6 Tips for Trail Running in the Snow

Maybe you’re train­ing for a win­ter race, or maybe you just want to make the most of your snow days when they come. Either way, you can make win­ter trail run­ning a jol­ly part of the cold­est sea­son. Just fol­low these tips for stay­ing warm and safe while dash­ing through the snow.

The Law of Trac­tion
Run­ning in the snow is a slip­pery affair. The only way to make it work is by mak­ing sure you’ve got the right footwear. Either invest in a pair of trail shoes that have heavy duty trac­tion or con­sid­er strap­ping on a pair of ice grip­pers or ice cleats. Much like chains on your car’s tires, ice cleats slip over your run­ning shoes and pro­vide extra trac­tion on a slip­pery snow or ice-cov­ered surface.

Hap­py Feet are Not a Drag
If you’ve ever tripped on a tree root in the trail, you’ll need not be remind­ed of how easy it is to start drag­ging your feet when you get a lit­tle fatigued. One of the most impor­tant ways to make your snow run a bit less dan­ger­ous is to stay con­scious of your feet. Be mind­ful of your core and cen­ter of grav­i­ty, then think of lift­ing your knees up ever so slight­ly with each step. You’ll get a dif­fer­ent work­out than usu­al and with any luck, you’ll stay upright the entire run.

Lay­er Up
When the ther­mome­ter shows a num­ber below 30 F, it can be a daunt­ing idea to step out and run. But the right gear will warm you right up. The most impor­tant strat­e­gy for run­ning in frigid dig­its is to lay­er. Start with a water-wick­ing base lay­er (like wool), slip on a breath­able mid lay­er that’s not too thick and fin­ish off with a wind-resis­tant jack­et that you can take off and tie around your waist if you get too hot. Final­ly, remem­ber that 30 per­cent of your body heat escapes through your head, so throw on a hat, slip on some gloves and run out the door.

Dou­ble Up
Or don’t. Wear­ing two pairs of socks does­n’t keep your feet any warmer than wear­ing one pair of ther­mal socks. When every­thing sur­round­ing your feet is below freez­ing, two pairs of socks can actu­al­ly make your feet more cold as cot­ton is noto­ri­ous for clam­ming up and get­ting cold. Stick with a wick­ing sin­gle lay­er that’s made for low temps and long runs.

Look, Lis­ten, and Go Slow­ly
You learned the “look and lis­ten” rule for cross­ing the street when you were a kid, so remem­ber to use it when you’re trail run­ning in the snow. It’s a lot eas­i­er to slip when you’re out on a trail, so go slow enough that you can stop abrupt­ly if you must. In gen­er­al, be a bit more cau­tious and give your­self a break from that usu­al speed so you can err on the side of safety.

For Good­ness Sake, Tell Some­one You’re Going Out and When You Expect to Be Back
Even those who high step it through the for­est trip up, slip around and just flat out fall down. The only way some­one is going to find you is if they know where to look. The days are short and the nights are long so be sure to tell some­one of your run so you don’t get stuck in the cold.