There’s something magical about embracing a dark, cold winter morning running on snow. But it’s less magical when you end up on your bum because you didn’t realize there was ice or are wearing the wrong shoes.
As a morning runner, my first thought is usually how many layers do I need? But after a frosty night or a snow storm, I’m on the lookout for ice…especially black ice.
Is it safe to run in the snow?
Absolutely with the right gear and the right attitude. It can be some seriously fun running when you embrace that it’s not going to be the same as a hard effort on a sunny spring day.
Running on Snow Tips
When it comes to snow running shoes, you may be surprised to find that your trail running shoes are a perfect fit.
Until you start getting in to potentially icy conditions, they will provide enough traction and are often waterproof as well!
A few additional tips:
- Checkout these best trail running shoes
- Be more cautious than a summer run
- Don’t go for all out sprints and hard workouts in the snow
- Aim for fresh trails where you’re less likely to encounter black ice
- Shift to the treadmill if it’s going to be so deep it will impact your workout
Shift The Time of Your Run
It’s not the time to head out for strides and sprints, instead remember that slowing down or turning corners is more difficult, so you’ll need to slow down. It’s time to be cautious, not set any personal bests, unless they’re snow personal bests.
- Plan for runch over an early morning run so you can use the sunshine to spot ice and possibly warm it to at least slush
- If you can aim for snow over slightly shoveled, you’ll often find more traction
- Wearing something like the Oakley Prizm lens can help make the ice more visible due to the contrast it provides
- Early morning runners always take a headlamp, instead of relying on street lights
- Understand how black ice forms so you can be vigilant
“The prime times for the development of this ice are around dawn and in the late evening, when temperatures are typically the lowest. The ground temperature causes the precipitation to freeze upon impact, thus creating ice.” – Accuweather
Embrace the Trails
Because trails haven’t been scooped, you are more likely to find snow than ice in most places, which means better traction and less chance of slipping.
Running in fresh snow means a little more work, since it’s softer. Treat that like running on the beach and keep your run shorter, knowing it will engage new muscles.When the trail has started to become packed down, any of the spikes listed below or trail shoes will give you better traction than on a slick sidewalk.
Trails can also be a good option to simply remind you to relax and enjoy the run.
Winter running is usually a base building time, so embrace the obstacle as a way to improve your preconception and enjoy some easier miles.
Will running on snow make you faster?
Having just told you not to do your speed sessions in the snow, you might assume no. But just like beach running, you’ll be engaging a lot of new muscles and forced to think about picking your feet up, so it could very well lead to some stronger leg muscles and therefore faster running.
What to wear to run in the snow?
Depending on the day you might find long sleeves and tights are plenty! That’s what makes Colorado winters so crazy. Other days it feels like full on winter, in which case:
- Winter running shoes — my top 10 recommendations
- Winter running gloves – from light to suppppper warm
- Winter running base layers – what’s next to your skin is really important
- Running Beanie– trap that heat!!
- Winter running tights -(Fleece lined is awesome)
- Winter running jacket – often the most expensive layer, but worth it
The second part of running on snow, is being prepared for the idea that you might find some ice.
Top Running On Ice Tips
Beyond don’t fall, what can actually help you get through a run on the ice while remaining up right? Let’s be real, I can trip on a perfectly flat clear sidewalk, so I had to do some research and reach out to more experienced winter runners.
But I can now vouch for these techniques!
Just Don’t Do It
Well seriously, we know the potential for risk is higher so if you can find a clear path take it.
- Know in advance which sides of the road melt quicker and which refreeze. Around our neighborhood certain patches are perpetually in shade, so running on the other side of the road can mean avoiding the need to slip and slide past someone’s house.
- Consider the treadmill. I know many of you despise it, but check out all the ways it can actually improve your running and hey a morning on the treadmill that eliminates an injury is worth it long term.
Be a Little Type A
Sounds ridiculous, but just like trail running you’ll only feel more comfortable with the change underfoot the more you do it. So practice, practice, practice and let your inner Type A flag fly.
Year-round Boulder run, Nicklaus Combs says “Short stride and quick cadence” can make a big difference because the less time you are in contact with the ice, the less time you have to slip! Plus it means you are taking a lighter step, place less force on the ice. Short steps doesn’t mean faster, it just means increasing your foot turnover.Nervous about running on the snow and ice? Checkout these great tips #runchat #winter Click To Tweet
Just like you need chains on your tires for the mountains (yeah things I learn in Colorado), you need to winterize those shoes.
Adding a spike or other gripping tool to your shoes is a great way to enhance traction.
There are a lot of options depending on your budget:
- put screws in to your existing shoes
- buy a pullover for your shoes that has spikes (this is what I do)
- invest in quality shoes if you’ll be doing a lot of ice
My new friend Kate who lives, runs and enjoys the outdoors year round in Alaska had this advice:
“To run on ice I use a waterproof shoe and slip my Khatoola Nano Spikes over the top to protect me from slipping and sliding. We also sell a shoe called “IceBugs” that have carbon spikes in the bottom of the shoe that are placed correctly as to not affect your gate when you run.
Sometimes when running stores “stud” shoes for runners (or put screws in tennis shoes) they can put them in crooked or in the wrong place and over time can cause injury for the runners. If spikes are not an option for any reason – I always… always recommended padded shorts.” Ok I really love that last piece of advice.
There you have it, everything you wanted to know about running on snow and ice.
It’s been an adventure the last 5 years transitioning from Florida runs to Colorado winter. I was hesitant at first, but now enjoy this season just as much as the others.
Do you have any snow and ice tips?
Do you avoid it or embrace it?
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