This year, I have had a couple friends ask me about winter running. No I am no expert on winter running or winter or running. If you want expert, check out folks like Aliza Lapierre, an expert in ultra running. I can, however, share what works for me. I try not to overdress but still take extra care to keep my hands and neck and face warm because I know that if those areas are cold, I am not going to enjoy my run. A lot of times, I start out cold and then overheat, so it can take some trial and error to find a balance. Know that it is ok to start out cold. Even in single digits, I might only have a baselayer or two and a light fleece-like zip neck under a thin shell or vest. I know it is tempting to head out in a big parka or a bulky sweatshirt, but don’t do it. I suppose it also depends on your level of exertion, but you don’t automatically have to bundle way up just because the temperature is going way down.
My hands get cold easily so I wear gloves or even mittens, though sometimes I will end up taking them off and just wrapping my fists around them if I get particularly warm. Pretty soon after that, I want to put them back on, so it’s nice to have them. Although maybe I should just be wearing lighter gloves and then I will be ok leaving them on the entire time because they won’t get as hot in the first place, who knows. I also like wearing a buff or other light neckwarmer. I always wear a hat. I can pull the neckwarmer up over my chin and sometimes my mouth if it is particularly cold and then push it down to my neck if it’s warmer or as I get warmer. As a bonus, I am on a dry dirt road and a car comes by the buff can be helpful in preventing the inhalation of a lot of dust. Even on not so cold days, a hat is great to keep your ears warm and hair, if it’s longish, under control.
On my winter runs, though they are mostly on dirt roads, I love Yaktrax and Microspikes. Around here, I am either going uphill or downhill so having confidence when I plant my foot is really important. The dirt road does inherently have some traction when the snow is light or the ice thin and you can crunch down through it and have your shoes meet the grit quickly. I have been surprised, though, at how easily things can still ice over and the snow get packed by the plow. For every day ventures, I like Yaktrax, even when you don’t think it’s that slippery out. When I need extra security, running on truly icy days, Microspikes are amazing. I don’t feel off balance wearing the Yaktrax or Microspikes, and they don’t feel bumpy under my shoes, though the dirt roads I run on probably offer a better buffer than if you were to try them on pavement, I just don’t know. The Microspikes are, however, really loud and I creak with every step running on the ice. The Yaktrax are quieter, though the sound of metal on ice is never what you think of when you look out your window at the icy tips of trees glinting in the sunlight and a soft white blanket of snow shimmering as it waves in the wind. Microspikes can also be handy as crampon-like tools – I remember borrowing a pair from a friend and putting them over my ski boots hiking up Tuckermans before I had a pair of my own. We actually registered for Microspikes when we got married and then if I remember correctly a family member went Christmas shopping off our wedding registry and we got them during the holidays instead.