After all the snow brought on by Winter Storm Jonas this weekend, there’s no better time to talk about running in the snow. I shared a few tips about running safely in the snow last January but I thought I’d update those with what I’ve learned since, especially when it comes to running not just in snow, but after a major weather event.
1. Layer Up
Wearing several layers of moisture-wicking clothing is the key to staying comfortable and keeping your body temperature at a safe level while running in the snow or immediately after a storm. Start with a base layer that hugs your body, both on top and bottom. I generally go straight for a long sleeved tech tee with thumb holes and long tights or leggings, but you can also do a tank top and a long sleeve over that if you prefer. Then add a second top layer, like a sport fleece or zip-up top. If it’s very chilly (low 20s or less), I usually choose to double layer on the bottom too, with leggings and then tights. If flakes are still falling, choose a breathable water-resistant outer layer, like a running jacket, to keep as dry as possible. There’s a fine line between a jacket that’s so water resistant that it traps all the inner moisture from your sweat, and one that breathes so much it doesn’t keep the snow or ice out, so be sure to find one that works best for you.
2. Protect Your Head and Hands
Cover your head with a hat or earmuffs and your hands with gloves, because the extremities are the most exposed. If there’s snow or ice currently coming, or if it’s very windy, go for a hat with a brim to keep the snow off your face. I’ll often wear a fleece headband with a baseball cap on top, and then put the hood of whatever jacket I’m wearing on top of that if it’s really coming down. And when it’s below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I wear hand hotties inside my gloves for extra warmth since my hands tend to run very cold.
3. Choose the Right Shoes
I used to rely exclusively on my traction aids to get me through snow and ice on the run. I still find these useful when it’s REALLY icy out there, because the spikes dig in and prevent slippage. But if the sidewalks or roads you run on are relatively clear and you’re more worried about running on or around snow and slush, traction aids like Due Norths or YakTrax won’t do you much good (and wearing them on cleared road will just wear them down). When it comes to these conditions, choose a running shoe with a sole that has good traction on its own, not a flat-bottomed or lightweight racing shoe. And remember that different kinds of snow can call for different shoes – my On Clouds are great for running on top of packed snow, but I prefer my New Balance Fresh Foam 980s for mushier conditions because the bumpy bottoms stabilize better.
4. Run A Safe Route
Speaking of conditions on the road, you may need to mix up your usual running routes if it’s storming or the snow hasn’t yet been cleared. I’m lucky to live in New York City, where plowing the Central Park loop is a priority. While I usually run on routes that veer onto the bridle path and reservoir or criss-cross the fields, I stick to the big loop around the park after a storm because the city always plows it and the other paths can be very risky. Even if the snow looks packed down, there’s often hidden ice or places where if you put your foot wrong, you’ll sink more than a foot in!
5. Slow Down
No matter what, safety is key. When in doubt, slow down and take your time figuring out the best course of action, whether that’s with your clothing, the route you tread, or the decision to go outside at all. This Saturday, I know some weatherproof November Project friends of mine went for long runs in the morning, but by the afternoon or evening there was no way you could be safe outside without wearing winter boots with good traction. Sunday morning, all was well again for my run. There’s always tomorrow!
Do you continue to run outside in winter weather?
Best tip for running in the snow and slush?
Favorite winter weather running gear?
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