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10 Winter Running Hats to Keep You Warm on Cold Runs

Stay cozy during winter training with these running hats.

best winter running hats
Staff: Courtesy of Trailheads

Is it crazy to run when the temperature dips below freezing? When snowpocalypse season lays siege to half the country and the “real feel” index makes Antarctica sound like a reasonable vacation spot, you might be forgiven for hitting the treadmill. But some hardy souls are motivated by the crisp air, bright light, and in-it-together camaraderie of running in the cold—it beats sweating through humidity, they say. And truly, if you layer up properly in warm, sweat-wicking gear, you probably can tolerate temperatures colder than you realize. (Don’t overdress, however, or you’ll overheat, and as your sweat chills, you risk hypothermia. You should feel slightly cold when you first step outside and warm up within 10 minutes.)

Best Winter Running Hats

    Keep Your Top Toasty

    The myth of losing 15 percent of your body heat through your head was long ago busted, but it sprang from seeds of truth: If your head is cold, you will be, too. We tapped into a community of like-minded pals who run through all the elements winter throws down to find the best beanies to see you through until spring. The perfect hat will keep you toasty warm while wicking sweat to keep you dry; look for one that covers your ears and stays securely on without squeezing your forehead. And then get out there: You’ll be happier and healthier, just like the other cold-weather-loving crazies.

    How We Tested

    Marathon training through a Northeast winter doesn’t so much take grit as it takes good gear—including the perfect warm, but-not-too-warm beanie to coax you toward the door on those mornings when you’d rather stay under the covers than run in the snow. To make this list of top winter hats, I relied on years of keeping my mileage high and my head cozy through some of Pennsylvania’s wildest weather events, as well as input from my friends and colleagues at Runner’s World. We all put a great deal of trial and error into selecting and testing the best hats here; for the sake of thoroughness, I also scoured Amazon reviews for pros and cons of models we might have missed. Here are our recommendations.

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    Best Value
    Tough Headwear Running Beanie
    Tough Headwear
    Now 17% off

    • Inexpensive
    • Wicks sweat well
    • Also available in bright colors

    • Too tight for larger heads

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester, spandex
    • Recommended Temp Range: 10° F to 40° F

    This best-selling lightweight beanie is made from a poly-spandex blend that stretches over your head, sits close on your ears, and effectively wicks away sweat. Thin enough to fit under a ski helmet or bike helmet, it kept warm-blooded testers toasty at temps as low as 10 degrees; others used it as a liner underneath chunky knit caps. Runners prone to overheating appreciated being able to roll it up and stuff it in their pocket. If you don’t love it, Tough Headwear has a generous return policy. The beanie is also available in bright orange and neon yellow for increased visibility during winter’s limited-daylight days or in snow.

    Smartwool 250 Beanie One Size

    • Made of merino wool
    • Feels soft
    • Insulates well

    • Might be too thin for some, especially those who used the previous version of this hat

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Merino wool
    • Recommended Temp Range: 0° F to 32° F

    This is the go-to head warmer for the brave soul who runs in all conditions, including snow, sleet, and ice (which we don’t recommend). Here’s why: Smartwool’s 100 percent merino is double-locked for extra warmth, which is no surprise, but it’s also soft, it breathes, it wicks moisture, and it resists the odors that some man-made materials never shake, even after repeated washing. Roll the cuff up for a stylish touch or down low over your ears on the frostiest days. A few outliers complain that the weave on this year’s model is thinner than in the past, but most runners rave about this perennial fave.

    Best for Sunny, Below-Freezing Days
    TrailHeads Ponytail Hat

    • Drop-down ear flap
    • Small bill for sunny days
    • Has a hidden ponytail slit

    • One-size-fits-all might not, in fact, fit all

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester, spandex
    • Recommended Temp Range: 0° F to 32° F

    Most winter hats leave my giant, chaotic ponytail with nowhere to go. This fleece cap has a little hole in the back through which it can escape, so all that hair stays out of sight and out of mind. It’s an ideal pick for sunny, below-freezing days, as the bill is big enough to protect your eyes, and the drop-down ear flap is cozy against ears and neck. It’s also versatile—the ponytail slit is almost unnoticeable if you’re not using it, and on warmer days, you can tuck the ear cover back into the cap. The all-over fleecy fabric is soft, comfortable, and warm, but it doesn’t provide much rain protection for those who run in wetter climates. Also be warned that the hat stretches to fit in one-size-fits-most fashion, so runners with bigger heads might find it to be too tight.

    Best Fit
    Craft Light Thermal Running Beanie Hat

    • Light and well-ventilated
    • Wicks sweat
    • Two sizes

    • Not as warm as Craft’s previous winter hats

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester, elastane
    • Recommended Temp Range: 20° F to 40° F

    Made of a fleecy polyester blend, this Swedish-brand cap holds heat like an old-fashioned ski hat yet also breathes well on the run. It’s one of the few options here that come in multiple sizes—S/M and L/XL—so you can get a fit that doesn’t put pressure on your skull or slowly migrate upward while you’re finishing your long run. Previous versions of Craft’s winter hat were made of thicker fabric; this one isn’t quite as warm and woolen, but it does the job on snowy runs without causing you to overheat when the temps rise into the 40s.

    Best Full Coverage Warmth
    TrailHeads Men’s Fleece Ball Cap

    • Very warm
    • Bill blocks out sun and rain
    • Ear and neck cover

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester fleece, spandex
    • Recommended Temp Range: 0° F to 32° F

    Block out some of that blinding winter sun or keep the falling snow off your face with this generously billed ball cap. Made of a soft, stretchy fleece with a drop-down flap to cover your neck and ears, the hat will keep your whole head warm and comfortable on the coldest days. For visibility on early morning or late evening runs, the hat’s bill has reflective accents.

    Best Winter Race Cap
    New Balance Lightweight Skullcap
    New Balance

    • Lightweight
    • Breathes well
    • Covers ears

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester jersey material
    • Recommended Temp Range: 20° F to 35° F

    When you just need a simple, warm layer to get the job done without setting you back in the cash department, this skullcap has you—and your ears—covered. Made of a blend of polyester and spandex, the hat wicks away moisture and keeps sweat from pooling into your eyes. It’s robust enough to block out the windchill, but still lightweight enough that you won’t overheat on balmier days.

    Best for Inclement Weather
    Gore Wear Windstopper Beanie
    Gore Wear

    • Windproof fabric
    • Sweat-wicking band
    • Hi-viz

    • Too warm for dry, above-freezing days

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester, elastane, inner wind membrane
    • Recommended Temp Range: 10° F to 32° F

    If you’re determined to complete your winter run streak this year, you can’t let a little thing like subzero temperatures and 40mph wind gusts get in the way. Stay as warm and cozy and possible with this soft, weatherproof beanie. The hat’s Gore Windstopper fabric across the forehead and on the extended ear flaps effectively blocks icy blasts; the internal polyamide and elastane lining wicks sweat to keep you more dry. Neon yellow helps keep you visible in snowy and low-light conditions, with the help of reflective stripes along the sides.

    Best Lightweight Cap
    Icebreaker Merino Adult Chase Beanie

    • Soft merino
    • Cozy

    • Not as warm as other caps in this roundup
    • Available in one size only

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Merino wool, spandex
    • Recommended Temp Range: 25° F to 45° F

    Give your head some soft merino love with this lightweight winter cap. Made of 96 percent merino wool with a little spandex for stretch, the beanie keeps you cozy on cold runs without leaving your scalp itchy and overheated, and the just-snug-enough fit stops the cap from sliding off without inducing a pressure headache. It’s so small and lightweight that you can tuck it into a pocket if you get too warm—but be warned, you might want something heavier for the coldest, bitterest days.

    Best for Late Fall
    Brooks Greenlight Beanie

    • Hi-viz
    • Inexpensive
    • Breathable

    • Not warm enough for the coldest days

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester
    • Recommended Temp Range: 25° F to 45° F

    The Greenlight Beanie fits your head like a skullcap (or even a swimming cap, if you really want to be honest about it), which keeps it firmly in place. It’s designed to balance warmth and breathability, so you might want something bulkier for running on truly cold days or for casual winter wear. But if you like an ultralight layer to keep your ears covered and your head UPF 50+ protected, this hat is a good value. It’s easy to pack down into a small pocket if it gets too warm.

    Best Winter Two-in-One Hat
    Nike Women's Dri-Fit Running Beanie & Gloves

    • Vents heat well
    • Gloves are included

    • Not warm enough for the coldest runs

    Key Specs

    • Materials: Polyester, spandex
    • Recommended Temp Range: 25° F to 45° F

    If you tend to overheat in heavier winter hats and just want an ear-grazing head covering that will stay put and relatively dry, this Dri-Fit beanie will serve you well. It strives to give you the best of both worlds—little ventilation panels throughout the wide brim keep the air flowing, but the thermal lining retains some heat and feels soft against your skin. The hat is unlikely to be enough when the temperature dips down into the teens, but for most 30- to 40-degree runs, it’s ideal. (Your mileage may vary, of course, if you’re the type to wear shorts in below-freezing temps.) As a bonus, you also get a sleek pair of winter running gloves.

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