It is the second week of January and “Quitter’s Day” is fast approaching. You committed to running more in the New Year but you are facing a weekend of extreme cold, snow, slushy rain and the like. It is getting harder and harder to stay on track but you are determined! You want to be one of those crazies that they feature on the news in which they are running outside in a blizzard (ok, maybe not, but let’s go with the analogy for a bit!). What do they have that you don’t have? Proper gear!
If you are like us and would rather clean the toilet of your teenaged boys bathroom than run on a treadmill (and I HATE cleaning the boys bathroom, 🤮 stopped doing it years ago), it is possible to run outdoors all year long. Although we don’t recommend the sub-zero temps – but snow, rain, cold – they can be overcome with some good quality clothing and accessories. Running in the winter can be absolutely magical; with wildlife that doesn’t typically come out when lots of traffic is around, the way you feel so alive with the brisk clean air, and all the extra scenery you can enjoy when the leaves are off the trees. The following is a short list of some of our favorite gear that keeps us warm and safe in the colder months.
Cover ‘yer head! Since most of your bodily heat is expended through the top of your head, we can’t recommend enough a good quality hat that wicks away sweat and keeps your ears from getting frost-bitten. I prefer a beanie to a Pompom, only because a pompom tends to bounce too much for me and causes the hat to slide off my head. The BocoGear beanie is super lightweight, wicking, warm and stays on my head without sliding up and off.
Tend to those extremities. While your core keeps warm pretty easily, those fingers and toes may take a while to warm up until the heart really starts pumping. I will wear gloves once it gets under 50 degrees as my fingers go numb pretty quickly. Our run gloves are seriously the best gloves I have ever owned, and I have gone through A LOT of running gloves. To clarify, I am not saying that they are the best because they are “our” gloves, these BocoGear ones are our gloves because I have wear-tested a ton of gear in 30 years of running and these ones are awesome. Warm and wicking (a theme here, but key to winter running) with touch-screen fingers that actually work on the touch screen of your watch and phone, and a great grippy palm. When it is SUPER cold, I switch to the converter mitten, (Rhode Races version coming soon) which is the run glove with a little mitten hood for some extra protection. You can pull the mitten part off the glove if your hands get too hot once you get moving. For socks, while I typically wear a no-show sock during warmer weather, I switch to a quarter sock in the freezing temps to make sure my ankles are covered beneath my leggings as I want NO exposed skin. My toes stay pretty warm unless it is particularly slushy so I use the age old trick of plastic sandwich bags outside my socks and inside my shoes. Your feet do get a bit hot, but slush can be brutal for hypothermia in your toes if you are running outside long enough. It is pretty old school but it works like a charm and super cheap. Just make sure you tie your laces a bit tighter as the plastic makes your feet slippery in your sneakers.
Speaking of your feet – I would also recommend investing in a pair of YakTrax. I have tried micro spikes and pretenders to try and save some money, but you really can’t beat the YakTrax. They don’t feel too awkward when you are running on the pavement due to their springing nature (unlike micro spikes which can just dig into your soles) but when it comes to hard snow and ice – they have saved me from MANY slips and falls. Because they are super transportable, sometimes I will start a run without them, just sticking them in my pocket, and popping them on if I come upon an untreated bike path – better safe than sorry.
Keeping the junk and trunk safe. For the most part, your core or trunk warms up pretty quickly with that heart beating away when you run, but finding a jacket that is comfortable, doesn’t impede your movement, and is – say it with me – warm and wicking – can be a challenge. I recently invested (ok – my husband did, it was a xmas present) in a Sweaty Betty quilted jacket and it is SO WARM. (The one I purchased is sold out but they have similar ones still available.) It has a bit of compression, which makes me feel wrapped up and tight, but with plenty of Lycra so it is a bit like leggings for my top half. Plus the quilted part of the jacket has a bit of a vent in the back, allowing heat to escape while keeping my chest and back toasty and protected from wind. I am loving the different style too.
I have a number of different styles of leggings for winter running – fleece, thicker weight, compression – and sometimes I will double layer them if it is super cold out. I will wear a lighter weight run tight with compression underneath the fleece pair. I have had this Boston pant from Saucony for years and I LOVE them for all sorts of winter activities = running, hiking, snow shoeing, they are a great layering piece.
Why do we live in a place that hurts our face? If you have ever run in a snow storm, you know that snowflakes can hit your eyes like bullets if they are unprotected. Sunglasses, even those with less tinted lenses, are important year round. The sun can be especially bright when there is a lot of reflection off of the snow, but when it is raining, snowing or windy – some sort of eye protection is often overlooked, but key to have. My favorite glasses these days are Goodr – lightweight, inexpensive, no slip, I even have their blue light glasses which I love.
And runners were wearing gaiters long before COVID made them cool. A quality gaiter is crucial for winter running – it needs to be tight enough to stay up on your face to protect your cheeks, lips and nose from the cold, but allow breathability as you huff and puff through the conditions. Trick I use is to set the gaiter just at the bridge of my nose and then use my glasses to anchor it there. Having the bridge of the glasses on the outside of the gaiter also helps prevent fogging.
Hope these items will help you conquer the upcoming winter months – allowing you to run warm and safe so that you can enjoy the beauty of a winter wonderland when it is quiet and peaceful and you are one of the few crazies out there!