Running in snowy conditions: It’s worth the effort

A question over social media recently asked, “Is it safe to run in the snow?”

The question came attached to a video of a couple of people running down a snowy street after being interviewed by a TV reporter. They were being interviewed about being outside in snowy, slick conditions. When they were done talking, the couple ran off and the camera followed them. As if on cue, the gal slipped and fell right on her butt, her head bouncing off the ground.

Ouch.

It’s a legitimate question, especially in light of the poor gal’s spill. People will refer to incidents like that, as well as other problems that come with inclement winter weather to stay indoors, or maybe confine the runs to the treadmill.

But I find there are good reasons to get out there anyway.

So long as it’s not icy, snow makes a pretty great running surface.

Sugary snow over a trail makes for an awesome running surface.

Sugary snow over a trail makes for an awesome running surface.

And like I wrote last week, your surroundings just look a little different when covered with snow. Most of our streets are clear, but the trails in the woods are still holding a lot of snow. It’s a whole other level of beauty that makes your training less work and more enjoyment.

High on a snowy, wooded ridge overlooking the Arkansas River below. There is no scenery indoors that can touch this, so why run inside?

High on a snowy, wooded ridge overlooking the Arkansas River below. There is no scenery indoors that can touch this, so why run inside?

So what to do?

Dress for the elements. Layer up, but remember that your body heat will add about 20 degrees to the actual temperature outside. So don’t overdo it on clothing.

Make sure you have good traction. My trail shoes are amazing on that front, so I don’t need additional traction. But most of you will. So consider using supplemental traction on your shoes. Yaktrax fit over your shoes and provide added traction; you can also put screws in the soles of your shoes, or check out some sole spikes like those from Goat Head.

Be wary of the conditions. Snow is one thing; ice is another. Spikes on your shoes will help; but ice for me, in most cases, is a no-go.

If it is too icy, there is always the treadmill. But just remember, the treadmill is not like running outside. When you’re on the road or trail, the act of running includes pushing off the ground, which recruits your whole leg. On a treadmill, your body if busy pulling your leg forward as the belt moves underneath you. That means some muscles (like the hip flexors) will work more while your quads, hamstrings and glutes will work less. For me, treadmills are a last resort, and not a long-term solution.

So go ahead and dare the elements. You’ll gain mental toughness points and probably enjoy it a lot more than you think.

Bob Doucette

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7 thoughts on “Running in snowy conditions: It’s worth the effort

  1. Great tips and advice! I was fortunate enough to get out yesterday for a snowy trail run. Here in Seattle, we don’t get much so it was a great way to mix up a normal trail.

  2. I bought Yaktrax this year after our first multi-day snow/ice issue. I’ve only HAD to use them once since all other snow/ice incidents have been short-lived but I know they’ll come in handy over time.

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