Cold Weather Running: Tips and Gear

The colder weather is beginning to make a steady and continuous presence this season, and if you are a runner this means a change for your regular routine. Some runners take these few months to get to know their treadmill, hoping for a random warm day to pop up. Others, however, do everything they can to avoid the “dreadmill”and make their way to hit the pavement each day, even if that pavement is covered in snow. Cold weather running calls for special precautions, special gear, and new training plans. But if you’re new to the winter running thing, you may need some guidance on what you need and how to do it.


Cold Weather Running Tips

Running comfortably in cold weather can depend on quite a few variables. How cold is it? Is there any active precipitation? What is your personal preference of body heat temperature? Is there snow or ice on the ground? All of these things, and others, will change what you will need or what to prepare for before you head out the door. But with a basic understanding of your body’s needs when working out in cold weather, you will be better equipped to be ready for those changes.

When you are exposed to cold temperatures, your body reacts accordingly to help you warm up. Your muscles constrict, often causing pain in your extremities and making it harder to breath. Your nose starts running as a response to coat your nasal passages from the dry air. All of these combined can make for a pretty uncomfortable and difficult run. Wearing the correct gear and layering up can help with these inconveniences, but expect your winter runs to simply be more difficult than the warmer months. 

In addition to temperature changes, you also have to deal with the lack of daylight. You will have less day time hours to run, perhaps making you change your daily routine or forcing you to run in the dark. Special precautions and added safety awareness have to be used in these conditions.

Below are some tips on how to run efficiently and safely during those colder and darker months: 

  • Change your Routine: Since it’s now getting light later and dark earlier, you may have to change the time of day that you run. If you can’t do that because of work or kids, you will need to take special precautions to run in the dark.
  • Running in the Dark: Be sure to wear a head lamp, a reflective belt, and bright clothing to counteract the darkness.

Want to read more about running in the dark? Check out our 10 Tips to Keep You Safe here on Daily Mom!

  • Figure Out the Running Temperature: The outdoor temperature isn’t the only temperature to which you have to pay attention to. It is recommended to add an additional 10-20 degrees to the outside temperature (or “feels like” temperature) to determine what to wear. Below is a chart to help you decide what to wear after you have added a few degrees for your body heat while moving.

  • Precipitation: If it recently snowed or rained, you may have to take extra precautions depending on the conditions. Neighborhood sidewalks may not be treated, so if you can run safely on the road it may be the better option. Roads are often treated with sand or salt, and they provide more traction as opposed to smooth concrete. They are also warmer due to the traffic running over it allowing the snow and ice to melt quicker.
  • Bag Your Feet: It sounds silly, but putting your feet in baggies will help keep out the cold and the wet slush. Just be sure to put your socks on before you put the baggies on – otherwise your feet will overheat and stick to the bags, making for an uncomfortable run.
  • Pre-Run Warmup: Before you head outside into the cold, warm up your body inside by doing a few quick exercises like jumping jacks, butt kickers, jump rope, or sun salutations. This will help to not shock your body so much when you feel the drastic change in temperature.
  • Post-Run Change: No matter how cold it is outside your body will still perspire. The wetness will become apparent as soon as your body realizes it’s not moving anymore. The wet combined with the cold temperatures will make you feel even colder than you did when you first started running, even though your body temperature is still high. The best way to counteract this is to change your clothes into something dry following your run.

Running in cold weather requires certain things that you may not do during the warmer months, but these pre- and post-run tips will help you have a more comfortable and safer run.


Cold Weather Running Gear

The best thing about running in cold weather? You get to buy new running gear! If you use the cold temperature clothing guide above you can see that some of the items you might need in addition to your summer running gear are long sleeve shirts, running tights, gloves or mittens, and a hat. But there are some other items that you may find beneficial as you hit the icy pavement:

  • Layer Up: Your running temperature will determine how much you need to layer. However, layering is often a work of trial and error for many runners. Some runners like to “embrace the suck” and wear less to start off their run so they don’t get overheated. Others don’t mind taking off layers as they run if needed. It may take a few runs for you to figure out what is comfortable for you.
  • Running Tights: Basic non-wicking running tights may not cut it if running temperatures are extremely cold. You may need to spring for thermal tights to wear under your regular running tights or pants (or to be worn by themselves if you’re the “embrace the suck” type of runner).
  • Vest: Many runners complain of overheating in the space that seemingly isn’t working as hard – their arms. With that in mind, some opt for a thermal vest rather than a layering jacket so that their arms and shoulders stay a bit cooler, but their core is kept warm.
  • Face Mask: No, you aren’t going to rob a bank – but you might look like it. Full face masks are a must in cold and windy weather. Many go over your head for an extra layer of warmth, while others may just cover your neck and face. Both types can be pulled down if you get too warm, though.
  • Sunglasses: Sunglasses are crucial during the winter months. Whether you’re trying to protect your eyes from the reflection of the sun off the snow or wind in your face, sunglasses can protect your eyes from more than just regular UV rays even on cloudy days.
  • Snow Chains: Sure, you have snow chains for the tires on your car, but did you know that you can get them for your running shoes too? These chains attach to your regular running shoes and will help them grip in wintry conditions. But caution and common sense are a must during any icy conditions. A skipped run is better than a run that ends in a serious injury.

Snow, ice, freezing rain, and extreme temperatures can’t stop a dedicated runner from hitting the pavement as long as she has the right gear. So hit the shops to get the things you need to hit the pavement.


Cold Weather Running with Kids

Sometimes moms have to squeeze in their workouts with the kids. If you are a runner, you don’t have to let the cold weather deter you from running outside with your kids. Below are a few things you can do to ensure that your kids are warm and comfy while chilling in their stroller (seriously, what do they have to complain about? You are doing all the work!).

  • Wind Guard: The most important thing – besides coats, hats, gloves, snacks, and the iPad, obviously – is a rain cover for your stroller. Even if it’s not raining, a rain guard helps to keep the cold air and wind out of the stroller. Your kids will be toasty warm under there, and bonus: it will also be harder to hear them whine.
  • Tire Chains: These aren’t actual chains like you would buy for your car or for your running shoes, but tying zip ties around your stroller’s tires will help add traction when pushing in icy conditions.
  • Footmuff: Footmuffs are great for cold weather running. They are like little sleeping bags made just for your stroller, keeping your children warm without having to stop 50 times to pick up and retuck dropped blankets.

Running with kids isn’t always fun, but it’s a bit easier when you’re prepared. And don’t be afraid to stop and throw a couple snowballs – make your run fun for everyone!


Running in the cold is difficult, even for the most dedicated and experienced runners. Runny noses, tight muscles, burning lungs, and freezing fingers and toes would make anyone want to call it quits. But with the right gear and the right mindset, you will be running comfortably in the icy weather in no time!

Not into running in the cold? Check out 10 Tips for Choosing a Gym Membership to get yourself on a treadmill during these cold months!

Photo Credits: Lauren Lomsdale, Kasia

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Lauren Lomsdale

Lauren is a full-time mom of three girls, who also happens to run her own in-home preschool. She loves to write, run, yoga-it-out, and keep fit. She’s kind of crunchy in her homeschooling, cloth diapering, and natural products sort of way, but she also loves Starbucks and trashy tv. For more about her internal judgments of herself and hilarious quips about motherhood, follow her on IG and Twitter @thescoopmama, fb.com/thescoopmama, as well as her website theSCOOPmama.

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