Winter Running

Whether you already enjoy running in the winter or you usually run in warmer weather, or maybe you’re new to running and you’re on the fence about trying it during this cold season - we’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully make winter running a better experience for you this year.

Here’s some guidance on how to get started and take the opportunity to spend more time outside this winter via running.

Wear Base Layers

Having a thin, tight base layer that covers most of your skin is the best way to prevent moisture from accumulating. You’ll be able to unzip your outer layers when you heat up but a thin moisture-wicking base layer will keep your skin from getting too sweaty and limit exposure to the elements.

Warm Up Inside

Before putting on your outer layers of clothing, do some dynamic stretches like leg swings, hip rotations and lunges to warm up your body before getting outside. Try to get your heart pumping but not work up a sweat so that you’re still dry when first stepping out into the cold.

Keep your Head & Hands Covered

Your extremities will cool quickest so it’s better to keep them covered and warm - at least at the start of your run. Try light tech gloves and a beanie or headband. You might get hot enough that you decide to stuff them in your pockets so it’s worth experimenting with different apparel to find a set that works best for you, and make adjustments based on the daily conditions.

Adjust for the Conditions

Keep an eye on the forecast and adjust your clothing appropriately. Winter temperatures can fluctuate and the wind factor needs to be accounted for. On windy days, be sure to minimize skin exposure and consider planning a route that involves running into the wind at the beginning so that you can have the wind at your back for the final portion of your run.

Running Modifications

With snow or wet, slippery surfaces you’ll need to take extra caution to prevent risk of falling. This includes keeping an eye out for ice, especially when stepping off the curb onto darker paved roads. Consider shortening your stride around turns or even in general so that you keep your center of mass over your feet. Slips happen most when the feet are overstretched in front of the body instead of landing under the body’s center of mass.

Pay attention to slopes and if the conditions are just too poor - it’s better to turn around and cut your route short than risk an injury!

Another thing to think about is how to fall properly - tumbles aren’t so bad when you know how to absorb impact and protect the joints and vital body parts. Feel free to check out our friend Alex’s tips on falling technique at Natural Mobility on Youtube.

Find the Right Shoes

A great way to minimize risk of falling is having the right pair of shoes. If you’re thinking of tackling tougher conditions, make sure you have a pair of shoes with great traction in the soles. I recommend the Xero Terraflex, but everyone will have their own preference.

You’ll have to consider the trade off between weight, flexibility and water resistance. Personally, I find my feet are alright even when they’re damp during the run. But I’ll dry them off as soon as possible once I’m home.

Other options include the Tabi style Marugo Sports Jog, and combining Polar Fleece socks with a pair of Xero sandals.

You could also consider having one lighter pair of shoes specifically for milder conditions and a more weather-resistant pair for snow or wetter surfaces.

Final Note

The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to the environment and adjust accordingly to what works best for you.

Winter running is about moving with the elements and adjusting to the change of seasons. Keeping an open mindset will help you pay closer attention to minor differences in temperature and surface conditions. Think of it as an ongoing experiment to discover how to best prepare for the conditions that you’re facing. Becoming more aware of how to handle new situations goes hand in hand with taking in the wonderful experiences the outdoors has to offer.

Resources & Further Reading:

Cristina Nolasco on How To Survive Winter Running

Running Room Winter Running Tips


Carol Robbins, RES, on Winter Walking


Toronto Multi Use Nature Trails Info