Running in cold weather

Running in cold weather

October 7, 2022

It’s coming to that time of year where the days are getting shorter and colder, meaning less daylight hours available and a lot of runners potentially feeling reluctant, or unsure, about running in cold weather on cold, dark mornings or at night.

As long as you are aware of how to best prepare for the conditions, there is no reason why you shouldn’t run in the cold.

Here are some things to think about before heading out:

Layering – One of the key things for running in cold weather is knowing what to wear. Of course, it is important to feel warm enough, however you don’t want to overdress and run the risk of getting too hot and sweaty when running. If you sweat a lot and it can’t be wicked away, this will then have the opposite effect of cooling you down! Use layers that can be easily taken off and tied around your waist to manage this problem. It’s best to wear a base layer when it’s particularly cold – use a moisture wicking fabric to ensure sweat is wicked away from the skin so you don’t get too cold.

Running in the cold can feel tough on the lungs especially if you are not used to it. Try using a running scarf/bandana to help keep your neck/chest warm – you can also raise this, so it covers your nose and mouth if particularly cold.

Hats and gloves – if you’ve been running in the cold you’ll know that feeling of numb fingers and struggling to untie your shoelaces at the end of a run! Keeping your hands warm with a good pair of running gloves is key! Wear a hat or ear muff, ideally with moisture wicking fabric again to reduce sweat build up which cools you down. Try to avoid wearing a warm wooly hat, which can get very uncomfortable as you start to warm up during your run.

Stay visible – this applies not only to running in the dark, but also on dreary days where there just isn’t much sunlight, or in foggy conditions. It’s really important to be clearly seen by cars, cyclists and even other runners/pedestrians for your own and others safety. Most running gear now, including trainers, will have some form of reflective strip, or you can buy full high vis clothing. You could also consider using a light that attaches to clothing or straps around your arm, or using a headtorch.

Shoes – If you know it’s going to be snowy or icy on your run route, then consider using a trail running shoe, or ice crampons/snow grips which can just fit around the sole of your running shoe. If it’s not particularly icy, then normal road running shoes should be fine. Be sure to check your environment, and think about what the whole route might look like.

Warm up – it’s always harder to get going when you feel cold before you even start. To help with this, try doing a dynamic warm up indoors before you head out. This could include exercises such as high knees, heel kicks, walking lunges, skipping and leg swings. The aim is to raise your heart rate, get the blood flowing, and get the muscles ready for activity!

I hope this has been helpful and given you some ideas for how to prepare for a cold run, so you now feel ready to get out and enjoy it!

Visit our gait analysis page for further information on how you can get your running gait assessed, for improved performance and reduced injury risk!

Feel free to contact me for advice on any running related injuries or regarding gait analysis.

Emma Papadopoulos, Senior MSK Physiotherapist

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