Winter running is not for the faint of heart. The days get shorter, the air gets colder, the wind kicks up, snow falls from the skies and the ground grows slippery and uncertain. It takes a determined will to persist through the winter months. Even then, outdoor runners need to be equipped with the proper gear. Unfortunately, choosing winter gear isn’t as simple as selecting the thickest fabric with great insulation. If you want to remain efficient as a runner, consider how you can minimize bulk while protecting yourself in the most useful ways. Here are some tips to help you thrive during your winter runs.
Choose the right winter running materials
It might be tempting to turn to cotton and wool as cozy insulators amid the winter cold, but when you’re running and sweating, these don’t get the job done. Your sweat will end up freezing in your outer layers, leading to discomfort and — when you come back indoors — significant melting. Instead, you want insulating layers that will wick moisture away from the skin. It’s also smart to wear a top-layer jacket that repels water and keeps you from getting wet from falling snowflakes. Dryness is one of your best allies when trying to thrive as a winter runner. For pants, consider investing in running tights, which keep moisture off the skin and trap heat close to your body while still protecting you from the winter cold. If you still need more protection, wind-resistant running pants are thin, lightweight and tapered as they go down the leg to minimize their profile against the wind.
Accessorize to keep warm
While summer runners strip down to their shorts and T-shirts, winter runners pile gear onto every part of their body. You’ll want a good pair of gloves — both regular and running gloves are very effective — and an insulating hat. Also consider socks that pull moisture from your feet. It’s also helpful to have a pair of winter running shoes that feature extra insulation and tread ideal for slippery surfaces. Brooks and other shoe makers have a variety of winter running footwear options.
Know when to quit
Not every day is suited for running, especially if you’re short on the appropriate gear. It’s hard to define a point at which running outdoors should be off limits, in part because it depends on your gear. Unless you’re outfitted with a mask, goggles and sub-zero gear from head to toe, it’s wise to keep indoors when temperatures fall into the negatives. It’s also smart to take a day off from running when snowfall is intense. Not only does the snow limit your own visibility, but it will make you tougher for oncoming traffic to see. With roads growing more slippery, there’s an all-too-real threat of a collision.
Winter’s harsh elements do a good job of separating casual runners from the true road warriors. In order to run safely in the cold, you need to be equipped with the proper gear to remain warm and — even more important — dry. The costs of fully outfitting yourself may be intimidating, but the investment is worthwhile and necessary if you want to save yourself from hypothermia, frostbite or other threats of winter.