More Winter Running Tips - Chi Running

More Winter Running Tips

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Feb 10th, 2009, 6 comments

Here’s a short addendum to my last blog about winter running.

Better Traction: One of the best ways I’ve ever found to adapt my running shoes for better winter running performance has been to screw a number of 1/4″ sheet metal screws to the bottoms of my running shoes. I usually put 5-6 screws in the forefoot area and another 4 in the heel section. I’d do this to an old pair of shoes and use them only when I was either running on icy streets, or running trails that were covered with snow and/or ice. This rather unconventional approach to improving traction has always worked well for me.

Cold Feet: Another trick you can use if you get cold feet like I do is to wear neoprene socks to keep your toes warm. There are lots of these types of sock available if you “Google” neoprene socks. They work well for those of you refuse to go onto a treadmill when it’s nasty out, and for those who suffer from terminal popsicle toes, like I do.

Protect Your Face and Lungs: This tip doesn’t have anything to do with shoes, but it will save your face if you’re out running in temperatures below 20ºF. Go to your local hardware store and buy a package of particle masks (used for working in dusty environments) and get the kind that are molded to fit your face. They cover most of your face and pre-heat the air coming into your lungs, which could ward off illness.

Running in Unstable Conditions: The last tip for today is how to run in fresh or loose snow. That’s easy, just use the ChiRunning technique of falling forward and picking up your feet instead of pushing off with your legs. This running form works in any type of unstable ground conditions from mud to slush to powder snow.

The only conditions I don’t recommend you run in are refrozen slush. In this case you really are better off on a treadmill… or in some cases, curling up in front of a fire with a good book.

Happy trails,



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  • running form,
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6 CommentsLeave a comment below

Another cold feet trick that I’ve used:  stick your sock-covered (wool for best warmth) foot in a one-quart ziploc bag and then slip into your running shoe.  I find the freezer-type baggies work better than sandwich baggies.  The sandwich ones are too thin and I’ll tend to rip out the toes.  Never had any trouble with blisters even with a 15-mile run.  This protects the toes and mid-foot.  For really cold conditions, I’ve worn both a baggie and neoprene socks.

For face/lungs I like a balaclava-type face mask.  More expensive than the particle masks but the face mask keeps the rest of your head warm. Search for “running balaclava” to see examples.

My fingers get cold easily and I’ve found the best way to keep them warm is a pair of really thick wool mittens.  One really cold days, I’ll stick in a chemical hand warmer pack in each one.  Works great.

Running Weight Loss May 13th, 2009 08:44pm

Great article about running.  Thank you!

janet krueger Feb 15th, 2010 03:20am

I love to wear my smartwool socks all year long…in the winter I wear the thicker ones and in the summer the ultra thin. No blisters, no cold toes, and even if your feet get wet they still work great! I live in the cold Michigan land! Run all winter outside.

I use gaiters and goretex trail shoes to run in the snow, and I haven’t had a problem with cold feet using my usual socks. I use 21 inch snowshoes to run on packed snow, usually popular trails or snowmobile packed trails. I don’t have to worry about sinking in, and have a more stable surface. Larger shoes are hard to run in. I live in the Sierras, so the snow can be a few feet deep, so except for the well traveled trails, I use the snowshoes 4 to 5 months of the year, still better than running on the roads, even when they are dry.

Edward Wickham Feb 26th, 2010 01:07pm

Living in Alaska, running in the cold and wet is a way of life. The rule here is “stay dry and visible”. I found shoes called IceBugs, which have embedded carbide tips (think of a studded winter tire), with water-resistant breathable uppers. They’re the safest, warmest thing you’ll find for icy, snowy or sloppy conditions. I match these with Smartwool socks, so that even if I get slushed, my feet stay warm.

Sweatvac makes great winter running beanies that are surprisingly warm and light, covering the head and ears. I never run without a head light (with a red blinky light clipped to the back) with clothes with 360 degrees of reflectivity.

Keeping my hands warm has been the toughest part of the equation, but I find lightweight goretex mittens over running gloves work great to keep the finger tips warm without overheating. Most mittens have proven too warm for more than just the beginning of my run.

Winter’s a beautiful time to run. Get out there.

Hi Edward,
Great tips! Thanks for your wisdom,

For the first time my hands were freezing to start with so I ended up with the sleeves of my top pulled over them! I had a long sleeved ronhill top on with a shell layer on (complete with vents) but I discovered this wasn’t waterproof so got a bit chilled by the time I got home 70 mins later (straight into the shower and downed a cuppa tea)
I would like to know views on hats and or gloves.
I wore my baseball cap which kept the rain out of my eyes and off my glasses but it was soaked through by the time I finished!

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