Winter Running 101

We’re now well into the winter season. Temperatures are chillier and there’s even snow on the ground(!). This may leave you settling for the treadmill instead of heading outdoors for your run. If you’re keen to get outside, but intimidated by winter running, read on for some tips and tricks. 

How can I best prepare for running in the cold weather?

Running Attire Considerations

Layers are the key. You want enough layers to keep you warm, but not so many that you overheat. A common running kit could include: running tights or pants, a base layer, long sleeve top and a water-resistant/proof and windproof shell (jacket). On dry days, temperatures can be even cooler. When the temperature drops into the negatives, I usually substitute my shell for a light insulated jacket, which works perfectly! For clothing accessories, I like to wear a thin pair of gloves. If my hands get too warm, I’ll simply take the gloves off and stash them in a pocket. On my head, I prefer wearing a hat with good breathability. Other options are ear warmers or a thin toque.


Winter running can be more slippery because of the rain, frost, slush and  snow. Because of this, ideally you are running in shoes with good grip or tread. If your shoes are not waterproof, consider wearing warmer socks. Personally, running socks are one of my essentials for running at any time of the year. Running socks are usually made with a technical fabric that helps wick moisture away from the feet. They also have extra cushioning in areas where blisters are more common. 


These are dark days of winter…The days are shorter, meaning if you go for your run before or after work, it may be dark. Choose a running route that’s well lit. Make sure you can see where you’re going and others can see you. There’re lots of options for running lights and reflective gear (clothing, arm bands). I invested in a very cool GetVizy light vest last year – I feel safer with it AND the different LED colours make the run more fun!

Warm-up & Cool Down

For your pre-run warm-up, try to incorporate some stretches and full body movements (squats, lunges, jumping jacks) that’re going to loosen up your muscles and get your blood moving. Your pre-run warm-up may take anywhere between 5-10 min. Once you’re ready, you can continue your warm-up into the start of your run. Find a comfortable pace (speed) where your breathing feels controlled. A good way to keep track of this is using the talk test – you should be able to talk without difficulty or be able to hold a conversation if you were with a buddy.

When you finish your run, it can be tempting not to do anything else. Consider a short cool-down. This may include a 5 min walk and/or repeating some of the stretches you started your pre-run warm-up with. This is especially important if you’re new to running, and if you have a history of running-related injuries. 


My last tip is hydration. You may not feel much sweating, but you are still losing water. Make sure you’re hydrated before heading out for your run and that you re-hydrate afterwards. You may also consider bringing a source of water – either a bottle in your hand, on a belt or a hydration pack. 

The above information is meant to help inspire all the runners out there – current and aspiring. There are of course individual differences and other factors to consider when creating a running plan, and starting a new activity. Physiotherapists love enabling clients to be physically active. Be sure to ask your physiotherapist about winter running if you want to know more. Want more general running tips? Share your questions with us and you might see another post!

I hope to see more of you out there soon. You can usually find me running the seawall in False Creek wearing a white hat and bright pink running shoes. Feel free to say hello!

By Allison Evers

(Registered Physiotherapist)