Where to Run When It’s Snowy and Icy

running winter snow ice

During the winter, it’s not just the cold weather that keeps me indoors, but the fact that sidewalks are covered in snow and ice and therefore unsafe for running. However, with a little bit of planning and creativity, it is possible to find safe places to run outdoors all winter, and avoid the boredom of the treadmill. (If you’re willing to deal with the cold, of course – make sure to dress properly for the winter temps.)


Photo on the left by Pete Beuscher 
Shop my outfit: Lightning bolt socks (same), Brooks Pure Cadence shoes (similar), Bright green long sleeve top (similar)Green beanie (similar), Pink neck gaiter (similar) 


Business Districts 

Any business district that relies on foot traffic either for their employees to get to work or for patrons and shoppers to support their business needs to keep sidewalks and walkways clear of snow and ice if they want business to continue. The great thing for you is this means it’s also a safe spot to run.

Park Districts 

Some park districts also keep their pedestrian walkways cleared all winter. For example, the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, a 20-mile path along Lake Michigan, is maintained by the Chicago Park District, and is cleared of snow and salted year-round. On some days the Lakefront Trail is in better shape than some city streets.


There is some disagreement over whether or not it is disrespectful to run in cemeteries. If you decide to run there, always stay on paved routes and do not run over or around actual gravesites. The paved routes are typically cleared all winter since funerals happen year-round.   Also pay attention to when the gates to the cemetery are going to be closed and locked up.  

Schools and college campuses 

Students are often getting around campus on foot, so schools and college have to remove snow and lay down salt year-round as well.

Side Streets 

Running in the street can be risky, but as long as you are safe, it is a great option. I typically wait until after the snow plows have gone through, and stick to quiet side streets. I always run against traffic and step out of the road if I see an oncoming car. I also make sure that I am seen and wear reflective gear, bright colors and a light.


Where do you run when there is snow and ice on the ground?



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5 Comments on “Where to Run When It’s Snowy and Icy”

  1. I guess I’m lucky in that the main road I use to get over to the LFT in the winter is Irving Park Rd. and the sidewalks are mostly cleared just a few hours after it snows. Once I get there it’s a treat since like you mentioned it’s usually in better shape than a lot of streets. Plus, since there are so few other runners out there, many of us do the “winter wave” at each other in solidarity!

  2. I am ALL about the Lakefront Trail during the winter. Like you said, it’s usually the clearest surface in Chicago after a snowstorm. I think the real key is to avoid residential areas as much as possible. In my experience, residential property owners tend to be WAY worse about cleaning off their sidewalks in a timely fashion (which is so important!! You have to get that snow off the sidewalk *before* everyone tramples all over it, because otherwise it’s all going to be matted down ice!) compared to commercial property owners, so the more you can run by commercial properties, the better.

    1. From what I’ve noticed, the only residential spots that are good about clearing snow and big buildings that probably have full-time maintenance staff (like the building I live in) and/or high enough HOA fees that they pay a service to come out. Smaller buildings, especially 2 and 3 flats? Forget about it.

  3. Pretty much none of this applies in Cleveland where NO ONE (except Terry) shovels 🙁 I do have YakTrax for the occasional outdoor run, but sadly much of my winter running is going to be on a treadmill.

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