Running Outside in Winter – Tips and Tricks

The Arctic chill has settled in over the Northeast, and the treadmills at gyms are filling up fast. But if you’re like me, one of the crazies who actually enjoys running outside in winter, it IS possible to do so safely, get your workout in, and enjoy the beautiful, snowy views this time of year.

Running Outside in Winter - advice from a Vermont-based running coach on how to stay safe and warm and actually enjoy outdoor running in winter!


  1. Watch the weather forecast. When you’re planning out your runs for the week, take a minute to look at what days are warmest, and try to fit in your runs then. This is an especially good idea if you want to do an outdoor long run, or any kind of interval training or repeats. The long run means a long time outside in the elements, and interval or repeat workouts mean there’s some cool-down sections involved where you might get a little chilly.
  2. As well as picking the warmest days to run (and yes, “warmest” might still mean below zero), choose the time of your run wisely. Early morning and in the late afternoon once the sun has set might be convenient for your work schedule, but they’re unfortunately the chilliest times as well. Late morning or midday/early afternoon are going to be your best bets. Maybe consider a runch (running lunch break) at work if you want to get a quick run done. You’ll have to allot time for ALL the layers you’ll need to don and shed, though!
  3. Warm up indoors, with some dynamic warm ups and glute activations before you head out. It will make a big difference to be starting out with warm, primed muscles and joints before the cold hits you.
  4. LAYER. Layers are your friend when you’re running outside in winter, because the air trapped in between each layer helps insulate you from the frigid temperatures. Make sure the fabrics you’re using are all sweat-wicking, and if you’re really layering up, it’s a good idea to make sure the top layer or two are easily removable or modifiable with zips, in case you get too warm (yes, it’s possible!). Some good options include vests, windbreakers, running skirts over your tights, bike shorts or capris under your tights, long socks with short socks over top, mittens (instead of gloves). (See below for some of my go-to items!).
  5. Breathe through fabric. Whether you have a balaclava, a neck warmer or just wrap a bandanna around your face, having some sort of fabric to breathe through makes a big difference when it’s below zero.
  6. If your hair freezes, don’t touch it! You could snap it off like an icicle. (This actually happened to a friend of mine.)
  7. Consider a short loop instead of a long out and back. If you injure yourself, get tired, or sick, you don’t want to be a long way from warmth in cold conditions. Shorter loops may be more boring to run, but not as boring as a treadmill!
  8. If you’re running in icy or snowy conditions, get some traction for your shoes with some form of ice spikes. There are a ton of options out there, and they make a big difference for safety.

Here’s the gear I swear by for running outside in winter:

Running Outside in Winter - Tips and Tricks. Some key winter running gear to keep you warm and safe when you're running outside in the cold.

  1. Kahtoola NANOspikes are what I strap on my shoes to get traction and stay safe when I run the trails. These are great on ice and in packed snow – they will make a lot of noise on the roads, though. 
  2. These Darn Tough socks are made of merino and keep you warm while they wick sweat. I have knee-high and ankle socks of their (which I sometimes wear at once if it’s crazy cold out), but this pair is a mid-calf option. 
  3. A Spandits Hygge neck and face warmer is fleece-lined and super warm for sub-zero conditions. 
  4. As an ambassador, I get to test new gear for Spandits, and when they introduced their Icelandic Tights, they knew they’d be popular because all the north-east ambassadors couldn’t stop raving about them. These are fleece-lined and even in -15 degree temperatures I have been warm enough wearing just these without extra layers. You can have them made in any of the Spandits patterns.
  5. I’ve been using TrailHeads accessories for years and these convertible running gloves are pretty close to what I wear now (my convertible mittens are discontinued).  
  6. When it’s cold out, this FlipBelt not only holds your stuff, it’s snug enough to hold a lower layer or two in place when you’re running.  
  7. Usually I prefer winter headbands to beanies when I’m running, even in winter, but in below-zero temperatures, I layer a beanie over a headband. The one I wear now is a really old one that’s no longer sold, but it’s similar to this TrailHeads Spacedye ponytail beanie.
  8. This Under Armor Balaclava Top is form fitted, so you can layer something thin under it, and pair it with a running vest or a windbreaker on top. I have a similar top, and while I don’t always use the balaclava, when it’s scrunched down it holds my Hygge neck warmer in place perfectly. 

Editor’s note: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links, so if you buy through these links Fine Fit Day gets a referral fee at no cost to you…thank you for supporting the blog!

Are you a winter runner? Do you run outdoors, or treadmill?

What’s your favorite winter running gear?


  1. It is so flipping cold in Austin. And it seems like this year it’s not even the “it’s called for AUSTIN.” In the 20s. I’m wearing every article of clothing I own indoors 🙂 and I have a half marathon coming up on the 21st. I needed this.
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