How to Make Winter Running Work For You

by Dick Vincent, USATF Level 3 Certified Coach, I.A.A.F. Level 5 Certified Coach

Last year, I wrote about winter running, “It's not about the weather, it's about how you dress.” I thought I would write something again about running in the winter and how to make it work for you. Winter is the Yang of the Ying or depending on your point of view the Ying of the Yang. For many the heat and humidity of summer is oppressive, yet winter is somehow more intimidating with the darkness, cold winds, ice, and loneliness. Yes, loneliness, as it isn't as easy to find run groups or running partners.

I can't stress enough how important it is to be VISIBLE when you run. Along with it being dark, drivers are often dealing with frosty windshields and obstructed vision with high snowbanks. Make sure you wear reflective clothing. That nice red jacket that you like so much is dark on a dark night. What is visible in the daylight just blends in with all the dark when the sun isn't shining. There are so many options available from standard reflective running vests, to illuminated running vests, arm bands, clothing and shoes with sewn on reflective strips, that you will have no problem being seen. Yet at every one of my A.R.E. workouts a few people show up in older gear that is nearly impossible to see in dark conditions. All of the local stores have reflective gear so make an effort find something that works for you.

After the recent snowstorm that dumped 20 inches, the roads and paths around SUNY were icy and slick. Some sort of traction device for grip is very helpful in those conditions. Nearly every runner I speak with has issues with ice and snow and how to deal with it. There are Yak Tracs, ICE TRAX and various other traction devices to put over your shoes. They will keep you from slipping but few of them handle mixed conditions; icy, snow, and clear roads. Nor are they comfortable running faster pace workouts in them.  What I still finds works the best (for me) is putting hex screws in the bottom of your running shoes. This URL will bring you to the original site but if you google screw shoes a few options will come up.

I find that with 3/8 inch screws in my shoes they deal well with ice and yet they aren't horrible on longer stretches of clear roads. No, you don't want to walk across your nice wood floors with them on, but they are pretty darn good for that tempo run you want to take on the somewhat plowed perimeter loop or bike path. My experience is that the ½ screws are a little too long for many shoes that don't have a thick midsole.  For the minimalist, you can lean towards the ¼ inch screw but they do come out more often. Although they leave little trace of a screw hole when you take out the screws, it is best to use them in a second pair of shoes that you “screw up” just for the winter running.

Screw shoes might not be for everyone so I suggest you google traction devices for running shoes.  Most of  the local running stores have a few options as well so that would be a good place to start.

Being able to get your footing will take some of the stress out of winter running and make it even fun to tackle the conditions. You might find you look forward to braving a winter run rather than dreading getting out. At least you will be seen and can keep your feet underneath you.

Happy Ice Trails!

Dick Vincent now holds a Level 3 USATF Coaching Certificate, the highest level of certification, which can be earned from USATF. Additionally, he holds a Level 5 certification from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), passing the IAAF Academy Elite Coach Course in Endurance with distinction. In addition, he is the full time coach of the ARE Racing Team and offers private coaching sessions.


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