A Guide to Cold Weather Running – Tips from the Pros
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that cold weather running is worn like a badge of courage for many Minnesotans. In fact, anyone who lives in a cold weather state (or province if you’re Canadian, eh?), takes pride in the fact that winter’s wrath barely slows the level of training they are able to achieve. Sure, when your weather app reads double digit negatives, perhaps you don’t NEED to go for a run. But knowing you can is perhaps half the fun.
I’ve spent a good deal of time, energy and money figuring out exactly what the best combination of layers are to tackle any temperature range. When it’s -20 out, I view it as an opportunity to push the limits of my gear and personal fortitude when it comes to cold weather running. Sure, I could find a treadmill or simply take the day off, but where’s the fun in that?
I thought I would again ask current and former members of Team USA Minnesota how they brave the winter. Learning from those pros is the way to go. While some of them are cold weather natives, a few are not, and have learned the hard way how to layer and re-layer to make the most out of running during the cold months.
As a California native, Jon viewed training during the winter as a new adventure. He told me that,
It was something new and exciting for me, as I’ve never trained in the snow before. Only difficult part was watching for ice along with the occasional concern of frost bite, and trying to figure out the best way to cope with the treadmill on days I couldn’t be outside.
To deal with frostbit, one trick he has learned is to wear booties over his toes. “One thing I’ve added to my inventory is a pair of Meister Neoprene Toe Booties, which simply slip over the forefoot and keeps the cold out on those particularly cold days when you’re trekking through snow!” At just 2.5mm thick, you’ll barely realize you’re wearing them.
Jon also uses the Brooks Utopia 3-in-1 Mitten to keep his fingers warm. He likes that these are super lightweight and fit wells to your hand and that they come with a mitten cover for those extra cold days. He does say they’re not suited for anything around zero, unless you’ve got a liner under.
As a Minnesota native, you’d think Heather would have grown a second skin by now to adapt to all of the cold weather running she has done. Nope. As a self-proclaimed ‘freeze-baby’, she has learned the hard way that it is possible to overdress, even in the harshest of conditions. She recently told me that “It’s better to head out the door and feel a slight chill- that way, once you get running/warmed up a bit, you’ll be juuust right, rather than burning down the house.”
She does this by starting with the perfect cold weather running jacket, then adjusting her base layers accordingly. She claims that her Asics Storm Shelter Jacket is perfectly suited as an everyday shell.
…all I really need to do is accommodate my other layers underneath according to the day, and I’ll be set to go. The Storm Shelter is wind and water protective, it colds in your body heat while still having some built-in venting to keep you from overheating. It has nice cozy sleeves, where it snugs a little tighter with soft/warm material at the wrist to prevent cold air from sneaking in there, and it has a removable hood for the days you need it. It’s nice and reflective since winter seems to always be dark.
And speaking of running in the dark, she recently purchased a headlamp and is amazed that it actually works. “It’s like being drunk with power to wear my head lamp, not only can I see those dangerous sidewalk cracks, but I likely won’t be squashed into the sidewalk cracks by an oncoming vehicle.”
Meghan grew up in Oregon, and has been adjusting to Midwestern winters for several years now.
When I first moved to the Twin Cities from Iowa, I thought I knew how to deal with the Midwest Winters, but I learned quickly that I didn’t — it took a round of mild frost bite on my nose to fully realize this. But, I know now that you can run in pretty much any conditions as long as you dress properly. Which usually means layering up, protecting any exposed skin and running with friends that can help warm your spirit even if your fingers and toes are numb.
To help you avoid this nastiness, she always recommends mittens vs. gloves. “Keeping the fingers together keeps them warmer!” She also recommends the following:
- The Drylete Balaclava is a must for Minnesota Winters. It’s versatile and warm, and should prevent you from losing your nose!
- The Saucony Razor Jacket for wet but not freezing conditions. This will keep you dry and warm.
- I wear the Saucony Nomad Jacket for those colder temps.
- I Love love love the Saucony Ridge runner hoodie! Excellent as a base layer under one of the jackets, or can be worn alone on one of those unexpected warm day.
- The Saucony Nomad Pant and the Siberius tight make for an exceptional pair of lower body warmth. Wear together for maximum protection, or mix and match depending on the weather.
Eric now races for Team Run Eugene in Oregon. Now that he is in the Pacific Northwest, staying warm and dry is of the utmost importance.
He loves the Saucony EXO Jacket because it is “lightweight and totally waterproof. Perfect for cold and rainy days.” Wet feet are never fun, which is why he wears the Saucony Kinvara 6 Runshield during much of his cold weather running days. “Pairing these shoes, which have FlexShell technology to keep your feet dry, with some wool socks and I never have to worry about my toes going numb on a run.”
While Gina is relatively new to Minnesota, she isn’t new to cold weather running. As a native of Michigan, she’s learned a thing of two about keeping yourself warm during the winter. She told me that it is important to wear what works best for you.
One of my go to pieces is an old fleece headband my friend Louisa gave me. Patterned in a very 90s print, it usually attracts some comments. What makes this headband so useful is that it is broken – the seam has come un-stitched around the circumference. This allows for much versatility! It can act as your regular ear covering headband, a turtle to wear around the neck or a cover for your face from the eyes down.
Since the “Louisa” model headbands are no longer available for purchase, here are a few other go to items.
SmartWool – mid calf / crew sock are definitely a must for winter! Gina says, “I especially like the crew sock length because it covers the exposed ankle skin that the running tights leave out in the cold.”
The North Face Venture Rain Jacket – “This jacket started out as my rain jacket and morphed into a winter essential. This shell is great for keeping out the snowy wetness and wind! I have had my jacket for 6 years now and it has proven very durable.”
Your Cold Weather Running Gear
What have you found that works really well for keeping you warm outside in the winter? Share some additional bits of wisdom below. Also, if you’d like to get a list of this gear on one page, click here.