How to Keep Trail Running Through Winter Conditions

winter runWhen 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.