I see a lot of posts like pop up around this time of year. The problem is they’re usually written by some bozo in SoCal who thinks 45 degrees is essentially unlivable. (No offense to anyone in SoCal … my anger in this particular situation stems from some hardcore jealousy.) I have trained through two Upstate New York winters and casually ran through two more so I am certainly still a novice; however, here are some tips that have helped make winter running bearable for me.

So winter. Much cold.


1. Invest in a good running jacket

Of all the possible gear you can buy, a good jacket is worth every penny. A nice, warm, and reflective jacket will take the thought process out of layering and typically doesn’t need to be washed after every run (maybe this is just me? maybe I’m just gross). I find that if I keep my core nice and warm, the rest of me warms up fairly quickly.I currently have a Brooks jacket that they don’t seem to make anymore, but when it’s time for a new one, I would love a Nike Shield Flash jacket. This seems to be the crème de la crème of winter running jackets. I’d also be interested in reading a review of the Oiselle Katron jacket from someone who isn’t a member of the Oiselle team. It looks promising, but it’s a lot of money to drop if it isn’t really warm and durable.

 2. Yaktrax

These suckers have saved my butt so many times. Even if the roads are plowed, usually the shoulders are full of ice and slush or just plain packed snow. This makes for a very treacherous running experience. I got a pair of Yaktrax a few years ago as a Christmas present and poof! Haven’t had one incident since. Strangely enough, the ones I have are the “walking” ones – I have no idea what the real difference is between those and the ones marketed for running except for the higher pricetag.

She’s pretty mad I didn’t get her some Yaktrax to wear.

 3. Hand warmers

I have Raynaud’s which basically renders even the most hardcore winter running glove ineffective. Rather than spending $60 on a pair of gloves that won’t work, I use a cheap pair of gloves and stock up on hand warmers every season. I don’t use them for every run but they are a lifesaver on long runs in particular.

4. Ice bath in the snow

There is basically no time in my life in which I am willing to enter a tub full of ice water. I never take ice baths in the summer. In the winter though? Super easy to just park my butt in the snow. Boom. Recovery.


5. Check the temperature rating on cold weather gear

No matter what you’re shopping for or where you’re shopping for it, cross reference against a site like runningwarehouse.com. They have temperature ratings on all the stuff they sell and this is the single most helpful thing I have ever come across when trying to shop online. A few years ago, I dropped $50 on a pair of winter running tights – they showed up and were so thin, I actually laughed. Turns out they were rated for 55+ – who the heck is wearing tights when it’s 55 out?! (See: earlier description of SoCal bozos, maybe?)

6. Reflective gear – lots of it

Winter running means a big reduction in daylight hours. Visibility is a huge issue even if you’re running a dawn or dusk – don’t be fooled by neon clothing, bright colors are not enough to make you visible to an oncoming car from far enough away! You want to be seen from a far enough distance so that drivers can be proactive and give you space, not make a last minute swerve on a slippery road. Dress yourself up like a Christmas tree – reflective gear, a headlamp, blinking LEDs – you’ll feel a bit ridiculous but in the end, it’s worth it.  Nathan makes some good products, from hand held lights to blinking lights that attach to your shoes.

7. Flexible scheduling

I love a schedule as much as the next slightly-OCD person out there, but in the winter, I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ll usually check the week’s forecast on Sunday and make a loose plan for my workouts based on that. If a huge snowstorm is supposed to sweep through on the day you have 10 miles planned – move it! It’s better to adapt to the weather rather than struggling through and making things harder for yourself.

8. Run with friends

If you know it’s going to be a battle to get yourself outside, make plans with friends to meet up. When I trained for Shamrock 2013, I ran entirely by myself. I had about a 25% success rate with actually doing my long runs as scheduled. Since joining a run group, I’ve been able to stay consistent with long runs even in less than desirable weather. Knowing that people are waiting for me takes away any of the internal bargaining and gets my butt out the door.

9. Take it inside

When all else fails, the treadmill is your friend. It usually takes a lot for me to resort to the ‘mill, but if it’s a choice between a few boring, crappy miles and no miles, I’ll take boring and crappy every time. If you’re one of those people who enjoys the treadmill, well, you’re lucky and I want to know how to be more like you.


Any tips to add?  What gets you through the winter?


14 thoughts

  1. These are great tips! I too love the hand warmers. When I spent years teaching skating in Central Park I also found that they work amazingly well on top of your socks. Way better than they “foot warmers.” Stay warm!

  2. I love this. SoCal bozos.

    No, really though… Some winter running lists are laughable to anyone actually running in snow. I love my Yaktrax for the one winter I trained with them. Oh and I don’t wash my running jacket after each use, who’s got time (or in my case, quarters) for that?

    Am I weird if I love winter running?

    1. HAHAHA that video is AWESOME. Love love love it.

      Seriously though, I am jealous. All I really want in life is to get to a place where I find 55 degrees to be unpleasantly cold 🙂

  3. Or someone who just lives in Florida…lololol…no. I am interested as well to hear about katron jacket. I just purchased a New Balance wind shield that I love.

    1. I love the idea of a puffer running jacket (because puffer regular jackets are the bomb) buuuut I just don’t want to spend the money without reading some reviews first. I totally want to hear more about the New Balance jacket, I am going to need a new one soon!

  4. haha – totally love this as another upstate NY runner! Great post …

    Totally with you on the ratings of stuff! I got a pair of ‘Extreme Cold Gear Infrared gloves that aren’t much good below ~20F (maybe down to 10 depending on wind). Temperature ratings on gloves are a joke.

    The other thing I have found is to ‘dress for the wind chill’ … obviously this depends on distance and how the wind blows in your area … but we get it bad down in the southern finger lakes area, and so I find for my 7.5+ mile daily runs if I dress for wind chills once it gets below ~20F I am never too cold (or too hot).

    1. Solidarity! I always try to start my run into the wind but that’s of course not always possible. I vary the location of my long runs which helps; certain places are way worse than others when it comes to the wind. And by certain places I mean “any route that is even remotely close to a lake.” Dressing for the wind chill is definitely smart though, and something that took me a year or two to figure out.

  5. Hiya Heather – catching up in posts over Xmas wine here 🙂
    I also have Raynauds & so your post caught my eye. I agree with keeping your core warm, and also just not leaving the house without gloves of any kind on! I could never understand fingerless gloves as a child….
    I can recommend hand warmers if you’re interested. I was given a pair of Zippo ones – made by the same people who make the lighters, you fill them with lighter fluid & they last for ages! So much better than the ones you boil – hotter & burn for 12+hrs depending on the fill. Probably a bit over-kill for a run but great if you’re going to be out all day.

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