Some of my favorite running conditions are during a lovely winter snowfall.

It’s a beautiful way to enjoy an otherwise harsh season! But it can be tricky to pick the right conditions and make sure you have the right gear to keep things enjoyable.

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Here are my tips on how to run in the snow:

Make sure the conditions are right. For me, that means:

  • It’s currently snowing and the snow is actual snow and not sleet or freezing rain
  • The snow isn’t heavy and wet
  • There is no icy cover on the ground, or if there is, it is covered by the new snow
  • The temperature is manageable
  • There is little to no wind
  • This time of year, I prefer to only run during daylight, but snow after dark can be very pretty too

The first snowfall we had this season was big, fat, wet snow – I was disappointed because as much as I wanted to run in the snow, that would have been miserable. The wet snow would have made my running clothes wet (and cold) which isn’t safe, plus the snow was melting into slush. Running through slush isn’t fun. But the second snowfall this past weekend was perfect, and I was happy to take advantage.

Wear the right gear. 

  • I wear my normal running shoes, and I don’t alter them. Some runners add YakTrax or screws into the bottom of their shoes. That’s probably necessary if you are running on snowy trails. Snowy streets? Not necessary.
  • My snowy runs are generally short (3-5 miles), so I don’t feel the need to go to great lengths to keep my feet dry. That is, I don’t add bags between my shoes and socks or anything.
  • However, I do make an effort to wear tall (knee) socks over my running tights, to make sure no skin is exposed to the cold air or the cold snow. Brrr! I pretty much only run in Injinji toe socks, and picked up a couple pairs of their knee socks a couple years ago.
  • If it is currently snowing, I wear a performance/dri-fit visor or cap under a winter cap to help keep the snow out of my eyes. I’m a fan of the Nike Dri-Fit visors.
  • I always wear a thick winter cap – I don’t want snow accumulating in my hair, brr! If you have a fleece hat with seams in the right spots, you can turn it into a ponytail hat.
  • Other than that, I follow my typical winter running gear advice. Layers are your friend, and keep your extremities covered.

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Find the right route. 

  • If you live in Chicago, the park district does a great job keeping the Lakefront Trail clear, and there is lots of free parking along the lakefront this time of year.
  • If the snowfall is fresh, even if the sidewalks aren’t clear, the snow provides enough traction that you can run safely.
  • However, if the sidewalks are icy or packed with snow that is uneven and iced over, running on them can be a pain.  I have found a couple options:
  • 1 – Run where there are businesses that get a lot of foot traffic, or near a university. They do a good job of keeping the sidewalks clear and safe.
  • 2 – Run in the street. I stick to quiet side streets, after the snowplows have gone through. One-way streets are great because you can easily run against traffic. Always yield to cars – step out of the road if you see one approaching. And make sure you are very visible! Reflective running gear is key, or wear bright colors, even if you’re running during daylight. You want to stand out against the snow.

Have fun! 

  • Take pictures of the beautiful snow!
  • Stop to enjoy all the snowmen you’ll see.
  • Build a snowman or help someone else who is!
  • Warm up when you get home with a tasty hot beverage, hot soup … or a shower beer.

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Do you like to run in the snow? What are your tips? 

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