A blog by runners. For runners.

The best temperature for running


I’m one of those runners who’s rarely happy with the weather. We don’t get much of a fall or spring in my neck of the woods so I feel like it’s always too something on every run – too cold, too damp, too hot, too humid, too windy.

I can tell you my ideal running weather — somewhere around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15C) with no wind or humidity. The type of run where you start out in a long sleeve top, tank top, and shorts, but you take off the long sleeve layer after a mile or two.

The best temp for running performance
However, according to one study, my 60 degrees Fahrenheit sweet spot may not be optimal for running performance. Rather cooler weather may be better.

Researchers reviewed weather and race data from past Olympics and determined what the best outdoor weather temperature is for elite runners’ performance. In the marathon distance, 49.4 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for men and 51.8 degrees Fahrenheit is best for women. Athletes in sprint events fared better in warmer temps. For the 100m dash, for example, men did best when the race day temperature was 72.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and women excelled at 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Basically, the perfect temperature for marathon performance is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t too surprising. After all, most big marathons are held during the spring and fall months when the weather is most likely to be close to this comfort zone.

Dress for success
While we can’t control the weather, we can take charge of how we dress for it.

In the cold:

  • Dress in layers – you can shed them as you warm up. For your upper half, the layer closest to your body should be a thin, moisture-wicking material. Your final or middle layer (depending on how cold it is) should be made of an insulating material, like fleece. Your top layer should be a wind- and water-proof jacket made specifically for running that allows moisture to escape. For your lower body, unless it’s below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a pair of running tights made of synthetic material should do. In very cold temps, double-up your lower body with a pair of track pants.
  • Always opt for a hat. Most heat is lost through your head so choose a ski cap over a headband or earmuffs.
  • Choose accessories wisely. Wool socks, moisture-wicking gloves and mittens, and a balaclava in extreme temps will help keep you warm.

In the heat:

  • Wear light-colored clothes and socks made of moisture-wicking material. It’s a good idea to start a hot run with a shirt on – you can always take it off and use it to wipe sweat off your face.
  • Don a mesh running cap or visor to shield your face from the hot sun.

Keep in mind when the temp rises above 55-65 degrees or dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your performance is going to start to suffer. Always take precautions when running in extreme temperatures.

What’s your favorite temperature for running? Some of my southern running buddies won’t head outside when it’s below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. On the flip side, I know northern runners who thrive when there’s frost on the ground.

Written by Jen Matz