Running Through the Cold
Visibility is crucial for running in any kind of weather. With fewer hours of sunlight during the winter months, being visible becomes more of a challenge. If you are fortunate enough to find some daylight time to run, choose clothes that are in contrast to your surroundings. For snowy days, bright clothes work well because they provide contrast and attract warm sunlight. Reflective clothing is a must for running at dusk or in the dark so drivers or others on the road can see you.
Today’s fabrics make it easier than ever to run in the cold. The best approach for cold weather running is to dress in layers. Layers work in two ways. They trap heat to keep the body warm, and they can be removed as conditions change. Runner-friendly garments have zippers and vents to let out excess heat, and they can be easily folded and carried. One thing to keep in mind—it is okay to be a little chilly as you start your workout because once you start running you will warm up quickly.
Running specialists recommend dressing in three layers. The first layer should be made of a wicking material (eg, polyester, silk, polypropylene) so that moisture is drawn away from the body. Avoid cotton since it absorbs and holds moisture in, increasing the chance for chills. The next layer is the insulation layer, the one that keeps you warm. Fleece is a good choice for this middle layer. For the final layer, look for windproof, waterproof materials (eg, GOR-TEX, nylon).
The same layering technique is recommended for hands and feet. For hands, wear a glove liner followed by an outer mitten or glove. To keep your feet warm, try an inner polypropylene sock followed by a heavy wool sock. Keep in mind that this doubling up may make your running shoes too small. If your feet feel constricted, opt for a larger pair.
Finally, since body heat can be lost through your head, make sure to wear a hat. Consider choosing one made of wind-block fleece for warmth and protection.
Last reviewedSeptember 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.