How to Run in Winter Without Freezing Your Ass

Exercise in the fresh air is more important than ever, but freezing weather can feel a little unpleasant at first. Fortunately, running in winter is not as difficult as it sounds. With the right gear, your fingers and ears can stay toasty as you run through the winter wonderland.

I fell in love with running in cold weather while preparing for the spring marathon. At first it was not a choice: for several weeks the weather was bad for several days in a row, and if I stayed at home, I would be behind in training. Everyone else in my training group challenged the elements, and so did I – as it turned out, no regrets.

I had to run on quiet mornings when the snow fell softly. I signed up for a winter race in which the finishers were herded into a heated barn for hot chocolate and soup. I set my personal best at the spring races, during which I tried my best without breaking a sweat. Therefore, it makes me sad when they tell me that they are afraid of the cold or run in the winter, but do not know what to wear.

We have a video guide with examples of suitable clothing for running in cold weather. Personally, I go outside in any weather with temperatures around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (judging by “feel” or wind chill factor, not actual temperature). Some runners can handle even higher temperatures with a face mask or even glasses.

Of course, you may need to buy new gear or repurpose things from a different location in your closet. And yes, the first few minutes of the run will be cold. But if you’re wearing the right shoes and clothing and planning your routes with a few additional factors in mind, winter running isn’t just feasible, it’s actually fun .

Protect your feet

Feet should be warm and dry as possible.

Socks

It goes without saying that socks are warm, but there are some additional considerations when choosing running socks.

First, the socks must match your shoes. If you’ve been running around in super-thin cotton or synthetic socks all summer, thick socks may not work. The Smartwool PhD Run socks we love are available in a slim version that can fit easily, but you might want to keep the sock thick in mind if you’re buying a new pair of winter running shoes only.

Woolen socks are ideal because they keep your feet warm even when they get wet. You may not think of winter as a wet time, but any snow that meets your body heat will turn into water. If you don’t have woolen socks, sweat-wicking synthetic fabrics are a secondary choice. Cotton is not allowed.

Shoes

With warm socks, you can get by with the same shoes you wore in the summer. Your feet will stay dry if the weather is dry and you don’t get caught in puddles. However, if you encounter snow and slush, your feet will have to endure warm but humid conditions for the rest of your run. This is fine for short runs, but for serious winter runs, consider updating your shoes.

Shoes with a waterproof upper keep water out. Several shoes are available with this option, including my favorite Nike Free . This level of waterproofing will prevent accidental snowflakes from falling into your socks, but it is not reliable if you step into puddles of slush. In this case, you will need something more waterproof, such as Gore-Tex shoes , many of which are made for treadmills.

There are also sneakers for snow. Runner’s World has a list of their favorites this season . Some have built-in gaiters to keep the snow out of your ankles.

If you plan on running on a lot of ice or packed snow, especially on trails, studs can improve traction a little. Yaktrax makes rubber straps that stretch to fit your shoe, with steel coils and small spikes for about $ 40. Micropips are a notch up, and they cost around $ 70 for what looks like a miniature version of the chains you put on car tires. And if you are really passionate about – and are looking for a special pair of snowshoes – you can attach individual spikes of either of these thorns from IceSpike , either on their own , using sheet metal screws. (There is a tutorial here .)

Versions containing rubber, such as the Yaktrax, can wear out quickly on asphalt, so it’s best to save them for running on trails or unplowed paths. You also need to be careful with the fit. I tried a couple similar to Yaktrax, but they were a little big. Shortly after running, I found the rubber stretched enough to get the cleats out of place.

Spikes and special shoes will help you visit more places in bad weather, but remember that they don’t have to just go outside on a cold day. Regular shoes are fine if the weather is cold but dry, or if you are willing to tolerate a little moisture.

Wear warm layers

The key to cold-weather running clothes is one word: layers.

On every winter run, you actually dress for two temperatures. First, this is the actual temperature you will feel from the moment you leave your house or car until you reach it after about 10 minutes on the way. At this point, your body has warmed up and you may need to shed one or two layers. It is best if you plan your route so that you can take off your hat or jacket after the first mile. Some people skip workout levels, but these people will get very, very cold at the start of their runs.

Layers also allow you to create a wide variety of outfits from multiple garments. A good track jacket can be expensive, but since you can add any number of layers to it, you don’t need to buy more than one.

You will generate a lot of heat, so you don’t have to choose such warm clothes. The park, for example, is not needed. As practice shows, imagine that the temperature is 20 degrees higher. So your 30-degree undercarriage should be similar to the one you wear on a 50-degree day when you’re not exercising. Everyone has their own idea of ​​how many layers correspond to which temperatures, but here are some tips to get you started:

Tops

On a cold day – say the 50s – a long sleeve T-shirt is probably all you need. Wear it over your regular tee or tank top and you can take it off and tie it around your waist when you warm up.

In cold weather, it is best to wear a light jacket or sweatshirt. This is when you experience one of the hidden benefits of winter running: pockets! Do you know how you usually rip off the key from your key ring and tuck it into your bra strap or into the 2-inch key pocket in your jogging pants? Well, get ready for luxury – just shove your keys in your pocket . This works with your phone as well, depending on its size.

By the time the temperature drops to 20 or below, you will be doing some serious layers, such as a T-shirt, warm long-sleeved clothing, and a jacket. If you’ve got the money, a great option for this warm coat is a wool base coat like this one from LL Bean . (Don’t worry, it doesn’t itch). If you can’t wear wool, there are synthetic ones, such as those from Cudl Duds .

Before you go shopping for new clothes, experiment with what’s in your closet. Try fleece or a new thin sweater, for example. Some people will never wear cotton for running (it can get cold when wet), but I wear it like an undershirt and I don’t mind.

The jacket is the most important layer. As a last resort, you can grab a sweatshirt, but in order to be really well equipped for the weather, you will need a windproof and waterproof (or at least waterproof) jacket. Running jackets are lightweight and lightweight. to find the ones visible at night, with vibrant colors and reflective areas, and zippered pockets. I would not want you to drop the keys!

Bottom

Once it gets too cold for the shorts, you’ll want to start layering clothes too.

This is where women have an edge, as most of us already have leggings in our closets. (You can wear cotton if it’s dry, but choose synthetics if it’s snowing.) You can run in trousers that don’t fit your body but allow cold air to pass through. This is why running “tights” like these are standard winter clothing for both men and women.

Running tights come in a variety of thicknesses; Buy something fleece-lined for cold weather, or stack two pairs. And if your butt gets cold – or if you just want to be modest – feel free to put on shorts on top.

Also guys can buy windbreakers: underwear with a windproof insert in the front. “If you’ve ever run even a little with your hand on your pants for fear of frostbite, you’ll need them,” says one Amazon columnist .

Accessories

You need to keep your ears warm, but don’t wear a hat just yet; an ear warmer or a headband can cover your ears while allowing the heat to escape from the crown. And if something falls from the sky (say, snow), a baseball cap will keep you out of sight.

Of course, fleece or knitted hats are great for colder days. The line between ear warmer weather and hat weather is personal and depends on whether you overheat. If you are wearing a hat, but its main layers are covered with sweat, then the hat is likely to be superfluous.

Gloves are essential, however. I keep a pair of cheap knitted gloves in my jacket pockets, but windy or very cold days require something stronger. You can fold your gloves; Gloves work well for mittens in my opinion. You can also purchase windproof gloves that are warmer than any number of layers of perforated gloves.

Your face will freeze on windy or very cold days, so this is where your stock of pandemic masks really shines. Any mask will help protect your face, even when you’re outdoors and don’t need it for infection control. In this case, opt for comfort: Consider a balaclava or even a fleece-lined bandana . If your neck is cold, leg warmers hold up better than a scarf. At this moment, every inch of your body is covered except for your eyes. Sunglasses can take care of this.

Stay safe

The winter world can be dark, slippery and (surprise!) Cold. Here are some tips on how to deal with some of the potential hazards.

  • It gets dark earlier in winter , so you will need to adjust your evening or early runs. Either switch to the habit of dining , or get ready to run in the dark for a long time. This requires at least wearing reflective clothing and a flashlight. Plan routes that make you feel safe even in the dark, whether choosing safer areas for city runs or avoiding more treacherous trails and raccoon infested areas.
  • Slipping on ice sucks . Some ice can be seen in the distance, some not. And remember that you won’t have ice thorns if you run on paved, plowed surfaces. So watch closely and don’t be afraid to slow down to walk the penguin in places you are not sure about. After running the same area several times, you can watch the ice on the first lap and relax a little for the next few times.
  • The caterpillar probably doesn’t plow . If you rely on the track for speed performance , you will have to take other steps. The simplest setting is to convert your regular intervals to time: if you normally run 400m laps in two minutes, do intervals for two minutes at a time while running on the road or on the treadmill. (Again, if you showed up on the track with a shovel, you probably wouldn’t be stopped, and it would be a great workout.)
  • Busy roads may become inaccessible . If you usually run on the sidelines, remember that snowblowers will accumulate piles of snow, which then turn into small icy mountains right in your running zone. If after that there is nowhere to run but traffic jams, you will have to change your route .
  • Water fountains can be turned off . This is a warning for those of us running in parks: if you depend on outdoor fountains, they may not be available, so bring a water bottle with you or head to another water source. Bathrooms or seasonal businesses you have used may also be closed. Briefcases may disappear during the season.
  • You may not be able to drive . If you are driving to the start of the running route, some days may be too snowy to get there safely, even if you are well prepared for the running itself. Make a contingency plan by exploring several routes within walking distance of your home.

Know When To Take It Orally

While you can reduce the dangers of winter running, you cannot get rid of them: even the most courageous runners have to train on a treadmill from time to time. A little flexibility in your training plan will help you stay safe without feeling guilty about missing a workout.

Excessive exposure to cold and damp conditions can lead to hypothermia or frostbite , so pay attention to the conditions in which you are going to travel. This includes checking the weather forecast and a backup plan in case the weather gets too dangerous. For example, making a series of loops instead of one longer route can easily shorten your run. Or, you can plan long runs in areas where there are many buildings you could dive into to wait for a bus or Uber car.

On days when you just can’t jog outside, head to an indoor track if available in your area. Sometimes there is a tiny track in gyms or the YMCA that is better than nothing – the closest track to me has 13 laps per mile. Then there is always a reliable treadmill. Intervals remain interesting, or you can try these quarter-mile breakpoints to survive in the long run.

Finally, safety is more important than any workout – so be smart and stay home if the weather is too bad to run and too bad to go to the gym. But on those beautiful winter days when it might snow but the wind is mild, stack in layers and enjoy.

This post was originally published in December 2015 and was updated on November 25, 2020 to add some pandemic-appropriate adjustments, as well as update links and align formatting with the current Lifehacker style.

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