Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What to Wear to Work Out When It’s Cold

Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. See our ethics policy here.

The days are getting colder and darker but you — determined, focused you! — aren't going to let those seasonal facts stand in the way of your exercise routine. As you adjust to the dropping temperatures, limited daylight, and general sluggishness that winter brings, your workout gear needs to change, too. Whether it's a run outdoors before work, getting to yoga at the end of the day, or a weekend cycling excursion, fall and winter activewear needs to be different than what you relied on in the spring or summer.

Staying warm is obviously important, but you need performance pieces that won't trap too much of that heat, leaving you sweatier than necessary. Smart fabrics are part of the equation, as are design details like close-fitting cuffs that keep cold air out, and panels that allow air to move. We dug through the insulating, wicking, and ThermoHeatDryCoolTechWhatever products to find the best buys in nine essential categories. Find standout pieces to outfit you head-to-toe for this season's exercise routine, from jackets and hoodies to sports bras and tanks — even socks.

For even more workout gear shopping, be sure to check out our complete guide to activewear.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

The Light Jacket

Uniqlo ultra light down quilted jacket, $80

This diamond-quilted jacket is filled with down, but it's thin and light, making it an ideal layer for getting to and from the gym. It also works for outdoor runs and bike rides when it's really frigid. The densely-woven shell of the jacket keeps rain out, and the seams are sewn with water-repellent threads for extra aid in keeping dry. The fitted collar and cuff lock wind out, and the whole jacket packs into an included carrying pouch. Available in navy (shown) and four other colors.

The Hoodie

Athleta Plush Tech Hoodie 3.0, $89

This Athleta hoodie has warmth-holding specs that will beat the pants off your usual pullover. It's got a crossover hood front to keep your neck warm, underarm stretch panels so you can move freely, requisite thumbholes, and a front pocket that securely zips closed. Plus, it's lined in a brushed fleece that's cozy without adding bulk. Available in ember orange (shown) and six other colors.

The Half-Zip

Aether 'Circuit' Top, $115

For a neighborhood run, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Aether's Circuit top, a smartly-designed half-zip style (also in navy and black). It's made of a quick-drying stretch fabric with flat-locked seams and thumbholes, so everything stays in place, no distractions. There are opaque mesh panels in the front and back to keep air moving as your workout ramps up, and a hidden sleeve pocket for keys and cash.

The Long-Sleeve

GapFit 'Breathe' long-sleeve tee, $35

This wicking long-sleeve has all the teeny tiny details that make a difference: it's just thin enough to breathe, the long cuffs have thumb holes, and it maintains its shape over time (and washes). Plus, it has flattering seam details and comes in six color choices.

The Tank Top

Vie Active 'Tina' Racerback Tank, $37.50

This Australian brand uses a blend that includes merino — yes, wool! — in its active products. While it seems counterintuitive to exercise in a fiber you're used to seeing in sweaters, it's actually an amazing, natural option. Merino pulls moisture away from your body better than cotton, and is lightweight, breathable, and anti-microbial. Those qualities make it ideal in a first layer, like this tank (which is currently half off its original price of $75). The fit is body-skimming but not hugging, with a longer length and a phone-sized back pocket with an ear-phone loop to keep necessary pump-up jams close.


The Sports Bra

Kit and Ace 'Belmont' bra, $48

Kit and Ace comes from the Lululemon family, literally: it's run by Lulu founder Chip Wilson's wife, Shannon, and son, JJ. The brand's "thing" is Technical Cashmere (which they've trademarked), a machine-washable blend of cashmere and performance fibers. Most of their styles, which include blouses and trousers, are about making everyday clothing perform better. Their foundations collection, however, offers undies and bras, including the high-necked Belmont style. It's made of double-layered Technical Cashmere with a deep-V power mesh panel for breathability, and is designed to sit comfortably close to your body before, after, and during exercise. Also in black.

The Leggings

Nike Pro Warm Mezzo leggings, $60

Fleece-lined leggings are like entering another level of heaven as far as winter comfort is concerned. Not all are great to work out in, though; this Nike pair has Dri-Fit fabric on the exterior to wick moisture and ensure easy movement. The high rise provides further coverage, making them a versatile bottom for covering up before barre or for taking a jog.

The Warmers


Fill in the gaps where your tank tops and carpi-length leggings leave off with Nicepipes' leg warmers (from $42) and arm warmers ($38). They're made of a four-way stretch fabric that offers mild compression but is easy to slip off mid-workout. These are ideal for getting to class in the cold, warming up, and peeling off once things start heating up. Leg warmers are available in seven colors (including royal blue, pictured) and two lengths (thigh-high, pictured, as well as knee-high).

The Socks

Patagonia ultra lightweight merino run anklet socks, $16

These are admittedly more expensive than the average pair of socks, but they're a great investment if you're going to be active outside. They're made of a stretchy wool blend that's breathable with a mesh panel at the arch for extra airflow. The low-cut ankle has an extra tab at the Achilles to prevent blisters during movement, and they're available in three solid colors, plus a few patterned options.


Man, It’s a Hard One: Why Can’t I Find a Vintage Santana ‘Smooth’ T-Shirt?


These Beaded Bags Are Fun as Hell


Your New Pet Rock Is This $2 Pumice Stone

View all stories in Shopping