What are the precautions one should take when running in wintertime (-2 to -10 Celsius, 28 to 14 F)? I want to know in terms of clothing: what is the most appropriate? Should I end a run close to home so I do not catch a cold due to heavy sweating? Is there a list of what to avoid and what to follow when running in winter?


3 Answers 3


When running outside in the winter/cold weather you should keep couple of things in mind.

1) Firstly cold weather is really bad for your joints. If you expose them for a prolonged periods of time to cold they will eventually start hurting you. With that said make sure you put some warm clothes on yourself. You must consider the fact that there might be wind outside and as you run you are going to sweat. If there's wind and you are sweaty, the wind is going to literally pierce through your body. So look for a wind-proof jacket, usually any skiing jacket will do the to work. And make sure you don't overdo the clothing so you don't sweat more than it is needed or you will feel at discomfort. Don't forget wearing a hat, you lose most heat going off from your head.

2) When you run you inhale the air deeper. And cold air is really bad for your lungs and overally for your respiratory system. That's why what you can do is wrap a scarf around your face so that it will keep the area warmer and just warm the air more as you inhale it.

3) The surface where you run might be icy so look for shoes that are going to handle slippery surfaces. Also they must keep you feet warm and be at least slightly comfortable(for winter running shoes).

Finishing your run close to your place is a very good idea indeed. Make sure you take a warm shower/bath right after you are done with your run so you can stsabilise the temperature of your body. I hope this helps, if I think of anything else I will add it up.

  • 1
    I always have a problem with something in front of my mount and nose, it hinders easy breathing. But even worse, the moisture from breathing out will build up and make my face even colder than before.
    – Baarn
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 10:01
  • When I was a child my parents would make me wear a hat that would cover my whole face except for my eyes. My face would be all warm but I would feel the cold only once I have taken the hat off. As for the breathing, there's this company that has developed special training masks that will hinder your breathing in order to expand the capacity of your lungs. You can control how much it will hinder of course. Link: trainingmask.com
    – Arthlete
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 14:00
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    Yeah Balaclava-Style headscarfs are great. My problem when I wear these is that my breath passes up on the sides of my nose. I always wear glasses when running (to protect my eyes from wind) and the breath would steam them up.
    – Baarn
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 14:06
  • I see, now that you have mentioned glasses, that's a good addition for winter running indeed. Sometimes my eyes start watering just because the wind could be too strong.
    – Arthlete
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 19:18
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    @Arthlete - The answer overall is good enough not to downvote, but studies are very mixed on cold causing joint problems. Certainly if you have a pre-existing condition such as arthritis or other compromise cold can exacerbate it, but in a healthy person that has just not been shown to be true. Also, the "heat from the head" misconception has also been proven to be a myth.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 14:38

Besides the excellent advice in the other responses, I would like to add some points:

First, only run when it is cold if you really have to, for example, Sunday January 13th, in Stockholm it was -9 Celcius (C) (16 Fahrenheit (F)) (-15 C considering the wind chill factor). A warmer Sunday, you would see lots of people running at the popular city parks Djurgården and Gärdet. That day, you hardly saw anyone. So even when you have a large population used to cold weather & snow & ice , most of them avoid intense outdoor exercise in the cold. The key reasons are that it is difficult to breathe (even if you are used to cold air) and the risks of falling. As a guideline, youth cross country skiers are not allowed to compete under -15 C (5 F), primarily because of the breathing and frostbite risks. Outdoors ice hockey games are cancelled if the temperature is below, -18 C (0 F). In both of these contexts, the participants are used to cold weather and in excellent shape. Stockholm temperature 2013-01-13

Screen shot from Wolfram Alpha 2013-01-13

So if you really want to run, here are some additional things to consider:

  1. Run with shorter, slower steps & be prepared for slipping. Most that I saw running on the Sunday had special shoes, e.g. Icebug and they ran slower and with shorter steps. Shorter & also means less effort -> less intense breathing.
  2. Clothing, same as cross country skiing, see REI. That is, layering, ready for being really warm at the core, but protecting sensitive areas such as head, hands etc.
  3. Avoid to shave or wash your face in the morning before the run, it helps to protect your face (see the Swedish national health guide) from frost bites.
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    I don't get your first point that he shouldn't run when it's cold, but why? Just because other people are not doing it?
    – Baarn
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 8:18
  • @Informaficker, good point! I will clarify that part.
    – FredrikD
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 12:38
  • Then again, compared to cross-country skiing, running is better in many ways when it's really cold. You stay warm more easy, you go slower so there's less wind, you don't have problems with waxing :) -15C with just technical underwear, fleece mid layer and windproof jacket + running pants is just fine for an hour or so. Then your face usually starts gradually hurting.
    – vertti
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 7:41

The cause for a common cold are viruses, not temperature. It is a misconception that the cold is caused by cold weather, it definitely puts more stress on a human body and makes it more vulnerable to already present viruses, but if you are healthy you shouldn't have to worry that much. (see Wikipedia: Common Cold)

My last run was one of 30 minutes at 0°C at night when it was raining. I wore shorts, a t-shirt and had a headscarf around my arm that I later put on my head. I always wear my biking gloves when running, they leave the fingertips free but I tend to freeze on my knuckles. And they are a blessing when I blow my nose.
Other people I see wear light jackets, a pullover and jogging trousers.
It depends on you and what you feel most comfortable in, there is no definite answer to this. If you are unsure, wear layers that are adjustable, zippered clothing that can be opened if you get too hot is great.

Watch for ice. If you encounter slippery surfaces slow down, be careful, there is no need trying to break your records and end up in the hospital.

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