Tips & Gear for Winter Running
The winter months can pose many challenges to get outdoors and go for a run. It can be very tempting to stay indoors and hibernate in the warmth of your home. But despite the cold, wind, snow, sleet, slippery footing, and sometime dark conditions, there are definitely ways to get outside, enjoy your run and stay active. Whether your goals are to stay active, run your first race or run a personal best time in the spring, getting those winter runs in are important to achieve your goals!
Some things to consider when running outside in the winter are the clothes and shoes you are running in, the routes you are running, accepting that you’re going to need to slow down, and of course your overall safety.
When it comes to your winter running wardrobe, it is all about layering and having options. Having a baselayer, midlayer and jacket or vest will keep you comfortable and warm so can be protected from the elements and enjoy the run. Baselayers are usually snugger to your skin and can be either merino wool or a synthetic blend of materials that are designed to keep heat in but also wick moisture away from your skin. Avoid cotton in your running clothing as it will absorb moisture instead of wick it away, which will end up causing friction on your skin and will make you colder.
Midlayers can be a range of thicknesses depending on how cold it is. They can be something light that disperses heat quickly when it is above zero or a bit heavier and more insulating when it is well below zero degrees. Midlayers can also double as your outer layer when it is above zero degrees and its not too windy and there is no precipitation.
The last layering piece is your jacket or vest. A super light weight and thin shell can be great to cut the wind and will be either water resistant or water proof. When it gets well below zero having a running jacket that is a bit thicker and more insulating will keep you warm and comfortable on those really cold days.
Winter running pants or tights that can both cut the wind and have a layer like fleece or a merino wool that will keep your lower extremities warm. For those really cold days a base layer legging underneath a thicker tight or pant might be necessary. The last thing for your winter attire are the accessories like headwear, gloves and neckwear. Running hats don’t need to be really thick to be warm, use mitts over gloves any day that is more than a few degrees below zero and your neck and face will thank you when you have something like a buff to go around your neck and occasionally over your face when you need it.
There is always a huge amount of personal preference when it comes to running shoes. Here are a few options to think about for what footwear to use in the winter:
First is having a waterproof shoe that will keep your feet both dry and warm by keeping water out and letting less air flow through the upper of the shoe.
Second is using a trail shoe that has more traction on the outsole with deeper lugs that will dig into the snow and a rubber compound that will grip better to wet surfaces.
A third options is a trail shoe that is also waterproof providing both benefits of a dryer feet and more traction.
This last option might seem the least ideal, but is still something to consider, which is getting a merino wool (light or mid cushion) sock and using your regular road running shoes. This is an option to consider if you are not prepared to have multiple shoes in your shoe collection, but still want your feet to be warm. There are also winter specific running shoes that have either ice grips or spikes on the outsole that will grip or dig into ice.
Running Routes: Find routes that are plowed and salted
The next thing to consider is where you plan to run during the winter months. If you are a road runner try to plan your routes on paths, side walks or bus routes that are plowed and salted. Finding routes that will have the best possible footing conditions will help keep you up on your two feet. If you are a trail runner you will almost certainly want to make sure you have footwear that will give you the traction you need in either fresh snow or on a packed and icy trail.
Be mindful of yourself and your pace: Start slower, expect your pace to be slower. Take it easy when going through slippery areas and taking corners.
Be mindful of your pace and be okay with running a bit slower than you normally would in the non winter months. Winter running can be more about getting the effort in, which will really pay off when the temperature starts to warm up. The paths, side walks and roads can be variable when it comes to good and bad footing conditions. When approaching a snowy stretch of pavement slow down and don’t make any sudden twists or turns. When taking a slippery corner, slow down even more and try not to make your turn too sharp. This will help to keep your feet from sliding out from underneath you. To summarize, take it easier when the conditions are slippery and expect your pace to be slower and just focus on getting the effort in.
Running in the dark: Reflective Gear and Lights
The last thing is obviously your safety. For many of us our schedules only permit us to run in the dark mornings or evenings. Therefore, making sure vehicles can see you is very important. Reflective gear is great, but having something that lights up is even better. Check out a blog we recently did about running in the dark!