Running In Snow and Ice Safely: 5 Winter Running Tips To Stay Upright

Running in snow can be fun - here's how to take advantage of the winter weather.

Depending on where you live in the world, your biggest weather-related concern when it comes to running outdoors may be surviving running in the frigid and snowy winter. 

During the wintertime, you might find yourself stalking the weather forecast and habitually checking the weather app on your phone to determine if it is going to be too cold outside, requiring you to take your workout indoors to the treadmill. 

However, even when it is snowy and icy, it may be possible to run outdoors with the proper winter running gear and some adjustments to your training plan.

In this guide, we will give you our expert tips on how to brave running in snow and ice and what gear you will need to do so to stay upright!

A person running in the snow.

What Are the Best Running Shoes for Snow and Ice?

There are various ways to increase your stability and traction when running on icy roads or trails.

The first step up from regular running shoes is to wear trail running shoes because they have a more aggressive lug pattern.

Although the difference in traction between trail running shoes and road running shoes is somewhat subtle, it may be sufficient if the snowy roads have fresh, powdery snow that is not particularly deep. 

As the snow becomes hard-packed, such as after the roads are plowed, the surface becomes slicker and it becomes harder to run without slipping.

For icier roads, you can wear traction devices like YakTrax or FreeSteps6, which attach over the sole of your running shoe and have spring-like metal coils or crampons (spikes) that dig into the snow for better traction.

There are even running shoes for ice and snow such as IceBugs.

You can make your own ice running shoes by taking an old pair of running shoes and studding the sole with microspikes or small screws.

Running shoes with studs for the snow.

How Do I Prevent Slipping While Running In Snow?

In addition to proper footwear, there are a variety of adjustments you can make to improve your experience when running outside in cold weather, particularly when there is deep snow, black ice, or other slippery road conditions.

#1: Adjust Your Running Technique

Adjust your running technique and running form on snow or ice to maximize stability and minimize the risk of slipping and falling.

  • Shorten your stride. It helps lower the risk of slipping as you land and push off. Imagine yourself trying to prance like a deer, lifting your feet and placing them straight underneath you as much as possible with firm, short steps.
  • Land on your midfoot and not your heel.
  • If you’re wearing running shoes with ice spikes or YakTrax, plant your feet aggressively and land firmly to put your force into the spikes for traction.
  • Instead of keeping your elbows in towards your sides, flare them out nice and wide to augment your balance and stability.
A person running through the snow.

#2: Dress for Cold Weather Running

What you wear running in cold weather can make or break how comfortable you are and, ultimately, how well your winter running workouts go.

Layering with a moisture-wicking long-sleeve base layer, mid layer, and a running jacket outer layer can help you regulate your body temperature for cold winter runs.

My pick for the best lightweight winter running jacket is the Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie.

It is buttery soft and comfortable yet supremely lightweight, at only 80 g, while still being wind-resistant and water-resistant.

The Merino wool is breathable, and moisture-wicking yet blocks the chill on even the coldest runs.

For layering on the bottom, I recommend wearing a Merino wool base layer leggings or tights like the Ibex Woolies 2 with windproof and waterproof running pants on top, especially if you are running in deep snow.

When it isn’t super cold, you can wear insulated winter running tights.

I love the Brooks Run Visible Thermal Tights for cold air days because they block the wind and keep my legs warm without feeling bulky, which can happen when you have to layer running pants over leggings.

The reflective detailing also improves safety so that you can be visible in the dark.

People running in the snow.

A new brand of running clothes I love is Calia.

I recently got the CALIA Women’s Cold Dash Run Jacket and it is great for cold weather running because the body of the jacket is nice and insulated while the arms are super stretchy so that you aren’t restricted while you run.

It is breathable and lightweight but provides just enough warmth.

I pair it with the CALIA Women’s Cold Dash Run Pants, which are just about the warmest running pants I own and when I don’t want to double up with tights and pants on top, this is the perfect solution.

For freezing cold, snowy runs, I suggest wearing insulated running pants rather than regular tights. I love the Orage Phoenix Hybrid Layering Pants. 

What is great about these winter running pants is that they are slim fit like running tights on the calves and lower legs, but have light yet warm insulation made of Primaloft over your quads.

They keep you warm without weighing you down or interfering with your running stride. 

Plus, if you are doing a snowy run through deep snow, having a slim fit like tights on the calf and ankle helps prevent snow from getting stuck in looser running pants.

For the coldest winter running days, I suggest winter running mittens like the Outdoor Research Coldfront Down Mitts.

They keep your fingers toasty, yet they are ultralight and flexible, unlike ski mittens. You should also wear a beanie or headband and a neck warmer or face mask if there is a wind chill.

Winter running socks should be breathable yet warm, so I recommend investing in high-quality Merino wool running socks such as Smartwool socks, Swiftwick running Socks, or Darn Tough socks.

Gaiters can be helpful when running in deep snow.

Don’t forget a headlamp if you are running in the dark.

People bundled up running in the snow.

#3: Adjust Your Training Plan

As a certified running coach, one of the most important winter running tips that I try to impart to my athletes who will be trying to run outside all winter long is that you need to adopt a flexible mindset when following your training plan.

Even though pretty much any training plan for running will have workouts scheduled for specific days during the week, when it comes to winter running, you have to be proactive in adjusting your training plan based on the forecast.

For example, if you have a long run scheduled for Sunday and you are training for a half marathon so you are planning to run for 90 minutes, look early on in the week at the temperatures and make sure that the weather is workable for a long run outside.

You might find that there are going to be particularly cold temperatures or a high chance of a winter snowstorm or ice storm coming on Saturday. 

If you are following your training plan to a T and aren’t thinking through your running workouts, you will have to battle running on ice or running in deep snow or cold air for your long run.

As all long-distance runners know, the long run is one of the key workouts for a half marathon training plan or marathon training plan and obviously will necessitate a longer time running outside.

A person snowshoeing.

Therefore, you want to prioritize the best winter running weather of the week for your longest runs and speed workouts.

In the case of this half marathon runner, I would suggest switching the long run to Friday or Saturday, depending on what time the snowstorm or ice storm is forecasted to start. 

Then, they can use Sunday as a rest day or cross-training day, perhaps enjoying a snowshoe workout outdoors or a short indoor treadmill recovery run.

The same holds true for tempo runs, speed workouts, etc. 

Any of your key workouts on your training program for the week should be moved to the days when the temperatures, wind, and precipitation conditions look best for winter running outdoors.

The important caveat here is that you still need to balance easy runs and hard workouts, spacing out the longer runs and high intensity runs with either cross training workouts, rest days, or easy runs.

This may mean that on certain weeks, you are unable to hit every workout on your training plan if you end up getting slammed with snow and ice.

People on elliptical machines.

#4: Cross-Train

When the risk of slipping with snow running or icy roads is high or the cold temperatures and wind chill pose a risk of hypothermia or frostbite, it is always best to forgo your run outside and either do indoor cross-training or a safer outdoor cross-training workout.

Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even hiking in deep snow is a great cardio workout that will increase your heart rate when the roads are too icy or snowy for running safely. 

You can also do various cross-training cardio workouts indoors, such as indoor cycling, swimming, deep water running, elliptical machine, or stair climbing.

#5: Prioritize Safety

Ultimately, my philosophy as a certified running coach and as a competitive runner is that it is never worth it to run on icy roads where there might be patches of black ice or deep snow with ice on top that you have to trample through.

Even with good traction devices for runners, such as YakTrax or ice cleats, the risk of slipping when running on ice or running in the dark when there might be black ice is not worth it.

Falling on ice can result in severe injuries, and even if you can maintain your balance when you hit a patch of black ice, there is still a risk of injury if you slip when you either make ground contact or push off.

A person running in the snow.

Time and time again, I have seen runners slide or skid when they are new to snow running or running on ice. This can cause rapid and sudden overextension of the hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, or other muscle groups. 

You can pull a muscle, which will set you back in your training plan and necessitate cross-training or taking time off.

Snowy runs can be challenging and require adjusting your running technique and using the right gear. Still, there is something pretty magical about seeing just your footprints in the fresh snow as you run through a winter wonderland.

Check out this next guide to help you choose the right running gear for every temperature:

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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