Winter Running Essentials

Young woman running
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I don’t handle the cold very well, so it might surprise you that I absolutely love running in the snow. I think of trail running in the snow like running on the beach — it’s peaceful, dynamic and challenging. The scenery is just a little bit different.

To make a snowy run fun, it’s important to have the right gear. Here are some of my favorite winter-running essentials:

Base layer. Starting with a good base is essential for days when it’s below freezing. Any good pair of long underwear will do, just as long as they fit under your next layer. If you tend to get super-warm while running, you may not need a base layer.

Head gear. No, not the kind you have when you have braces, but the kind that keeps your head warm. A thin ear warmer works well on days when it’s not snowing, but if it is snowing or really cold, you may want something to cover your head. If it is extra cold — think single digits or below — you may want a thin face mask to cover your nose, chin and ears. I use the one I bought for skiing, because it’s thin and I can put it in my pocket if I don’t need it.

Hand wear. I have one pair of lighter running gloves for warm(er) days or for layering on cold days. On those extra-cold days, I usually wear my fleece gloves over my lighter gloves, and then take them off when I start to warm up.

Footwear. To prevent your good running shoes from getting wet and ruined, always keep an old pair on hand. You’ll also want a pair of taller socks to keep the snow out of your ankles. You will absolutely want some Yaktrax — they are essential for winter running or hiking. While wearing them, I never have to worry about variable conditions or slipping on ice. They are the second best running investment I have ever made (and they aren’t that expensive!) next to a good pair of shoes.

Wind-resistant or wind-proof running pants. These will protect your quads from the wind chill and are absolutely essential. Ideally, you’ll be able to layer long underwear underneath them on the days when it’s close to 0 degrees.

Quarter zip pullover. This is a great second layer over your long underwear, a tank top or T-shirt. It keeps you extra warm without a lot of weight.

Down vest. These are awesome! They are light, don’t interfere with any arm swinging, and keep you warm … but not too warm, because you can always roll up your sleeves.

Wind-proof jacket. I only wear this one on the extra cold and snowy days. It doesn’t have much weight or warmth to it, but it keeps the wind out, which keeps your sweat from freezing. I like having the big pockets, too, in case I want to carry my phone or take off my gloves or hat.

While having the right gear is important, having a buddy also makes winter running fun. Don’t limit yourself to the treadmill! All of these items also work for winter hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Be safe out there!

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Lauren Larson, MS, RDN
Lauren Larson, MS, RDN, CLC, is a clinical dietitian and certified lactation counselor based in Eagle, CO, and employed in Rifle, CO.