How to Run in the Winter: Tips, Gear and Benefits
When you’re an avid runner, a little cold and snow won’t stop you from logging more miles. A sprained ankle or a pulled muscle from running in unsafe, wintry conditions will. For runners who want to improve the comfort of their run and prevent injuries, CURREX® RUNPRO™ insoles help keep you running all year long.
Are you new to running in winter or want to get better at it? Learn how to run in cold weather with our guide to running in the winter featuring gear recommendations, safety tips, and benefits to help keep you motivated.
In This Article:
- What to Wear & Winter Running Gear
- Tips for Running in Winter
- Benefits of Exercising in Cold Weather
- FAQs and Other Considerations
What to Wear Running in Winter
The best clothes for running in winter are breathable, moisture wicking, and worn with other insulating layers that help keep you warm and dry. Running shoes with good traction and arch supporting running insoles are essential winter running gear for preventing common winter running injuries.
When running outdoors, dress for weather that’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. You may feel cold at first, but the more you move, the warmer you will feel, and you won’t have to remove too many layers. Run comfortably with the following winter running gear and clothing:
- Base Layer: Your first layer should be moisture wicking, breathable and long-sleeved. Fabrics like polyester and nylon blends help you stay warm and dry when you start to sweat.
- Pullover: A fleece or wool pullover helps insulate heat. You might remove this layer later, so make sure you can store it somewhere on your person.
- Running Jacket or Vest: For an outer layer, many cold weather runners like to wear a waterproof running jacket or a vest to help break up wind.
- Long Pants: Running tights, joggers, or fleece-lined leggings are staple gear for running in the cold. The closer the pants are to your skin, the less chafing you’ll endure, too.
- Shoes: The best winter running shoes have excellent traction, good arch support, and a fit that matches your shoe size and gait. Your current trainers are likely enough to get you started if they are not too worn.
- Running Insoles: Improve the feel of your winter running shoes and prevent injury with CURREX RUNPRO insoles. Dynamic arch support stimulates the muscles in your feet for more efficient movement while shock absorbing cushioning and a stabilizing heel cup help prevent common injuries. For a trail ready insole, try CURREX HIKEPRO™ insoles with extra cushioning and grip for difficult terrain.
- Wool Socks: Wet, cold feet can cause blisters and discomfort. Wear thicker, higher wool socks in the winter like crew or knee socks to keep your ankles warm and dry. Avoid cotton socks.
- Gloves: If your hands get cold easily, bring a pair of fleece-lined gloves or some hand warmers. You can always remove the gloves later and store them in a pocket.
- Hat or Beanie: Cover your ears with a cold weather hat, fleece headband, or beanie.
- Neck Gaiter: Traditionally used by cold weather runners, neck gaiters protect your face and neck from the biting cold and wind. Thicker varieties also help trap heat to keep you warm.
- Sunscreen: Avoid getting sunburned on your winter run by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher on sunny winter days.
Cold Weather Running Tips
Running in the winter is not unlike running in the summer. You’re simply swapping the heat and humidity for the cold and snow, but still focusing on your running form and breathing. Running in cold weather does come with its own unique set of challenges.
Here are several tips to help prepare your body, keep you safe, and make the most of your winter runs:
- Start Slow: If this is your first run of the winter, take things slow with a 10-minute walk or a light jog. Don’t worry about distance or pacing until you’ve got a handle on what it feels like to run in these conditions.
- Check the Weather: Always check the weather before you go on a run. Avoid going out in subzero temperatures or blizzard conditions. Instead, shake up your routine with an indoor cycling or treadmill workout and wait for a day with milder temperatures and clearer skies.
- Plan Your Route: Before you go out into the cold, know exactly where you are going, what the conditions there are like, and how long you will be out. Let a friend, roommate, or family member know your route and when you plan to return in case of the unexpected.
- Have Realistic Goals: Running in cold weather can be a shock to your system especially if it is your first time. It’s also not safe to try to maintain your summer pace in icy, cold, or slippery conditions. Run for 10 to 15 minutes the first day, then slowly work up to more intense activity.
- Stay Hydrated: Cold weather dampens thirst, making you more susceptible to dehydration in the winter. Even if you don’t feel thirsty after your run, make it a priority to stay hydrated. For runs lasting 45 minutes or more, bring a running hydration pack or a reservoir with an insulated hydration tube to prevent freezing.
- Warm Up: Cold air causes the muscles to tense up. Cold muscles and stiff joints are at greater risk of strains and sprains. Dynamic stretches like arm circles, lunges, and jumps warm up your muscles, loosen the joints, and reduce your risk of early injury.
- Wear Reflective Devices: Your early morning run might be darker in the winter than in the summer. Stay safe on the roadside by wearing reflective tape, bright colors, or a headlamp so motorists see you and you can see your path. If you’re uncomfortable running at night, consider changing the time of your daily run instead.
- Beware of Snow and Ice: Snow and ice increases your risk of slipping and falling. Always ensure your running path is clear whether you're on a sidewalk, road, or trail. Trail runners should steer clear of puddles of melted snow and wear a hiking insole for managing moisture and improving grip.
- Change Your Clothes: Stay dry post-run by changing out of your damp, sweaty running clothes as soon as you can. Wearing cold, wet clothes can put you at risk for hypothermia as your body cools down and you produce less heat.
- Don’t Hesitate to Stop: Safety should always be your number one priority. If you feel chest pains, dizziness, or you suffer an injury, stop your run immediately. If you cannot walk back, call someone for help.
The Benefits of Running in the Winter
Sticking to your running routine in the winter keeps you active at a time when most people avoid exercise. The paths and trails are less crowded, and you can stay on top of your training goals for spring.
The exposure to sunlight and fresh air boosts your vitamin D levels, which is important for preventing seasonal depression. The chilly air can feel rejuvenating and confidence boosting, giving you an entirely new kind of runner’s high.
According to research, running in the cold is also good for your metabolism and those trying to tone muscles or lose weight. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body takes white fat, or stored calories, and converts it into brown fat, which burns calories as part of a natural process called thermogenesis.
A Few Considerations
There are some risks to running in the winter including slips and falls, frostbite, and hypothermia. Taking the right precautions and dressing appropriately can help protect you from certain dangers and potential injuries. However, if you have a pre-existing condition like asthma or heart disease, exercising in the cold may cause serious complications.
The combination of cold, dry air and exercise strains the lungs, airways, and heart. It can cause increased blood pressure and difficulty breathing. Pay close attention to how you feel throughout your run and slow down if you are short of breath. Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, fatigue, and confusion, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
- How cold is too cold to run? - Everyone tolerates the cold differently. Temperatures in the 30s to 40s tend to be ideal winter running conditions. As a rule of thumb, temperatures below zero are too cold to run and pose a threat of hypothermia.
- How long should you run in the winter? - Some runners might cut their daily run short come winter while others feel the cold, crisp air helps them run longer. While there is no set time limit, have something with you to stay hydrated if you run for more than 45 minutes.
- Is running in cold weather bad for your lungs? Exercising in the cold is not bad for your lungs, but the cold, dry air can irritate or dry out your airways if you’re not well hydrated or have asthma.
Choose CURREX Insoles for a Better Run
CURREX running insoles are engineered for athletes who want to take their performance to the next level. That means conquering every obstacle that gets in your way whether it’s foot pain or running in the cold. CURREX RUNPRO insoles support and optimize your run on any path while CURREX HIKEPRO insoles offer trail runners a new way to take on mountains.
Always practice good judgement and take precautions when engaging in intense activity outdoors during the winter or in inclement conditions. Your safety is your responsibility and should always take priority.