Winter Running: Best Face Mask (Explained)

Winter running masks keep the runners face warm in cold conditions. An obvious statement perhaps but it is important to clarify the intended purpose of the devices discussed in this article. How much protection your face will need is entirely dependent on the how cold it is. This article will help you choose the best running mask for winter for you.

This type of mask is not to be confused with the heat and moisture exchange device (HME). These devices are intended to be used by athletes in sub-zero conditions to improve performance at those temperatures.

The type of mask I’m talking about (and indeed use) is intended to make winter running a more comfortable experience. They are not intended to improve performance. However owning such a face mask will make it more likely that you’ll turn the door handle and get out the door for a run.

Factors To Consider For A Winter Running Mask

Some or all of the following points will help you choose your winter running mask.

The Right Mask For Your Winter

Living in the North East of England winters are relatively mild compared to some places on the planet. I can get away with two buffs strategically positioned from the top down and the neck up. I like this configuration as it keeps me warm enough and is configurable to the conditions on the day.

If however your winter temperatures plunge well below zero on a regular basis you’ll need something that gives you more protection from the cold.

When looking at face masks read the reviews to see what people have said about them and work out whether it would be appropriate for the type of weather that you’ll be running in.

What Size Do Winter Running Masks Come In?

Sizes are somewhat limited. But this isn’t such a bad thing the running mask should fit tightly around your head. Some come in two sizes so there is some flexibility. Materials that the masks are made of are flexible so you shouldn’t have any problem finding one that fits you.

What Parts Of The Face Does a Winter Running Mask Cover?

How much of the face and head the running mask covers is dictated by the conditions in which it is intended to be used. If you going be running in very cold conditions the mask should cover all of your head and face while leaving gap for the eyes.

In more mild conditions you may need less coverage. In this situation a mask that is flexible and configurable is ideal. being able to change the degree to which your face and head are covered on the move is ideal and there are face masks that allows this.

How Comfortable Are Winter Running Masks

Comfort is subjective and there are multiple factors the contribute to a greater or lesser extent. Equally what one runner finds comfortable the next may find intolerable. Everyone’s head is different and how the face mask sets on the head in the face will be different for everyone.

One common factor regarding comfort is the material the face mask is made of. It needs to be flexible enough to fit the contours of your head and face. While still giving you the protection you need.

What Are Winter Running Masks Made Of?

Running face masks are often made of wool as it’s a good thermal insulator. There are also some man made materials (such as neoprene) that insulate well and give good flexibility.

Manufacturers will often put their own twist on these materials and give it a good marketing friendly name. Read the reviews before you before you buy one and make sure there are no consistently negative comments.

The material a face mask is made of should be moisture wicking. Moisture will get cold and this is the last thing you need in close proximity to your face. So make sure the material your face mask is made of will wick moisture away from the surface of your face.

Make sure the material the face mask is made of isn’t one to which you are allergic. Allergies for materials that will be in close proximity to your mouth and nose would not make for a pleasant running experience!

How Much Does A Winter Running Mask Cost?

Unless you go for something at the specialist end of the market you can pick up a winter running face mask from Amazon for under $20.

At this price point consider buying more than one. If you run regularly you want a fresh face mask to hand each time you step out the front door. Finding that your face mask is in the wash would be less than ideal.

How Easy Is It To Breath In A Winter Running Mask?

Breathing in a face mask isn’t as easy as breathing without a face covering but it’s something you get used to very quickly. The area around your mouth may have a small warm microclimate that is actually pleasant.

Some face masks have flaps or vents area of the mouth and nose. These however are intended to allow you to take a drink or a gel while you’re on the run.

How To Wash A Winter Running Mask?

Read the guide that comes with the mask. However a quick rinse in warm water and then placed on a radiator should mean that your face mask will be ready for you the next time you head out the door.

It may be necessary for something a little more every few runs or so for the sake of hygiene.

How Configurable Is A Winter Running Mask?

A face mask that can be changed to suit the conditions you find yourself in is ideal. Thermal regulation what is relatively subjective and will change during the course of a run. That being the case you don’t want to find yourself with your head and face completely enclosed. Unable to let any cool air in will defeat the objective remaining comfortable throughout the course of your run.

How Flexible Is A Winter Running Mask?

The materials and the design of the face mask determine its flexibility. For safety reasons you’ll need to be able to turn your head be that looking for traffic or bears!

Final Thoughts: Best Running Mask For Winter

Fast runners generate more heat than slow runners like myself. It could be argued that if you’re a faster runner you may not need a face mask in winter conditions. I don’t agree with this and not just because I’m a slow plodder in comparison to some. If a runner heads out for a fast 10k, he may be back home 10 (or 20) minutes before me but his head will still be subject to the same cold conditions as mine.

The protection afforded by a winter running face mask shouldn’t be underestimated for safety reasons.

Best Running Mask For Winter


Slightly obsessed middle aged runner.