Winter Running Tips to be Safe, Warm & Seen
In my opinion winter can be one of the best times of the year to run. I love the clean, crisp air, the crackle of fresh fallen snow underfoot, and the feeling that I have the sidewalks and trails to myself as most people have taken things indoors.
On the other hand, if certain elements aren’t taken into consideration, it can be a miserable, dangerous or even deadly time of the year. So we at 3sports decided to help out those new to the sport or new to outdoor winter running by compiling a list of recommendations to ensure your version of winter running is similar to ours.
First, let’s look into desired running form, as this will help you avoid bad slip and fall injuries. After all the off season is the best time to make tweaks to form. If you tend to be either a heel or forefoot striker you increase your risk of slipping. The best way to give a visual picture of this is to think of a car tire. If only part of the tread is making contact you’ll have very poor traction. The same applies to running shoes as you want maximum tread making contact with the ground. This is what mid-foot running is after all. With forefoot running (ball of the foot) you’re actually landing a little too far behind your centre of gravity. This can lead to your foot slipping behind you and launching you into a face plant. OUCH! With heel strike landing you’re actually over striding and landing too far in front of your centre of gravity. As you may have already put together this can lead to your foot slipping in front of you and launching you onto your assets. DOUBLE OUCH!
When it comes to dressing for the colder conditions always dress in layers as there’s a bit of an art to getting to know what to wear and when. With layering, at least if you choose too much clothing you can remove a layer. Obviously being too cold is not ideal but being too warm (especially on longer runs) can be just as bad and can lead to dehydration. Most critical in the very cold weather (especially high wind / windchill values) is ensuring no skin is left exposed to avoid frost bite. Frost bite can start to set in within as soon as 15 minutes of exposure in very cold conditions. There are some tricks I’ve learned to keep the face warm. I personally like to apply Body Glide to my nose, forehead, cheek bones, and bottoms of my ear lobes in very cold weather to keep my face warm without having to completely cover my face. I personally find full face masks difficult to breath through, but that’s just me. Ensure appropriate gloves worn, warmer socks (with enough height to cover your ankle completely) as well. You’ll also want to ensure a good tread on your shoes for the slippery days.
The general rule of thumb is to dress based on what you’d wear outside if it were 10 degrees (Celsius) warmer (15 for quicker paced runs or races).
And finally safety; ensure you can see AND be seen. Most runs this time of year (with the exception of weekends) will be run in the dark. A headlamp is smart and necessary as it will help you to avoid tripping hazards. It will also help cars see you even when their headlamps aren’t shining directly at you. Choose clothing wisely with lots of reflective piping on them. It will help when automobile lights shine in your direction. I’m personally lit up like a Christmas tree on most of my winter evening runs as I wear reflective clothing, reflective (and LED lighted) armbands, a headlamp with a rear, red flashing lamp. Basically assume that you won’t be seen, dress to ensure you will, but still approach the run with the assumption that you still won’t be seen. After all, when dealing with motorized vehicles, being in the right means nothing if you’re a hood ornament or worse.
Embrace the winter run this year. Be safe, be warm, and be seen!