5 Safety Tips for Winter Running

by Melissa Chichester

When winter arrives, running poses more challenges as temperatures dip below 20 degrees and instead creep closer to the single digits.

For distance runners, the treadmill (AKA the dreadmill) isn’t the most appealing option. If you’re crazy enough (like me!) to brave the elements, here are some tips for road warriors to stay safe and warm!

Wear the right layers

A general rule of thumb is to dress for 10-15 degrees warmer than it is outside.

Not dressing properly in the cold can lead to serious health issues like hypothermia and frostbite.

Depending on the temperature and windchill factor, you may need to cover as much bare skin as you can by wearing gloves, a hat, or even a face mask. Remember, you can always remove a layer if needed! When the temps are below 30, I always wear fleece-lined leggings.

Wear the right fabrics

Running while it is snowing leads to damp clothes. Factor in sweat and it becomes a dangerous recipe for getting very cold, very quickly. Wear a moisture-wicking base layer that repels sweat. A waterproof outer layer also helps shield the skin from snow or rain. Avoid cotton, as it holds water.

Invest in traction

If snow and ice are going to be a frequent issue, invest in a traction device for your shoes. There are many options out there, from ones that slip over shoes, to ones that actually screw into shoes. I use Yaktrax, which slip over shoes. A local running store representative will be able to look at your shoes and make some recommendations.

Stay close to home

If you’re a long-distance runner, you may need to revise your route to stay close to an indoor heat source. This is a safer way to run in the winter, just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse, or if you get too tired or injured on your route.

If you insist on taking your regular distance route, carry a phone, and tell someone when you expect to be back.

Unfortunately, cold air exposure often drains battery life on phones, so they aren’t always reliable.

Be visible

this advice applies to running at any time of the year, it can be more challenging to stay visible in the winter for a few reasons. It’s difficult to run during the limited daylight hours in the colder months, and this is where reflective gear comes in. There are reflective jackets, vests with blinking lights, shoe spurs, headbands, head torches- you name it! This doesn’t only apply to when it’s pitch black out. Running at dawn or dusk also poses visibility risks. Another visibility tip: don’t blend into the scenery. I wear the brightest neon I can find to avoid being camouflaged against trees or blinding white snowbanks.

Know when to stay inside

Although this seems like common sense, sometimes it is difficult to acknowledge when Mother Nature wins. I had to skip a race last winter because it was too dangerous to drive to the race, not to mention the actual running part! Sometimes, you just have to hit the treadmill or pop in a fitness DVD.

Remember, when it comes to running, safety comes first!