Preparing for your winter runs can keep you outside for some of the most memorable runs of the year. Here’s how to dress and stay safe while running in the winter.

Dress in layers

Rule of thumb is to dress like it is 15-20 degrees warmer outside. This means you may feel a bit chilled when you start your runs, but will quickly start to warm up.

Dressing your upper body

Your base layer should be snug, a moisture wicking fabric – not cotton. The second layer should be more insulating like a vest or fleece shirt. The top later should be a wind or water resistant material to protect you from the elements.

Clothing that zips at the neck or under arms make it easy to vent out head and adjust to temperatures. Wearing a snug hat and a pair of gloves is always a good idea. You can put them in a pocket or sleeve if not needed.

Dressing your lower body

Running tights are an essential base layer. Your second layer could be insulated or wind resistant pants.

Winter running shoes should have less mesh material to keep wind and moisture out. Some have a Gore-Tex coating to help keep you dry. A trail shoe or snow cleats, like Yaktrax, can give you more grip.

Layering Guide

Here is a guide to layering:

Temperature Tops Bottoms Gloves Hats Other accessories
30 degrees 2 1 1 1
10 to 20 degrees 2 2 1 1
0 to 10 degrees 3 2 1 1
-10 to 0 degrees 3 2 1 (thicker gloves or mittens) 1 Scarf or wrap around your mouth
-20 to -10 degrees 3 2 2 1 Scarf or wrap around your mouth, sunglasses

Know the wind

This includes the wind chill and the direction. Running in the woods can offer shelter from winds. Run into the wind for the first half of your run so that your back can be to the wind on the way back. This is important for protecting your face and maintaining warmth.

Be visible

Dress in bright colors and wear reflective run gear so you are easily seen. High snow banks and icy windshields can make it harder to see runners. Wearing a head lamp or holding a hand held light can help you see. Being able to plot your foot strike is important to navigate icy terrain.

Be flexible

If there is a layer of ice on the roads, it is not a good day for footing. Either take your speed workout indoors or run at a slower pace to avoid slips.

If temperatures cause challenges for your workout run a loop closer to home. One mistake runners make in the cold is not being aware that fatigue can hinder their body’s ability to maintain body temperature.

Short runs or loops near your home are a great way to ease into the cold weather and prevent winter running injuries. If winter running is new to you, just try to get out for five minutes. You can go back home if you feel uncomfortable, but you might find you like it.

Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Confusion

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Pain or numbness
  • Skim may look red, pale or waxy

The most common areas for frostbite are fingers, toes, ears, cheeks and tip of the nose. Using a coat of Body Glide or lip balm on areas where skin is exposed can help prevent frostbite. Note: If your fingers or toes turn white and feel tingly in the cold (even after warming up) you may want to ask your doctor if Raynaud’s could be a possible cause.

Visit the Running Program webpage for more information