When the world outside is covered in snow and ice, most people slip on a pair of cozy slippers and snuggle close to the fire.
But trail runners aren’t “most people,” and wintry conditions are no excuse to hibernate. As the old adage goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather—only unsuitable clothing.”
That spring race is closer than you think and it sure as heck isn’t going to run itself, so grab your shoes (and spikes) and head to the trails.
Spikes: Don’t Leave Home Without Them
Crampons—or spikes, as many people call them—are just as essential as your shoes when the trails are covered with ice. You’ll need extra traction to avoid painful bails, particularly on uphill and downhill sections.
Look for more rugged models that are meant for the trails, which will stand up to uneven terrain, slippery trails, and ice-covered rock. Coil-type traction devices are typically not tough enough to survive a winter’s worth of trail runs. Look for styles with a strap over your foot, which will stay in place, even when you’re well into in the double-digit miles.
Socks: Go Tall
This is most definitely not the season for ankle socks. Not only will your ankles freeze from kicked up snow, but they might also get a little bloody if you accidentally brush your ankle bones with your spikes (it happens to the best of us). Look for technical socks that will keep your feet toasty and your ankles happy in insulating, breathable material.
Layers: The Great Paradox
Dressing for a cold-weather run in the trails is a little trickier than simply throwing on shorts and a T‑shirt. Straddling the line between staying warm and overheating is easier said than done, and it’s hard not to overdress a little when you know how frigid that first mile will feel.
A thick layer of tights is usually sufficient for the bottom half, although some prefer to layer two on particularly blustery days. As for the top, start with a merino wool base and layer as needed. It’s easy enough to tie a jacket around your waist or tuck it into your vest, but avoid the temptation to pile on the layers—you’ll heat up faster than you think.
Extremities: Protect ‘Em
Don’t forget about your hands and your head. A good pair of running gloves are well worth the investment. If you feel yourself getting too warm, they’re easy to tuck into your running vest or pockets.
Choose a headband or beanie that’s meant for running—they’ll keep your noggin warm without turning into a pool of sweat. Don’t forget a neck warmer to pull up against your face, which is a must-have in windy conditions.
Hydration: Essential, Even if You Don’t Feel Thirsty
You might not think you’re thirsty on a mid-winter run, but your body is working mighty hard—especially since it’s trying to keep you warm in addition to everything else. You might not need as much water as you do in warmer weather, but definitely bring some water with you and remember to take a few sips every so often.
Running Companions: The Key Ingredient
When conditions are a little sketchy, it’s always a good idea to run with a friend or two. Despite your best efforts, slips and stumbles can still happen, especially since ice and obstacles are easily blanketed under a layer of snow. There’s safety in numbers, so call your running buddies and make a plan. Besides, it’s always easier to head out the door when you know someone is waiting on you.