Running in the snow is a different type of animal. It takes a diligent mindset to remain active when the winter weather rolls in.
As you may know, it’s going to require much more thought to stay motivated in the cold. It will also take extra effort to keep warm, stay safe, and to run without losing too many seconds off your pace.
But here’s the good news: when you slice it down, there’s really no weather that’s too extreme for running. I say this because there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Running in the snow is no different.
So, if you’re preparing to face an upcoming winter run, then you’ve come to the right place. Consider this your official guide for running in the snow.
9 Steps for Running in The Snow
Below are nine steps for running in the snow. Review each before heading out the door. Afterward, make the necessary changes required for your training. You will soon discover that running in the snow doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, it can be fun!
1. Get Your Head Straight
In the winter months, it takes more motivation to step outside and run. It takes longer for your muscles to loosen up, your body to warm, and your mental state to tolerate colder conditions.
So be proactive. Warm-up in the house. Say a few positive affirmations. Remind yourself that once you clock a few miles, your mind and body will feel much better.
The snow comes and goes, just like motivation. However, here’s the difference: you can’t control the weather.
But guess what? You can control how you feel. So, get your head straight and get running in the snow!
2. Dress for The Cold
Running in the snow requires extra layers. Better safe than sorry. You can always take layers off, but you can’t put on what you don’t have.
Here’s a tip: wear extra layers. If you become excessively warm, remove layers and hide them in a bush. Later, pick them up.
Here’s winter gear to consider: snow hat, a neck warmer, gloves, ski mask, warm compression wear, tights, compression socks, and jacket.
3. Check Your Feet
Different shoes are made for different surfaces. In other words, each running shoe is designed for a different goal. Fast road shoes may cause slippage in the snow. So, if possible, choose a running shoe with extra traction.
If the snow is heavy enough, consider wearing a pair of traction cleats. Yaktrax is one of the more common brands in the running world today. In addition, trail gaiters are an excellent option for blocking snow from entering your shoes. Especially if you are wearing standard cloth running socks.
Compression socks are heaven sent in the snow. Wet and cold feet can turn an enjoyable run into a run you’ll regret. The absorption of compression socks will keep your feet comfortable and prevent blisters as well.
4. Plan Your Winter Route
If you typically run the same route, you’ll have some planning to do. When running in the snow, you may find your usual route blocked. For example, let’s say you commonly run alongside the shoulder of a particular road. Yet, because of a winter storm, there are mountains of snow accumulated from plowing. In this case, you’ll need to find a new route, and it’s much more useful to have it mapped out beforehand, rather than attempting to create one on the fly.
Also, when running in the snow, it’s easier to miss a turn. Snow makes every street look similar. So again, plan your route beforehand. I recommend creating an out-and-back for consistency, familiarity, and safety. For example, if you are planning on a 10-mile route, find a safe stretch of 5 miles, turn around, and run back the same way.
Create your new route here
5. Warm Up Indoors
When the weather is warm, it feels incredible to be outside. The sun is shining bright, and the warm breeze feels like paradise. In fact, I can’t think of a reason not to go out and run on a warm, sunny day.
But running in the snow is cold and borderline intolerable for some. That’s why you may want to warm up inside. This way, you raise your body temperature. In effect, you won’t feel as cold at the beginning of your run.
A warm-up of 15 minutes is plenty of time. Work to loosen up your muscles and joints while raising your body temperature to a light sweat.
6. Run on A Clear Path
Running on top of snow is less demanding on the body. It reduces impact with every stride. Light, fluffy, and soft…running in the snow is harmless, right?
Well, not exactly. You have to be extremely careful of ice. Run on top of ice the wrong way, and you could easily find yourself on the ground, lying flat on your back. And no… I don’t mean to make snow angels.
I’ve been there myself, slipping on ice isn’t fun. You can easily hyperextend a leg or hit your head. To help, keep your head on a swivel and stay light on your feet. Take shorter strides and be alert at all times.
As the sun goes down, the chances of ice developing increases, so bring a headlamp and watch out for the slippery stuff.
Slipping on ice can happen to anyone, no matter your skill level. Watch the video below and see what I mean. It’s a classic…
Video Clip from Youtube
7. Stay Alert at All Times
Running in the snow can be a great workout. But it doesn’t come without its dangers. One of the most significant threats is moving cars…
Most of the time, the problem isn’t that you can’t see them. It’s the opposite. The real danger is that cars can’t see you. So, stay alert at all times. Don’t rely on the street lines or lights. Cars can easily slide off the road if the conditions are severe enough.
Here’s a tip: make sure to wear reflective gear. There are safety lights and reflective clothing available for runners. So do your research and find what works best for you.
8. Dress Warm Afterward
After your run, take your wet clothes off immediately and put on something warm. Although it’s not common, and it can easily be prevented with the right winter gear, running in the snow still comes with the risk of hypothermia.
WebMD defines hypothermia as “a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures […] Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.”
Some of the most common symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, shallow breathing, memory loss, drowsiness, mumbled speech, loss of coordination, and a slow, weak pulse.
If you ever feel you may be experiencing hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately. Although it rarely happens to runners, it’s still possible if ill-prepared.
9. Don’t Take Yourself Too Serious
I always remind myself to take my training serious…but not myself. Running in the snow should be fun, so enjoy yourself.
Yes, it makes training challenging, and yes, running in the snow takes more effort than not. However, you only get so many snow runs each year.
When’s the last time you ran free, in the snow, with a smile on your face beside when training/exercising? Chances are it was your last snow day as a child, home from school, having a snowball fight, and going sledding with friends.
So, act like a kid. Run through the flurries, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Never forget that running in the snow should be fun.
Benefits of Running in The Snow
Although running in the snow may not be an ideal situation for most, it definitely has its advantages. Yes, there are benefits from running in the snow. Read on for the top seven.
[su_list icon=”icon: snowflake-o” icon_color=”#ff9900″]
- Less impact means fewer injuries.
When your foot strikes the ground on snow, there’s less of an impact compared to pavement or road. This ultimately reduces the stress on your body.
What’s that mean for you? It means less chance of overuse injuries and more chance of having a relaxed and enjoyable run.
- Uneven surfaces strengthen lower legs.
While running in the snow, the ground changes. No longer are you running on a straight, flat terrain, but instead, an uneven surface. As you can imagine, this places more force on the lower legs, feet, and ankles. But at the same time, if done right, the extra resistance will strengthen them.
So be light on your feet, and don’t lock your knees. Stay active in the core but loose in the arms and legs. Do this, and you’ll run with more confidence over the snow and prevent injuries along the way.
- Soft surfaces help increase strength and endurance.
Running on soft surfaces—like snow and sand—will increase endurance and strength over time. I say this because there’s not as much bounce back. These surfaces absorb a significant amount of energy, thus requiring more work from your running muscles.
What’s that mean for you as a runner?
The answer: a better workout over the same length of time.
- A change in scenery provides a change in mindset.
Running outside is exceedingly beneficial for your health. Breathing fresh, clean air, and connecting with nature is only the start. However, after running the same routes over and over again, the law of familiarity kicks in. Meaning, after a while, no matter what you experience, the action will eventually get old and tedious.
When you face the law of familiarity, you can lose your motivation and passion—two qualities every runner needs to run longer and faster.
To help, it’s a great idea to change things up. In this way, the new and beautiful scenery of the snow provides just what you need to snap out of your same old running routines and to reconnect with the passion you may have misplaced.
- The cold is less stressful on the body.
Although it may feel better to run outside in warm weather, the cold is much easier on the body. Here’s the reason why: less heat stress accumulates. Those who’ve trained in the summer will understand this best.
Plus, the body needs to work double-time when running in the heat to cool itself down. This creates even more stress, which can contribute to exhaustion over the long run. As you can imagine, there’s minimal cooling required when running in the snow. This frees up more energy for training.
- Being uncomfortable builds mental strength.
For most, running in the snow can be discouraging. Simply put, it’s cold…really cold. It will take determination, persistence, and dedication to finish a run.
But here’s the good news: this will only improve your mental strength going forward. And the more mental toughness you have, the longer and faster you will run.
- Trying new gear is fun!
Who doesn’t like buying new running gear? The wintertime is when you need it most. Hats, gloves, masks, hydration packs, compression wear…you name it.
Today, you can even find activewear that heats up electrically. So shop around. Trying out new gear makes running fun and provides more motivation to get moving in the cold.
Running on The Snow – The Most Important Tips
As you now know, running in the snow is manageable. But you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Keep reading for the most important tips of all.
[su_list icon=”icon: tipeee” icon_color=”#ff3333″]
- Choose Socks Wisely
The snow isn’t always light fluffy powder that transforms your running route into some winter wonderland. Most of the time… it’s wet, slushy, and bitter cold. A soaked pair of socks can turn a tough run into a miserable one. So consider wearing a pair of compression socks. A pair of compressions sock will provide more comfort and warmth than standard running socks.
- Adjust Your Technique
As mentioned before, be cautious of ice. This becomes especially important in the evening when the sun goes down. To help, run light on your feet and keep your strides short. This technique will help prevent you from falling down.
- Take It Slow
A snowy day is no time to attempt a record pace. Too much ambition can lead to slipping and falling. Instead, take it slow. The soft surface of the snow provides extra resistance anyway. So look at your winter run as a way to increase strength instead of speed.
- Breathe Through A Mask
If you’ve ever run in the cold, you may have noticed the air hurts your lungs. That’s because cold air is dry air and can irritate airways. If you find yourself sensitive to the cold air, then consider running while wearing a ski mask with a ventilation mouthpiece. This will allow for easier breathing while warming your inhaled air.
- Keep Moving to Stay Warm
One of the biggest problems when running in the snow is staying warm. This is most true during a long run. Eventually, you run slower and become colder. To help, try and hold a steady pace, even if it slower. And if you slow down more, pump your arms forcefully to produce more heat.
FAQ’s for Running in The Snow
Below are a set of frequently asked questions for running in the snow. If you have a question and don’t see it here, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.
[su_spoiler title=”Q: Is there snow running shoes?” open=”yes”]
A: Not exactly. There’s no shoe that I know of specifically designed for snow and only snow. However, although it’s not required, you’ll want a running shoe with extra traction. Snowfall on hard surfaces, like a pavement, can become slippery, especially with icy conditions. So consider finding a shoe with extra grip.
[su_spoiler title=”Q: What’s the best way to stay warm when running in the snow?”]
A: Layer up, pump your arms and keep your head covered. Remember, you can always take layers off, but you can’t put on layers you don’t have. You won’t be setting a personal best on your next snow day, so don’t be afraid to go overboard with extra clothing.
From experience, it’s better warm and a little slower than cold and a little faster. I’ve never regretted wearing extra clothing, but there’s plenty of times I’ve regretted not wearing enough. So layer up!
[su_spoiler title=”Q: Should I still race in the snow?”]
A: That’s up to you. Some runners will back out, and sometimes, the race will cancel. Also, consider that you’ll likely run slower than usual. Personally, I believe that the colder season is a great way to stay motivated. I’ve raced in the snow a few times, and it usually ends up to be my slowest yet most fun race of the year.
[su_spoiler title=”Q: What’s the best time to run in a winter storm?”]
A: Fresh snow is the best snow for running. Meaning, run at the beginning of the snowfall. This way, you’ll avoid ice or packed snow. Now you’ll have better traction and reduce your chance of slipping.
Ready to get running in the snow? As you can see, there are some challenges involved. But these obstacles don’t have to stop you.
As long as you stay warm, be safe, keep it slow, and continue to motivate yourself, running in the snow can be a highly effective, enjoyable experience. A run that you will look forward to.
Is it snowing outside? If so, lace up those shoes and start running! It’s time to take action and run in the snow.