Running in the snow divides runners into two camps: those who say, “You can't run in that!” and those who keep on running, albeit with a few minor route or training schedule adjustments. If you're in the first camp, here are a few tips to help you safely move into the second.
Is it OK to run in the snow?
Provided you’re prepared to adapt, running in the snow can be a magical experience. If possible, head for somewhere off-road; trails and grass are less likely to be icy under the snow. Be prepared to run loops; it might sound tedious doing eight laps of a park for your long run, but you'll become familiar with conditions underfoot and will be closer to home if you want or need to cut your run short. Golf courses are a good option: lots of grass, maybe a hill or two and not a golfer in sight!
How much does running on snow slow you down?
Don't assume you can go straight out and run at your usual pace. Fresh snow is usually pretty safe to run on, but take it easy, especially the first few minutes. This will allow you to get a feel for under-foot conditions and build your confidence. Take smaller steps and look out for patches of ice under the snow. Don’t worry if your pace is a minute or so slower than usual, take it easy and enjoy your surroundings! It’s possibly an ideal time not to run with your watch and take a break from looking at whatever stats about pace, cadence, stride length, heart rate you might usually study after a run.
Is running in the snow a better workout?
If you find you need to alter your training due to snow or icy conditions, don’t panic, it doesn't mean your fitness will disappear. Because snow is soft, you're getting more resistance than usual, so even if you don't feel you're running as fast in it, you'll be building strength. Depending on the depth of snow it can be like running on soft sand or mud. Be aware that you might be stiff or sore in different muscle groups than usual.
Benefits of running in snow
- Builds strength
- Adds variety to your training
- Great way to enjoy how different everything looks in snow
- Perfect chance to enjoy the simplicity of running and forget about the stats
- It’s fun!
What to wear for running in snow
Make sure you're dressed for the occasion. When dressing for a run in the snow, bear in mind that you might be moving slower than usual and might need an extra layer to keep your body temperature up. If it's cold enough to snow you’ll need gloves, a hat and maybe a buff.
Which shoes are best for running in snow?
In deeper snow fell running shoes will give you the best traction, they usually also have a stickier rubber on the outsole than road or trail shoes making them the best option for icy conditions too. Trail shoes will be a bit more versatile and give more cushioning.
Plan your route
If possible, head for somewhere off-road; trails and grass are less likely to be icy under the snow. Be prepared to run loops; it might sound tedious doing eight laps of a park for your long run, but you'll become familiar with conditions under foot and will be closer to home if you want or need to cut your run short. Golf courses are a good option: lots of grass, maybe a hill or two and not a golfer in sight! Think about carrying your phone or some money as an added safety precaution.
Just because you have to alter your training for a week or so doesn't mean your fitness will disappear. You might not be able to do your usual speed workouts, but if you're inventive enough you can still get the training in, even if you have to resort to indoor options! Take a spin class, go for a swim, head to a treadmill or elliptical trainer in the gym. Because snow is soft, you're also getting more resistance than usual, so even if you don't feel you're running as hard in it, you'll be building strength.
Can you run on ice?
While running on snow can be fun, if it turns to ice its often not such fun. If you come across the odd icy patch on a snowy run it's a good idea to slow down and walk across or ideally run around them. If your whole running route seems icy or there’s black ice then it might be time to consider if it's worth the risk of going out. Consider walking to a nearby park or grass if pavements are icy.
For many people, one of the joys of running outside is being in nature and embracing the elements, whatever they throw at you. It's often through running that most runners notice the seasons changing, so take time to look around and appreciate how different everything looks. If all else fails, go sledging – if you jog back up the hill you'll still get a bit of a workout in!