earned the top spot in our guide to the best men’s waterproof jackets.

Breathable but waterproof, this jacket is a must-have for outdoor excursionsThe Indepdendent
Breathable but waterproof, this jacket is a must-have for outdoor excursionsThe Indepdendent

Our reviewer found it provided parka length coverage without being heavy of restrictive. They said the hard shell material "vented extremely well when the environment we were walking began to get more challenging.”

Thanks to the pit zips, bungee cinches, cord locks and Velcro, it was praised for its ability to be customised easily, according to the temperamental British weather.

Running

Trainers

When it comes to running, the first thing to get right during the winter is keeping your feet warm and dry, so a good pair of trainers is a must. They will also provide cushioning and support your heels and ankles, minimising the risk of injury.

We would recommend the New Balance fresh foam 1080v10 London (New Balance, £135) for both men and women, which were loved by our reviewers for being lightweight, giving a smooth ride on the road and keeping legs feeling fresh even after a long run.

Keep feet cushioned and blister-free with a comfortable pair of trainersNew Balance
Keep feet cushioned and blister-free with a comfortable pair of trainersNew Balance

The midsole was praised for keeping the foot in place and anchoring the heel. This is a great all-rounder shoe that excelled in comfort and performance, whether you’re training to run a half-marathon or heading off on a brisk walk.

Running socks

Ditch your everyday pair of socks for a specific running pair, as they’ll wick sweat and moisture away from your feet and ward off blisters. They’ll also keep you warm during the colder months.

Some also have cushioned pads on the sides and soles, which will provide comfort on longer runs.

In our guide to the best, we loved the Under Armour run cushion crew sock (Zalando, £15).

This pair is worth splashing out on to ensure your feet are adequately cushionedUnder Armour
This pair is worth splashing out on to ensure your feet are adequately cushionedUnder Armour

"They have cushioning and ventilation in the right places, are breathable but warm enough for colder runs, and include a a supportive arch, a reflective logo on the back, and no lumpy seams,” said our reviewer.

They’re also discreet enough to wear under running tights. Once you pop these on, you’ll never look back.

Running jackets

When it comes to outerwear, there’s more than just warmth to consider. While you want a lightweight piece that won’t slow you down or restrict movement, it’s also important to consider colour, especially if you’re running in the evening, now that the clocks have gone back and it gets darker earlier.

In our review of the best women’s running jackets, this Proviz classic women’s waterproof running jacket (Proviz, £84.99) was praised for being a perfect hi-vis option.

This hi vis jacket will make you visible to pedestrians and other road usersProviz
This hi vis jacket will make you visible to pedestrians and other road usersProviz

Our tester said: “This is breathable, waterproof and its trademark reflectivity (it lights up like a Christmas tree when a light is shone at it) is abundant, rather than just the nod to visibility that many running jackets give.” They also loved its stretchy fabric which moved well while running.

For men, this Patagonia nano-air jacket (Patagonia, £180) earned top marks for its comfort and snug fit thanks to its neck zips, which our reviewer found kept the warmth in and cold winds out.

They said: “It’s really comfortable because of its stretchy construction and its soft on skin feel fabric, plus the cut is really nice with just the right amount of space under the pit, around the body along with a rather loose hem which comes lower than most (almost below the crotch).”

Lightweight and breathable, our reviewers loved how well this kept the warmth in and cold outPatagonia
Lightweight and breathable, our reviewers loved how well this kept the warmth in and cold outPatagonia

We also found it doubled up nicely for everyday wear, so you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of it during the colder months.

Running trousers

It’s not only your top half that needs extra warmth, so do your legs, especially to avoid cramping up in the cold and reducing sore muscles.

Our favourite pair of running tights for women are these Under Armour women's UA rush cold gear running tights (John lewis & Partners, £60) that we found to be super soft, but breathable thanks to the elasticated waistband.

Tights are a crucial part of any runner’s wardrobeThe Independent
Tights are a crucial part of any runner’s wardrobeThe Independent

“These compression tights felt like they were actually helping to support our muscles during our sessions, preventing any signs of cramp and keeping us comfortable throughout,” said our reviewer.

One feature worth noting is the zippered back pocket which saved our tester carrying house keys when on a run.

If you prefer a jogger-style trouser to keep knees, shins and ankles out of the cold, we’d recommend these On Running pants (On Running, £135) from our guide to the best men's running gear, that are ideal in both cold or wet weather.

These trousers fit snugly around the ankles with an elasticated waist for maximum comfortOn Running
These trousers fit snugly around the ankles with an elasticated waist for maximum comfortOn Running

“On the front, the top half is a water repellent, plus it doesn’t re-attach below the knee so they don’t restrict your movement at all,” our tester said.

We were also impressed with the snug fit around the ankle and leg zips which made them easy to take on and off.

Cycling

Jackets

While you can of course wear any jacket to go for a ride on your hike, if you’re a regular cyclist, we’d suggest investing in a specific cycling jacket, which often have features to allow you easy access when you don’t have both hands available while on the move.

For men, we loved this Chrome Industries storm salute commute (Chrome Industries, £170) in our guide to the best waterproof cycling jackets, which fast became our reviewers go-to for short trips and fun family rides.

Wrap up warm for your next bike ride with a cycling specific jacketChrome Industries
Wrap up warm for your next bike ride with a cycling specific jacketChrome Industries

While the design may look simple, it features a handy two-way zipper so you can open it at the waist while in the saddle and a zipped pocket at the back which you could use to store your gloves.

For women, try this Rapha explore women’s pullover (Rapha, £250) which ranked highly in our guide to the best women’s cycling jackets.

Get from A to B with a lightweight layer that will keep you warmRapha
Get from A to B with a lightweight layer that will keep you warmRapha

It’s lightweight enough to not weigh down a rucksack but comes with a handy hood for rainy days, and features a generous map and phone-sized pocket on the front which we loved for its convenience.

Our tester said: “It combines Rapha’s signature tailored look with a looser (but not baggy) fit, which also makes it easy to pull on over your baselayer.”

Cycling gloves

Don’t leave the house without your gloves, as there’s nothing worse than numb, frozen fingers while trying to adjust your gears.

We put cycling-specific pairs to the test in our guide and loved these Assos winter gloves (Wiggle, £70), which while pricey, are well worth the investment.

Keep a wintery chill and ice cold winds off your hands with this pair of glovesAssos
Keep a wintery chill and ice cold winds off your hands with this pair of glovesAssos

They’re lightweight and won’t take up much space in a jacket pocket once you dismount and head back indoors, but don’t dismiss them as too thin, as they have a fleece lining to keep hands warm.

According to our reviewer: “The low-profile design also increases finger dexterity, meaning gears and brakes are very easy to operate and trying to readjust your helmet strap or get an energy gel out of a jersey pocket doesn’t become a ham-fisted ordeal.”

Bike lights

As daylight hours decrease in winter, a bike light is an important piece of gear to add to your kit.

Topping our guide to the best bike lights was this Bontrager ion pro RT / flare RT light set (Sigma Sports, £139) that helped our reviewer navigate unlit roads at night and on daytime training rides.

Ensure roads and paths are well lit with this essential piece of equipmentThe Independent
Ensure roads and paths are well lit with this essential piece of equipmentThe Independent

“Fitting the front mount is easy as it just loops around the bars and screws down tight. The rear one mounts easily thanks to a rubbery band that wraps around your seatpost, and the light is so small it won’t get in the way if you ride with a saddle pack,” they said.

You can also sync up the light with a Garmin bike computer, to control them remotely and see how much battery is left, so you’ll never be caught without light mid-ride.

For more fitness must-haves, read our guide to the best winter cycling gloves

Read more

8 best winter cycling gloves: Keep your hands warm while riding

8 best women’s running jackets for autumn that are weatherproof