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How to Love Cold Weather Running

I’m the kind of person that dreads spring and summer.
 

Yes, I said it! I hate being hot and I hate running in the heat even more! 
 

Every year around this time, we have customers coming in for shoes talking about how they won’t make it outside for a run again until March or April. All I have to say is y’all don’t know what you’re missing! Fall and Winter are my favorite seasons and I look forward ALL YEAR to the cold weather runs that come with it! 

If you’ve ever been curious about why crazy people like myself actually like running in this kind of weather, keep reading! I’ll give you a few tips and tricks about how to dress to stay warm, comfy and enjoying your run! 

But let me start with a quote from my boy Alfred Wainwright:

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.

That’s the biggest thing to remember when heading out for a cold weather run – if you’re not dressed properly for it, you’re going to be miserable! The Golden Rule for cold weather running is it’s better to be slightly cold and dry, than overly warm and sweating (which can freeze and lead to hypothermia). If you already feel toasty on the first mile of your run, you’re probably overdressed (rei.com).

You want to dress for about 10-20° warmer than the temperature outside, because once you warm up this is the temperature it will feel like. Always go by the “feels like” temperature when getting dressed for your run – the wind chill factor matters! 

  • Going for a short, easy run? Lean more toward 10-15° warmer
  • Going for a long run or hard workout? Lean more toward 15-20° warmer
  • If it’s rainy or windy, wear a waterproof or water resistant shell to block the wind and keep you dry. When it’s windy, try to start your run heading into the wind and have the wind at your back at the end. Running into the wind at the end of your run when you’re wet and sweaty will make you really cold very quickly! 
  • Your body will lose heat through exposed skin, so especially on the colder days, try to cover as much skin as possible! I ALWAYS wear shorts, but even I will succumb to tights if the temperatures get into the negatives. Speaking of temperatures in the negatives, a balaclava might not be a bad idea at this point (not a baklava, they won’t help you here!).
  • Dress in layers. Layers will keep you warm and you can always shed a few if you feel like you’ve worn too much. 
  • Wear fabrics that wick away moisture from your body like synthetic fabrics and merino wool. Our retired staffer Doug, was a huge proponent of merino wool and talked most of our staff and Fun Runners into getting some merino clothing! “Merino wool is the super fiber that outperforms all other material for outdoor activities. It keeps you warm and dry in the winter and works as well in the summer. It’s softer than cotton and very comfortable against your skin. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet from rain or snow, unlike the typical polyester outdoor wear that floods the market.” The other huge perk of merino wool? “It’s known to not hold body odors like most polyester fabrics”.
  • Avoid cotton. It soaks up sweat and will leave you feeling cold and wet. Shivering burns extra calories that you need to keep moving forward! 

Still not sure what to wear? I like to poll my running buddies on their plans, but you can also check out this link from Runner’s World that lets you plug in details about the weather and then gives you suggestions https://www.runnersworl d.com/training/a20803133/what-to-wear/.

Other tips for running in cold weather:

  • You still need to hydrate! Even though you may not feel as thirsty because it’s cold, you’re still sweating and losing fluids so keep drinking! 
  • You will need to make sure your drinking water doesn’t freeze. Try filling your hydration pack or water bottle with warm water so it takes longer for it to get cold enough to freeze. You can also put your pack or bottle under at least one layer of your clothing to help keep the heat in. If you’re using a hydration pack, be sure to blow the water out of the tube and back into the bladder after each drink, and tuck the end of the tube into your shirt or jacket so it’s not exposed. 
  • If it’s cold enough, your phone battery will die. But aren’t we running to get away from the world anyway? Try to keep your phone in an inside pocket close to your body heat, and make sure someone knows where you’re headed and when you might be back in case this happens to you.
  • A headlamp or handheld flashlight are your best friend this time of year. With cooler weather comes less sunlight, so these are essential for being able to see where you’re going and making sure you’re aware of your surroundings! Pair these with a reflective vest and/or bright clothing and you’re good to go!
  • Running on packed snow or icy sidewalks? Check out a pair of Yaktrax that you can put over your usual running shoes. These have spikes and metal coils that will help give you better traction on slick surfaces. Pro-tip: Always take them off if you get to a spot without ice and snow! For instance if you’re running on the trail and come to a road crossing. No matter how big or small the section of cleared road, you WILL ruin the spikes.
  • Running on soft snow or in rainy weather? Wear tall socks (merino wool socks are best!) to avoid growing icicles on your ankles! If you tend to have cold feet, waterproof trail running shoes can help with both insulating your feet and giving you better traction. However, keep in mind that with waterproof shoes, you lose breathability and drainage after running through a big puddle or stream crossing. 
  • Change out of your running clothes as soon as your done! Once you start to cool down, having those wet, sweaty clothes against your skin will bring your body temperature down QUICK. So make sure you have warm, dry clothes to change into afterward.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for learning to love running in the winter? Let us know by emailing us at katie@shoeflyshoe.com!

 

~Katie