Top Tips for Safe Running (and Other Activities) in Winter
This month the Opening Ceremony marks the start of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games! Members of our U.S. Olympic Team will compete against elite athletes from across the world in hopes of achieving their long-standing goal of “bringing home the gold.”
Those men and women—from every nation—have trained very hard to earn the right to compete in the Olympics. In doing so, they’ve spent countless hours pushing their bodies and fine-tuning their techniques.
Running might not be a Winter Olympic event, but there are many dedicated runners in New York who continue to push their bodies and train even through our coldest, snowiest months. If you are one of them, you will have to fine-tune your own techniques to help lower your injury risk!
Running in winter obviously has different challenges from running during the summer. Keeping warm and dry, avoiding injuries, and staying safe are a little more difficult in the snow, ice, and slush. There are, however, ways to protect your body and keep up with your routines. Here are a few tips for running on snow and ice:
- Plan your route ahead. Know the area where you are going to run, especially with regard to what kind of conditions you will face (are the streets plowed, sidewalks well-lit, etc.). Consider having your well-planned route consist of a loop in your neighborhood that can be repeated to achieve whatever distance you want. By staying close to home, you will be able to get out of dangerous elements, should they develop.
- Wear appropriate footwear. This is an important tip for safe running, no matter the time of year. Choose running shoes that do not extensively feature mesh, socks that wick away moisture (but keep your feet warm!), and layer appropriately for the conditions. Consider getting shoe clips to increase your traction.
- Dress warm. You need to protect yourself from the elements in appropriate material that will wick away moisture when you sweat, but still offer the warmth you need for preventing frostbite. This is certainly important for other reasons, but you will better be able to mind your surroundings and winter running techniques—more on these in a bit—if you aren’t terribly uncomfortable from the cold. Your first layer should consist of thermal wear made from polypropylene, your second layer synthetic fleece, and your outer layer breathable nylon or Gore-Tex material.
- Don’t dress TOO warm. If the temperature is not as extreme, do not include the second layer made from synthetic fleece material. Don’t forget, you will generate heat as you run! As a general rule, dress for 15-20 degrees warmer than air temperature (factoring in wind chill).
- Take extra time to warm up and stretch. A proper warm-up is always essential for decreasing the risk of sustaining an injury, but it is even more important in cold weather. Stepping into frigid winter air with cold, tight muscles will be a shock to your system and make you more prone to getting hurt. You can warm up inside by starting with some exercises like mountain climbers or jumping jacks to raise your heartrate. Running lightly in place for a couple minutes will start to loosen your leg muscles and some yoga exercises can really get your blood flowing.
- Don’t warm up TOO much. Keep your warm-up simple and remember that your goal is simply to warm your muscles and elevate your heart rate a little before your run. You don’t want to tire yourself out or get too hot from your warmup.
- Weather the wind. One of the key concerns about cold weather running is the adverse effect that wind can have on the experience. There is a reason that meteorologists provide wind chill readings – gusts make it feel colder. Given this factor, start your run by heading into the wind so you then have it at your back for the second half of your workout.
- Use appropriate technique for running in winter. Take shorter strides, keep your feet low, and try to land on your midfoot for optimal balance.
- No “personal record” breaking. Setting your P.R. should not be the goal in winter months. Instead, your focus should be more on “maintenance” than it is about “speed work.” Slow down and stay safe.
- The post-run. Your body will begin cooling itself as soon as you are done with your run. Change out of your running gear and into warm, dry clothes as soon as possible.
- Find your motivation. Hey, it can be difficult even on nice days to get the motivation to head out for a run, but this can be amplified when the weather outside is frightful. As such, you might benefit from a running partner to keep you accountable.
- Know when to say “no.” There are going to be times when it is too cold to brave the elements. When it gets to that point, stick to indoor exercises or take the day off. If you are normally active on a regular basis, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing some hot cocoa and spending the day inside.
Beyond running, there are other winter activities that come with an increased risk of foot and ankle injury. These can potentially lead to problems like ankle sprains, blisters, bruises, fractures, Morton’s neuroma, and “skier’s toe” (which is subungual hematoma – a condition also known as “runner’s toe”!).
No matter the winter activities you prefer there are various components to successful foot care during the season. One of the best proactive measures you can take is to protect your feet from the elements with a good pair of boots. Whether you are going to buy boots for yourself, or for any of your loved ones, you should consider several matters:
- Height – Taller boots will certainly keep ankles warmer, but they are heavier and a five-mile hike could become quite fatiguing. If the boots are mainly going to be for shoveling or light traveling, 11 or 12 inches high will help keep the snow out and your feet dry.
- Water resistance – In the winter you don’t want your feet to either be too dry or too wet. Excessive dryness is best taken care of with the use of moisturizing cream, but a proper pair of boots will prevent your feet from being wet out in the freezing cold.
- Traction – Help avoid an ankle sprain or painful fall by opting for winter footwear that features thick soles that are patterned to avoid sliding on icy or slippery surfaces.
- Linings – Removable linings are great because when they become wet, you simply pull them out and expedite the drying process. The drawback of such a liner is that a loose fit can potentially lead to blisters if you are going on a long hike.
Adhering to proper winter running practices and making sure you have the right boots for winter is a great starting point for keeping your feet safe during the season. Of course, you can’t really eliminate the risk of every foot issue and sometimes problems still develop. If they do, we are here to help!
When you need expert foot care, schedule your appointment by calling:
- Our Rego Park office at (718) 896-4433
- Our Plainview office at (516) 822-9595
- Our Flushing office at (718) 969-2266