The prospect of running in the snow may be daunting to you.
You can slip and hurt yourself, you may think, and it’s messy, it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s even hazardous to your health and wellbeing.
But if you’re a runner, you have to run. You have things to do and goals to accomplish.
We get that.
That’s why we’re going to arm you with everything you need to know about running safely and effectively in the snow.
Let’s get started.
Tips for Running in the Snow
Wear the Right Shoes
Running shoes are not all created equal – the type of shoes you should wear depends heavily on your foot anatomy and the kind of terrain you’re running on. This goes without saying (hopefully), but barefoot running is an absolute no-no in the snow. Even minimalist running shoes are no good.
At the very least, you should opt for something with a thick sole, something a bit bulkier, something that can provide traction. For the best results, choose running shoes that were designed especially for winter running. You don’t want to overlook this – if you do, you’ll regret it the second you hit your first patch of ice or hard-packed snow.
Choose Your Route Carefully
For this, you might have to get creative.
It’s best to choose routes that are paved and salted. These include roads on which there’s a lot of movement and activity – maintenance roads, for example, have to be cleared for safety – as well as roads on which children and their caregivers are expected to pass frequently. In fact, anywhere that someone stands to get sued for negligence if they don’t promptly make the path safe is a good bet.
But if none of these are viable for you, you’ll want to look into getting away from civilization for your runs. That is, it’s better to run on a trail covered with packed snow than on a road or sidewalk that’s been salted.
Because all that salt turns the snow into water; that water quickly becomes ice.
And running on ice isn’t fun or recommended.
Focus, Focus, Focus
The same principle that applies to running on a trail applies to all aspects running in the snow, whether you’ve chosen a man-made road or the wilderness.
Focus is extra important.
You need to be extra conscientious – meaning, you need to avoid daydreaming – in order to slow down safely if you see black ice up ahead, or deep puddles surreptitiously obstructed by ice, or trees, rocks, or roots covered by snow.
Run Against Traffic
This is especially true if you’re running at night.
If you prefer civilization over nature, and you’re running on a road, make sure to run against the traffic. That way, you can see what it is that’s coming at you; and you can make out if the driver sees you.
Remember also that, depending on how severe conditions are outside, cars can slip and drivers can lose control. You’ll want to be very, very wary of this fact. If you see it happening in time, you can get out of the way and into safety.
You can’t do that if all the incoming traffic is behind you.
Protect Yourself From Nature
The cold, the snow, and wind can wreak havoc on your skin. Protect all exposed skin with something like vaseline, which is fairly wind-resistant and waterproof. What this will do is it will keep you not just shielded, but also moisturized. Look for windbreaker jackets as well. And that means your face won’t be sloughing off in dry flakes.
If you have winter allergies, you might want to consider wearing a mask. It may not be the sexiest thing, but for some people it’s essential. If the dry winter air irritates your lungs, a mask can help warm up the air you breathe before it enters.
Prepare Yourself For Embarrassment
And everyone falls when they hit a patch of ice at too fast a speed. It’s normal. It’s no big deal. Just get up, make sure you’re uninjured, and keep moving.
That said, if you can avoid falling, that would be superb. That’s why you need to – as we said before – focus, focus, focus. If you see a patch of ice up ahead, remember that you’re only human and slow down. If you have to stop running entirely and half-walk and half-slide your way through the obstacle, hold your head up high and do just that.
Just remember, though, that running in snowy conditions isn’t the safest thing. It’s very very likely that you’ll end up with a few bruises here and there, so be prepared for that.
Safety, Safety, Safety
If you do end up getting injured – no matter how slightly – don’t ignore it. Get it looked at right away. You don’t want to keep running with an injury and risk adding on more. Remember, winter conditions are already unsafe to be running in to begin with. If you have to take a few days off to heal, don’t be a hero – take the days off.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Wear bright colors so that you’re easily visible. If you’re running at night, wear reflective gear. This need to be visible is amplified if you’re running in the middle of a snowstorm – if flakes are swirling all around you, chances are that others may not see you. Make it easier for them. To do this, you should consider bringing headlamps or flashlights with you on your runs.
And on top of being visible, make sure you’re warm. Catching a cold or worse will put a damper on your running goals. This means, for example, you won’t go with thin running socks but something warmer and dry like wool running socks. And cover up extremities that are getting cold faster. We also recommend proper athletic arm sleeves.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate and Eat Right
For more information on proper hydration, make sure to check out our article on it.
Proper nutrition is essential and a little bit too complex for this piece, so be sure to check out our separate articles on what to eat before a run and what to eat after.
Stay Motivated and Be Flexible
Naturally, and perhaps obviously, running in the snow is much, much harder. It’s not just the cold that makes it so. Your running plane is much more varied with the snow than it is without it. You might have to lift your legs higher to traverse deep snowbanks – right before you have to slow to crawl to make it safely across ice.
Prepare for this mentally. Do whatever you have to do. Read up on inspirational running quotes and repeat them to yourself over and over.
But most of all, don’t give up. The resulting euphoria from having accomplished a difficult task is absolutely worth it.
And that’s all there is to it: everything you need to know about running in the snow.
Questions? Concerns? Make sure it leave them in the comments below.