How to Stay Warm and Dry When It's Cold and Wet Outside

Our fitness expert, Michele Stanten, is walking coach and author of 3 books on exercise.

Winter is the season for workout excuses. Too much to do. Too many guests...And then there's the weather: It's too cold, too wet, too dark, too snowy to go outside. Isn't it? Not if you're prepared.

Here's how you can enjoy winter's wonders on foot—even when the weather is frightful.

  • Go Faux Cotton and wool stay wet and keep you cold and uncomfortable. Instead, select clothing made of synthetic wicking fabrics like polypropylene and Coolmax, which draw sweat away from your skin to keep you warm and dry. Choose jackets, pants and shoes made of waterproof yet breathable materials, such as Gore-Tex, to keep rain or snow from leaving you soggy and cold.
  • Get Layered Dressing in layers allows you to peel clothing items off as you warm up and replace them as you cool down, so you'll stay comfortable and avoid overheating. Start with a thin, synthetic base layer. Add a fleece top—and bottoms, if needed. (If it's really cold, you can double up on this layer.) Top them all off with a waterproof, wind-resistant jacket.
  • Warm Up Indoors When you're inactive, most of your blood is directed to your internal organs. As soon as you become active, blood is diverted to the muscles in your legs (and arms to a lesser degree), and your heart rate increases. Cold air can make this transition to workout mode tougher on your heart, so warm up indoors—by walking around your house or marching in place. Once the blood is flowing to your legs, you can head outside.
  • Fend Off Frostbite Wear a thin, moisture-wicking pair of gloves underneath heavier mittens or gloves to protect your fingers from frostbite. That way you can remove the outer layer without exposing your skin if your hands get sweaty.
  • Take Off Into the Wind If your walking route is out and back, this will make your return trip easier. The wind also won't be blowing in your face at the end of your walk, when you're more likely to be sweaty and prone to getting chilled.
  • Protect Your Feet Bacterial and fungal infections thrive when skin is moist, so keep your feet warm and dry by wearing wool-blend socks. For extra protection against friction and blisters, wear a thin sock liner made of moisture-wicking fabric. Spraying your feet with an underarm antiperspirant can help fight dampness too. If you have decreased sensation in your feet (or hands), don't warm them on a hot radiator, use a hot water bottle, or put them in hot water. All of these put you at risk for burns.
  • Be Safe When there are windchill advisories, frigid temperatures, or icy conditions, head for the gym or work out at home instead. If you're walking at dawn or at night, wear reflective gear so motorists can see you. And check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather if you have heart problems, asthma or Raynaud's disease.

From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Winter 2014

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 22 Dec 2014

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015