As we see flakes of snow falling and temperatures below freezing, it is a good time to discuss strategies for running outside safely. First, make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Wearing multiple layers will help to retain body heat and keep you comfortable in the cold. Begin with more clothing than you think you’ll need. You can always take a top layer or your gloves off if you feel you are getting too warm. You can’t add layers if you leave the house without enough on to begin with.
Next, take note of the condition of the surface(s) you plan to run on. Is there fresh snow covering the ground? If you plan to run on sidewalks and/or running paths, has enough time passed to allow for snow removal? If you plan to run in the morning, was the temperature warm enough the previous day to cause any melting, which would freeze overnight and turn to ice? All of these things must be taken into account. If there is snow and ice on the ground and you plan to run on it, you should mentally prepare yourself for a slower pace and understand that safety, not speed, is your top priority. Ideally, you’ll have shoes with some sort of increased traction. Whether that means shoes designed specifically for winter running or adding some yak trax onto your current shoe. You also must take into account the material the upper portion of your shoes are made of. If the upper part is primarily mesh or “breathable,” they will allow moisture to get inside your shoes and make your feet very cold. Anything made of Gore-Tex will help keep your feet dry and warm during your run.
Lastly, if there is any possible option of getting your miles or workout done indoors on a treadmill, that should be the option you choose. While the treadmill can be boring and monotonous, we can assure you that the weeks or months of rehab that will follow a bad slip and fall on the ice is worse.
If you have any questions regarding strategies for running outside in the winter, feel free to call us at (402) 682-4210 or email our physical therapists, who not only specialize in treating runners, but are also runners themselves!
Run well and be safe!