I had a wonderful run today in the first actual snowfall of any significance of the winter season coming up. It had me thinking of what I would put in my “winter running checklist” We will go from head to toe here and just throw out some ideas of things I find helpful for safely, warmly, and therefor enjoyably getting out in the cold, sometimes snowy winter weather.
Head- lamp that is… headlamps are a MUST for visibility, and I don’t mean you being seen, I mean you being ABLE to see. This time of year means more runs in darker conditions and having enough light to see by is critical. See this video for good details on considerations for headlamps:
Clear glasses: a cheap pair of construction safety glasses in clear lenses are a great purchase to help you see when it is actively snowing outside and the lighting is low
Neck: keeping cold air from getting down the neck and into the core is helpful for temperature regulation/ maintaining warmth on the windy days.
Torso: Is it just really cold? Or is there precipitation? If it is just cold, I love the New Balance heat grid ½ zip top. It has that fleece waffle/ dimple pattern on the inside which does a tremendous job of trapping little pockets of body heat and keeping them close to the skin. I tend to run warm in general, but I can be comfortable in just this with a thin technical short sleeve underneath down to 15 degrees outside if there is no wind. Similar design concepts exist in other brands, especially popular in the Patagonia R line of products.
Precip in the forecast? Getting a decent softshell that is at least water repellent works well here. I have a Sugoi Men’s firewall 180 jacket. If you get cold easily, shoot up to the 220 version. This is also great for a windy day as it really blocks the wind as well as shedding snow. This is another one that once I get moving can really get toasty.
Pro tip: wash the jacket with Nikwax Techwash to added water repellency to the garment.
Hands: gloves with some form of mitten option really work well. Keeping those digits close can keep them warm. For $5 or so at Home Depot I bought a 10 pack of these HotHands hand warmers.
Pro tip: It says good for 10 hours of heat on the packaging, and that it is air activated (yes you shake it, but that is to get air to move around all the particles). So store these in a silicone/ reusable zip lock like container in between runs to get at least 3 runs or so out of one packet.
Legs: This is pretty easy, but compression and pants are pretty solid here. If you run cold, get a thin pair of Smartwool or similar liners to go under a pair of track pants.
Calf/ Achilles: I listened to a great podcast about Achilles tendinopathy in January of 2022 and the #1 causal factor of Achilles tendon dysfunction was…. Cold weather! So it may be worth it to try compression socks that go up to the calf if you can. There is enough evidence that says it is very safe to try, and may do a lot of good for some people.
Shoes: Namely we are talking about traction here. This is my decision making algorithm and the products I employ given the weather circumstances:
< 2 inches of freshly fallen snow (little to no ice underneath)= just a good trail running shoe
2-4” of freshly fallen snow, or with some mild melting but the route will still be very well covered in snow= YAktrax, micro spikes, or similar items
YakTrax https://yaktrax.implus.com/products/yaktrax-run-ice-shoes ,
Micro Spikes https://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/
>4-5 inches of snow… we probably aren’t really “running” in this stuff. You can invest in a pair of running snowshoes, or just get a regular pair and go for a great walk/ hike/ snowshoe.
Mix of dry, melting and refreezing snow and ice? Get some screws into a retired pair of runners. I think of these as the studded tires you hear all winter long on cars. They are ready for anything, but not too cumbersome on all the dry roads. Around where I live here in CO there are so many great paved paths that get plowed early, but melting stuff refreezes, especially at underpasses, so occasional black ice patches are common. That’s why this is my go to traction device. Yaxtrax don’t feel great on 60% of my 10 mile run being on dry pavement but not wanting to stop and put them on/ off every time a decent ice field shows up. Here is one example:
Pro tip: when you can run on dry stuff, do so. When faced with more clear looking ice vs. more white looking snow, always choose the snow, as that will give you more traction. Do be careful if it is a really thin layer of snow ontop of ice. Also, consider shortening your stride and having no access to your watch so you can go as slow as necessary to be safe rather than trying to hit some pace and bite it because you took a corner too fast.
The one thing I am still trying to figure out is a decent running shoe cover akin to those that cyclists can buy. Something that can keep feet warmer and dryer. I suppose a plastic bag over my socks could work ;)
So there ya go! Hope this list helps you figure out how to feel safer, more comfortable, and more likely to keep up with some good running this winter 😁