Secrets of Success- 10 Tips for Running in the Snow

I think most of the US is in a serious cold snap right now, and although I am taking my 5 days off before London Marathon training begins, I definitely had my fair share of cold weather and snowy runs.

It almost seems comical typing this post now that I moved to Kentucky…..although I will probably jinx it now, but after 5 years of living in the northern part of Michigan.

Kentucky winters do not seem so bad……other than the few days of deep chill we are in now….at least its 40 on Saturday!

As thankful as I am to be away from it, it did teach me a lot about running.

I probably did my runs on the treadmill less than 10 times during my 5 years there!

We learned how to be creative with our workouts; glide across the snow….okay, I never glided, but you learned how to be smooth-er; and just be tough!

There were too many runs in blizzards to count, and we said goodbye to the sidewalks in November, hardly surprised if we did not see them again until April.

However, in a lot of ways I was thankful for those days, they meant that when we did have the opportunity to race, we made the most of it, and we had a level of grit that no one else did…..especially as we did not have the luxury of an indoor track!

Here are my tips for running when the beautiful white stuff decides to grace our presence:

Elite runner Tina Muir shares another secret of success- how to run in the snow

Dress appropriately

Depending on if it is snowing as you head out the door (and which kind of snow it is), this will change, but dressing warm is incredibly important.

I would always rather be a little too warm than risk being cold, especially if it is windy.

You can check out my runners guide of what to wear at every temperature for more pointers on this.

I would also try to wear waterproof clothing as a top layer to stay dry.

cold run

Wear a cap

Caps are for summer, right?

Wrong….okay, not wrong, but they are also great for snowy runs.

I usually would wear a headband over the top (or under) the cap, but the beak (Steve says its called a bill, but I am sticking to the English word:P) keeps the snow out of your eyes a little more, which makes the run much more enjoyable.

SmartWool socks

These were my saviors in the winter.

These socks individually work 10 times better than 3 layers of socks (and then you do not have to worry about cramming your feet into your shoes).

Running shoes are notoriously bad at letting water in, and these SmartWool Running Socks keep your toes warm.

Smartwool socks

Run into the wind first

I mentioned this in my Running in the Wind post, but it is so important in a snowstorm.

It means that the snow is behind you….well, as best it can be, on the way back.

It also means you do not overheat and sweat on the way out, and then freeze as it blows back at you!

Try not to tense up

Sounds counter intuitive, but when you run on snow or ice, if you tighten up, you stress out your muscles more, and it means you are more likely to tweak something.

Try to stay calm, and enjoy it as much as possible!


Shorten your stride slightly

This means that you are more in control of your body, and you can regain balance if you slip a little.

This also means your hips are definitely under your center of gravity, which is easier for you to remain balanced.

Yak Traxs

When the ground is totally covered, it can be a good idea to strap Yaktrax to the bottom of your shoes to give you some grip.

You can also make your own screw shoes, which is explained HERE.


Try to land more on your mid foot

If you usually land on your heel, it can be easier to slip backwards, but by moving your center of gravity a little further forward, will mean you are a little more stable.

There is also a lot more grip on your shoes at the mid part of the sole. This will also prevent you from overstriding, which is the biggest mistake runners make….and I used to…and still kinda do make.

Forget pace

On snowy days, looking at your pace not going to do you any good.

Your body is working much harder than it usually would just to stay upright and stabilize, so on those snowy days, just go by time, and just focus on easy effort.

Snow days are definitely runs that need to be as easy as possible.

If you need more persuasion, here is why I believe you should not look at your GPS watch for workouts.


Seek out areas that are well maintained in the winter

For us, that meant running most of our easy runs and workouts around the same 2 mile industrial loop.

Boring as it was, it was the best footing, and meant that we could get in what we needed to run well, and save our weary muscles.

Look around your town for the areas that are plowed and salted first. Just be aware, as cars may be focused on their own driving, rather than looking out for crazy runners, so stay alert!

I hope these tips help you, they are the best I have to offer from my five years in Michigan. I am looking forward to the 30s and 40s (F) returning to us this weekend.

Oh, and if you are racing Boston, make sure you check out the Runners Connect Blog for a whole host of helpful Boston marathon posts. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

What is your best advice for running in the winter?