Running in Cold Weather

Stay safe and enjoy running in the winter by following these tips.


By Jason Saltmarsh


Winter brings messy weather, slippery roads, and frigid temperatures that will take your breath away. These harsh conditions force many runners to abandon their regular training methods and find comfort and safety indoors. However, those of us who persevere know the beauty of running in a winter wonderland, and the rewards we’ll reap when spring road racing returns.

Here are some of the ways you can stay safe, and enjoy running in the cold, dark months of winter.


You need to be able to see what’s on the roads, and drivers need to be able to see you. Snowy roads and black ice can be tricky to navigate during early morning and late afternoon runs. Wearing a headlamp is a great solution. Many running headlamps are super lightweight and provide more than enough power to light up the night.

Wearing bright colored clothing and highly reflective materials is absolutely mandatory. Nothing blends into the shadows better than a pair of black running tights. You want to be obnoxiously dressed in bright colors that can’t possibly be missed by distracted drivers and sleepy snowplow operators.


Wearing layers is the key to staying warm without overheating. Sweating too much leads to problems on the winter. If moisture can’t escape it will stay on you and turn to ice wherever exposure occurs. It’s not uncommon to see runners with rings of ice around their wool hats any tiny icicles hanging over their ears.

It takes about 15 minutes to heat up when running. So, you have two choices. You can dress in layers and remove the top layer mid-run, or you can be a little chilly for the first few miles. I usually wear just enough so I can bear the first few miles, and then run comfortably after that. Plan on feeling like it’s about 20 degrees warmer than the air outside.

Hands and Feet

The weak spots in my winter armor are typically my hands and feet. I’ve learned that if I can keep my fingers and toes warm, I can run in temperatures all the way down to zero. The trick is to find a good pair of mittens and some running socks made of Merino wool. Many times I have worn two pairs of mittens for a little extra warmth and protection from the wind.


Staying upright is important when running on slippery roads. Snow provides more traction than ice, and dry pavement provides more traction than snow. If you’re running down a hill, look for a place that you can securely plant your foot without fear of slipping, even if that means stepping in the snow along the side of the road. It’s better than falling and risking injury, not to mention embarrassment.

If you are into Do-It-Yourself projects you can make a set of running shoe spikes, or you can can purchase a pair of wrap-around rubber spikes at most running specialty stores. Trail shoes usually make good winter running shoes with their aggressive tread and stable rubber lugs. Whatever method you choose, be respectful of drivers and stay a good distance from oncoming traffic.

Jason is a competitive marathon runner and RRCA distance running coach. He's the senior editor at, and writes for several online health and fitness publications. When he's not running on the roads and trails, Jason can be found enjoying life with his family and friends on the New Hampshire seacoast.

Main Photo Credit: baranq/; Second Photo Credit & Third Photo Credit: Maridav/; Fourth Photo Credit: Damon Shaff/