The Best way to enjoy Winter Running
The best way to enjoy winter running is be to comfortable. In the summer it’s easy to be comfortable and enjoy a run.
Enjoying a winter run can be a bit more challenging.
Here are a few ways to enjoy winter running
Keep your feet dry
Nothing ruins a nice run quicker than wet feet. In the summer wet feet can cause chaffing and blisters. In the winter, wet feet can increase your chances of frost bite, sap the heat from your body and cause chaffing and blisters.
Leading running shoe companies such as Adidas, Asics, Brooks, New Balance and Saucony use Gore-Tex® Extended Comfort technology to make water resistant versions of their standard shoes.
This material keeps water out of your shoes, while allowing perspiration to escape. The ideal set of features to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Many shoes that use Extended Comfort materials have the designation “GTX” or incorporate GORE-TEX® into the shoe name.
I have run in the Brooks Adrenaline ASR 10 GTX shoe for three seasons. Like many shoes on the GORE-TEX® web site, the Adrenaline ASR is a trail version of the popular Adrenaline GTS.
While most reviewers consider the Adrenaline ASR a built up street shoe and not a true trail runner, you will find it much stiffer and heavier than the street version.
I always wear my Adrenaline ASR 10 GTX for trail runs and those Sunday long runs when the street is a mess. The shoes are also great on ice and give me added confidence that I’ll make it to the finish in one piece.
The water-resistant version of your favorite running shoe will typically cost about 20% more than the standard version. Since you only need these shoes a few months of the year, you can get two or more years out of them.
This article from Competitor dot com reviews 9 winter running shoes for 2016. They describe the Brooks Adrenaline ASR GTX as a weather-ready road-feel shoe.
Check out the Under Armour Fat Tire GTX. At 18 oz you wont want to do a road race in them, but they will eliminate your foul weather excuses!
This 2015 article from GearJunkie reviews running shoes that are a bit more hard-core than your typical trail runners. In addition to being water-resistant, some of these shoes incorporate spikes and gators to handle the most challenging conditions. More on gaiters below.
Anyone in the Northern Hemisphere training for a spring race, such as the Boston Marathon, should own a pair of water-resistant shoes. Nasty weather comes with the territory this time of year, so you’ll need a heavier pair of shoes like these to keep you on the road and off of your butt.
Keep the Snow Out
Who hasn’t dreamed of running through fresh powder on a crisp winter’s day? How about tearing up a gnarly trail with friends? When you get off-road or out before the plows you are likely to encounter snow that most running shoes cannot handle.
A nice addition to any runner’s mountain of gear is a pair of gators. Gaiters go over your ankle and cover your socks and top of your shoe.
In addition to keeping snow, rocks and twigs out of your shoes, they also add another layer of water protection. Even if you have snow shoes, gaiters are a great way to keep the snow out of your shoes and keep the fun rolling.
Check out this review of Ultra Trail Gaiters from Outdoor Research. OR sells gators for running, skiing and hiking. The GearJunkie article reviews a few shoes that come with gaiters.
REI sells gaiters for running, hiking and skiing. Much like buying a pair of shoes, trying on a pair of gaiters before you buy them is advisable.
Keep your feet Warm
Keeping your feet dry is only half the battle of enjoying a winter run.
Cold, dry feet are still cold. That’s no fun and can be dangerous.
Keeping your feet warm is all about the socks.
Running socks are great at wicking moisture away from your skin, but in the winter you need more. Wool is known to hold body heat even when wet, and most cold weather socks incorporate wool. For fit and breath-ability, nylon and other engineered materials are woven in also.
In 2014 I wrote a review comparing Balega socks to Darn Tough socks.You thought summer socks were expensive? These socks cost about $17.00 a pair!
Both socks kept my feet warm, warmer than summer socks anyway. The Balega socks felt better on my feet and added some color.
I have only tried Darn Tough and Balega and both worked for me. I’m hoping to test a few more brands this winter and provide reviews for you.
Winter socks should feel snug on your feet, but not too tight. You don’t want them to bunch up but you also don’t want to constrict blood flow or squeeze your toes.
Many runners wear low profile socks in warm weather. For colder weather consider wearing a crew sock. I find that a sock that bridges the gap between my tights and ankle make a big difference in comfort. Any exposed skin can be an issue.
Every runner should have at least one pair of winter socks. They are expensive but you will need them on those really bitter days. If you stay on top of your laundry, you can get by with one pair of really good winter socks. Two or three pair are better, of course.
While they are expensive they will last many years. During the winter you wont need winter socks for every run, so you are sure to get many years of good running out of them.
Keep a lid on it
I grew up in Maine and hated to wear a hat to the bus stop, even in February. It just wasn’t cool. And don’t mess with the hair! In the old days, parents believed that we lost over 50% of our body heat through our heads.
It turns out that all body parts loose heat at about the same rate. Since our heads make up about 10% of our body surface, they can only loose about 10% of our body heat.
For a winter run, I keep as much of my body covered as possible. I wear a hat year-round so I have no problem wearing a winter hat.
A hat covers about half of my head and probably keeps in half of the heat so 10% times half, times half equals about 2.5% of my body heat.
That may not seem like a lot, but if I could cut 2.5% off of my marathon time I’d be thrilled.
A hat is about comfort and safety. While you may not loose 50% of your body heat through your head, you do loose body heat. On a cold day that 2.5% could keep you comfortable and prevent your ears from getting frost bite.
Sometimes I get an ear ache from running in the cold and a hat helps prevent this.
The important thing is comfort and not what it is made of. The great thing about a hat is that you can take it off if you get too hot and slip it on again if you get cool.
Any winter cap will do, but check out the winter running hats the next time you stop by your local running shop.
Keep your face covered
Balaclavas have been around since the mid 1800s. In the old days they were wool as that was the warmest material available.
Today, balaclavas are made from high tech materials that work better than wool. The definition of balaclava has changed also. In the photo above Matt Sazama wore a nylon hose basically.
Many members of our running club got one of these “balaclavas” a few years ago when we had an especially cold winter. This version can go around your neck to keep your neck warm and cold air out of your jacket.
It can also be pulled up to cover your mouth and nose, like Matt did. It is not the traditional hat-like balaclava, but it is very handy to have in the go bag.
Here is an example of a modern balaclava made by Craft Sportswear. This “Face Protector” is made of 100% polyester. Craft is based in Sweden so you know these products are tested under harsh Nordic conditions.
Please stay out of banks while wearing anything like this.
I own a few Craft products and I can attest to their quality and functionality.
Like a good pair of running shoes, winter gear and Craft products in particular, are not cheap.
If this is your first winter running season you can probably get by with gear you already own. You wont be ready to take on the worse conditions, but you should be ready for the average winter day.
Keep your hands warm
As I have grown older, my hands have become more sensitive to the cold. Some days, just the simple gloves they hand out at races are enough. Sometimes I have to take them off after a few miles.
Then there are those 20° days, or nights. Just from my forward motion there is a 5 mph breeze and sometimes Jack Frost will kick in a steady breeze and maybe a few gusts. That all adds up to an uncomfortable wind chill.
A few years ago I purchased wind proof mittens from a brand I wont mention. They didn’t have much insulation and they fell apart the same year. Everyone said mittens were better than gloves because mittens kept your finger together for added warmth.
With that in mind I purchased a pair of Craft Touring Mittens. These mittens had the insulation I was looking for and still look like new after two seasons.
Craft provides few details for any of their products on their web site. They do not provide a comfortable temperature range like LL Bean does on many of their products.
From my personal experience, I would recommend these mittens. Except in the coldest conditions, my hands actually sweat in these mittens.
Sometimes the only thing that will keep you warm is a house. If you have Raynaud’s Disease these mittens should be a good option.
For Christmas, I received these Hybrid Weather Gloves. They are a glove with a slip over cover to keep your fingers warm and dry.
I have not worn them yet, but I know people who have these gloves and they love them. They give you the dexterity of a glove with the option for extra protection from the elements when you need it.
Sometimes my hands sweat even on a cold day, having the option to take a layer off of my hands will be helpful.
Many runners start cold and then warm up as they run. It’s not unusual to see gloves on the road during a race. I’ve even seen expensive gloves on the ground.
It’s easy to get distracted during a race and drop a nice hat or pair of gloves. The word to the wise is always that it’s okay to be cool or even cold at the beginning of a race; you will warm up. With that in mind, you may want to wear an inexpensive pair of gloves and hat to a race.
They may not keep you as warm at the start, but you will warm up and who wants to loose a $50 pair of gloves. That can make for an uncomfortable ride home.
For your training runs, it makes sense to be comfortable. A training run is a controlled environment. You should be comfortable. We don’t need excuses for staying home. If you can afford it, gear up for the winter that is coming.
I hope that these tips help you have a comfortable winter running season. Winter is a great time to run and staying comfortable is the best way to enjoy winter running.
Invest in one or two items this season and you are likely to enjoy them for years to come.
Run well my Friends and Happy New Year!