Running in Cold Conditions

For new runners, setting out when you’re able to see your breath is often out of the question – I used to be one of those people. I assure you that it’s not as bad as you’d think. Now, don’t get me wrong, it does require a certain amount of preparation before you run out the front door.

Mental Preparation

Yes, it’s going to be cold, and yes, you will have some growing pains for your first few adventures. Most notable is a burning sensation when you inhale. Fear not, you will get used to this in time.

Bundle Up

Bundling up is obvious, but the temperature outside will affect how much extra clothing you need to put on.

  • Above Zero (0°C): I would suggest wearing bottoms (pants would be a good call) and a long sleeve up top. Consider wearing a light pair of gloves if necessary, whatever you are comfortable with.
  • 0°C to -5°C: I’d suggest an additional layer to keep your upper body warm. Your legs can often tolerate more cold.
  • -5°C to -10°C: You’ll want to add additional layers to your top and bottom, such as a sweater and leggings. This is when gloves are essential.
  • Below -10°: That’s right, add more layers. Consider wearing facial masks like a balaclava, and scarves to keep your ears and nose from freezing.

With all clothing choices, be sure to wear something that wicks moisture off and helps you stay dry through the snow and rain. Merino wool is the best stuff you can get, but can be pricey. It helps your body thermoregulate, wicks away moisture, resists odour, and is very comfortable (not itchy) as a layer closest to your skin.

Watch Out For Icy Surfaces

When climates fall below 0°C, we will experience icy roads and sidewalks. When you’ve gotten comfortable with winter running, you’ll almost certainly try to push your pace. It is normal to want to complete cold runs as soon as possible, and get back to the warmth of your home. I’d suggest you remain cognizant of where you’re stepping and how your feet strike the ground. When you come across anything that looks dark and slick, shorten your stride and tread through the section safely. Slipping and falling on ice is never worth it.

Warm Up. A Little Bit

Before you step out into the bitter outdoors, do a bit of warming up. This could mean running up and down your stairs, or doing some dynamic stretching, such as bunny hops, butt kicks or high knees. The point is to get your body generating heat. Do not go so far as to break a sweat, as your sweat could freeze once you get outside.

Know When It’s too Cold

Everyone handles the cold differently, but sometimes being too stubborn can end up hurting you. When temperatures reach -28°C (-18°F), you may want to consider running on a treadmill until conditions warm up.



An aspirational runner who has been at it since 2013. Eric started this site to help those like him find the information they need to get started.

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