Winter running is hard. Not only does it get dark at 4pm, but you’re running in freezing cold temperatures, there’s ice about, your lips are getting chapped and you’ve got that awful decision of whether to layer up so you’re warm to begin with, or start with less layers than you want just because you know you’ll warm up after a mile or so.
I’ve never managed to run consistently over winter simply because I’m a huge wimp. I hate the cold. I’ve been sleeping in pyjamas, my dressing gown and a 15 tog duvet! This year I aim to change that, so I’ve been taking a good look at my winter gear. Having fallen out a little with road running (it’s boring when you’ve done so much trail running!) this is stuff I think necessary for when you’re out on the trail. It is for me at least!
Suitable Running Shoes
First on the list, and one of the most important. When trail running in winter, your main nemesis is either really sloggy mud and ankle deep puddles or slippery ice. I’ve done my fifth Park Run and I’ve experienced a range of conditions, including said mud, puddles and ice. I can’t stress enough just how important having a suitable pair of running shoes is.
Those designed for trail running generally have really grippy soles, and they do feel weird to run on pavement in. They’re bumpy so they can grip properly onto that slippy mud and loose gravel. They’re also a little more hard wearing and supportive.
I recently bought some new trail shoes as I noticed that mine really didn’t have the grip that I needed when doing my local park run. It’s quite a hilly route and it includes mud/loose gravel and more recently ice.
On the left is a before/after of my first outing with them! (And below is their second outing – that was a muddy run!) I love a nice clean shoe, but oh it felt so good to see just how muddy they get. I’ve become a lover of getting dirty. The muddy kind.
A Running Distance/Time Tracker
Okay so you don’t need this. Not really. You certainly don’t need a fancy and expensive watch. That said, I personally think they’re super useful and help you to keep hitting goals. If you just want to run as a way to take time out, fair enough, but I would say that the majority end up wanting to hit certain times or distances.
To measure this accurately, you really do need a tracker of sorts. There are plenty of free apps – Strava, Runkeeper, Map My Run etc – so I would definitely get one of those downloaded! All you need is your phone and your location/gps turned on. My go-to when I forget my watch is Runkeeper, just because it was where I started originally. I’ve never tried Strava but I believe it has a good community section!
Then you have gps watches. I definitely prefer this way of tracking myself, and I’ve been using a Garmin Forerunner 10 for the past 3 or 4 years. I will finally be upgrading this Christmas and it’ll be another Garmin. There are so many different ones out there though, with the other most popular besides Garmin seeming to be TomTom.
Winter Running Clothing
The problem with winter running is that you’re absolutely freezing when you set out, but after 5-10 minutes or so you’ve warmed up and discover that you’re wearing too many layers. I mean, maybe more conditioned runners don’t have this problem but as I said right at the beginning, I’m a wimp. I put on loads of layers because I know I’ll be absolutely freezing at first and I hate it. This image pretty much proves my point. Don’t I look cool? No?
You can’t really tell, but I’m wearing a long sleeved top, then a short sleeved top and then my thin rain jacket on top. Fortunately, the jacket has removable sleeves so when I did inevitably get too hot during this run I could just unzip the sleeves and let that cold air get to my arms. (You can see in the top photo that I haven’t unzipped yet!)
So what do I recommend?
+ Something to cover your ears. A lot of people run without, but I just find being out in the cold far more comfortable with a hat or a headband covering my ears.
+ Gloves. Numb fingers from the cold is the absolute worst! I would choose gloves over a long-sleeved top any day!
+ A good base layer. The aim of this kind of clothing is to keep you dry, warm and comfortable and they do this by wicking moisture away from your body. These come in all styles – long-sleeved, short-sleeved, vest, long tights, shorts – so you can just choose whatever suits you.
+ Socks. You can wear any really, but those specially designed for running are just way more comfortable, especially when you’re feet get wet! And they will get wet trail running in winter. Trust me. I only have a couple of pairs of actual running designed socks, so I need to remedy this.
+ Lip balm. Not clothing, but it’s a personal item and well, after the last couple of weeks I’ve realised just how important it is!
A Sense of Adventure!
You’ve just got to have fun with it really! My favourite part about trail running is that you never really know what to expect. One day you could be running in the glorious sunshine, the ground is hard beneath you as you run through the trees. The next day it could be pouring down, you’re splashing through puddles, not another soul in sight. You could run the same trail every week, but each time there’ll be something different about it. For me, it’s what makes running fun.