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Running in the Snow and Ice | Tips to Safely Navigate Winter Runs

Running in the snow and on ice can be quite a challenge if you’re not prepared. Just about any runner who runs through the winter can tell you how difficult it was to run in snow when they first tried. However, much like any other aspect of the sport – it gets easier with experience and practice.

Is it safe to run in the snow?

Yes, running in the snow is safe. In most cases, snow packs down to create a bumpy terrain that might be a bit more difficult to navigate, but can certainly be run through.

While running on snow and ice certainly present a few extra obstacles for runners, many are able to successfully run outdoors even in these conditions. Preparation is key to navigating these difficult conditions, and the more practice you get, the easier it will begin to feel.

Is running in snow a better workout?

The answer depends on the different conditions of each run, but in general, running in snow creates a bit more resistance, therefore resulting in a slightly better workout.

The uneven terrain that snow creates requires the use of different stabilizing muscles in the legs and core, helping prevent muscle imbalances. In addition, more energy is required with each step, resulting in more calories burned during each mile than usual.

How to Run in Snow

  • Lower your pace expectations
  • Aim for overall time instead of mileage
  • Take small, quick steps
  • Pay attention to your surroundings
  • Be flexible with your training
  • Increase cross training to supplement distance
  • Dress in layers for easy adjustments

Stepping foot outside in the winter may not sound too appealing when you’re wrapped in a warm blanket by the fire, but once you get moving, the beauty and serenity of the season makes everything worth it. Heading outside to run through the snow and ice is certainly worth any extra effort it may require.

Safely running on snow and ice requires just a few extra steps in order to continue your regular training routine. Here are 5 tips to succeed on those snowy, icy trails this winter running season!

Winter running season presents many challenges for runners – especially running on snow and ice. These 5 tips will help you safely navigate training during the winter and stay motivated to head outdoors! #winterrunning #runningonsnow #runningonice

5 Tips for Running in the Snow

In many places, running through the winter requires conquering cold temperatures, less daylight, harsh winds – and plenty of snow. If you’re determined to avoid the treadmill this season, you’ll be pleased to know that running in snow only requires a few adjustments to your normal routine. Here are 5 tips to stay safe this winter running season.

Invest in gear for running in the snow

Investing in a few pieces of high quality winter running gear. Purchasing gear that is specifically designed for running on snow and in cold temperatures is well worth the expensive – and a much better choice that buying many, cheap items.

Although your insulated leggings and waterproof jacket might be enough to keep your body warm, snow and ice requires some unique gear – particularly for your feet. Here are some must-have items for those snowy runs.

  • Gortex running shoes (or another form of waterproof shoe)
  • Yaktrax or snowshoes (or another form of running spikes)
  • Hand warmers
  • Balaclava or face mask
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Thick, insulated running tights

Many pieces of winter running gear can be re-used and worn for just about every run, so although you may not be wanting to spend extra money this time of year, all it takes is just one or two pieces of running in the snow gear to get you through the season.

Related: The Best Winter Running Gear for Cold Weather Runs

Shorten your stride

An easy adjustment to make running in the snow and on ice easier (and safer) is to shorten your stride and increase your cadence. When the terrain gets slippery, a simple way to improve your balance is to take shorter, more frequent steps.

Shortening your stride may take some conscious effort during those first few winter runs, but once your legs and mind gets used to the change, it will become second nature in the snow.

Increasing your cadence and shortening your stride will help maintain your regular running pace while increasing your contact time with the ground. This reduces your chances of falling and provides you with continuous opportunities to slow down when things get really slippery.

Take things slowly

There’s no doubt about it – running in snow is slippery business. Between the uneven terrain of packed snow, inches of fresh snow to trek through, and unseen sections of black ice, winter running weather provides a recipe for slipping and falling.

In order to avoid any disastrous spills, slow things down when running outdoors. Running outside in the winter is not the time to be completing any speed or interval workouts. Use these outdoor runs to stay consistent with mileage, maintain a running base, and enjoy the season.

When you have a tough workout on the schedule, take it indoors to the treadmill where you can really focus on speed. Accept the fact that snow and ice are going to slow you down this season, and remind yourself that this is more than okay.

Winter running season is a great time to build a running base and increase full body fitness while running on uneven terrain. Plan your training accordingly so you can slow down and really enjoy running on snow with ease.

Practice balance exercises

Between the slick, icy surfaces and unevenly packed snow, running outdoors in the winter requires a great deal of balance and full body control.

Unlike flat sidewalks and cleared running trails, running on snow and ice creates extra challenges for your body – particularly when it comes to balance.

To prepare for the snowy runs ahead, spend some time incorporating balance exercises into your pre-run routine. Practice isolating exercises on one side of the body at a time and throw in a few balance challenges that will really get your muscles working.

The more prepared and better balanced your body is indoors, the better it will be able to handle running on snow outside. Set yourself up for success this winter running season by completing a few simple balance exercises each week.

Related: 6 Full Body Balance Exercises for Runners

Decrease your mileage

Running in the snow requires a great deal of effort, no matter how many winters you have run through outdoors. The uneven, slippery terrain requires more physical effort and mental focus than any other time of year.

Because of this, it’s important to decrease your mileage when planning to run outdoors during the winter. Try to focus on spending the same amount of time running that you would during other seasons, but understand that this might not equate to the same amount of mileage.

For example, 30 minutes spent running in the fall might get you close to 4 miles – but you might only be able to cover 2 miles when running for 30 minutes in snow.

Remind yourself that your body is putting forth a greater effort during these particularly snowy, icy runs, so you are likely gaining the same amount of endurance and physical benefits even though your mileage has decreased.

Advice for Running on Ice

In just about every place that it snows, you can also find ice. While running on ice presents a few of the same challenges as running on snow, it also presents a few more. Depending on the situation, running on ice can potentially be quite dangerous. If you are unsure about your safety – run inside or skip it.

If you feel confident heading out to run on ice and snow, knowing that there will only be a few patches of ice, the following tips will help you navigate the run safely.

  • Always use Yaktrax or spikes
  • Be aware and stay alert
  • Avoid all ice patches when possible
  • Walk through icy sections
  • Take small, quick steps

Running in the snow and on ice presents many extra challenges, sure, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Take advantage of the unique opportunities our sport presents by experiencing all four seasons each year.

With just a few simple adaptions, running in the winter can be just as safe and fulfilling (if not more) than any other time of year. The unique challenges it presents will make you stronger, fitter, and more motivated than ever for the upcoming season of running.

Stay safe out there on the snow and ice!

More tips for running on snow and ice:

Winter running season presents many challenges for runners – especially running on snow and ice. These 5 tips will help you safely navigate training during the winter and stay motivated to head outdoors! #winterrunning #runningonsnow #runningonice
Winter running season presents many challenges for runners – especially running on snow and ice. These 5 tips will help you safely navigate training during the winter and stay motivated to head outdoors! #winterrunning #runningonsnow #runningonice

How Running Lower Mileage Will Make Running Feel Easier

Thursday 21st of May 2020

[…] original hope was that this would leave room for unexpected winter weather, while also providing ample time for cross training and strength training to avoid the temptation […]


Monday 11th of November 2019

I’m training for a half in Jan, and I was a bit nervous about training outdoors in the northeast. Usually I take a running hiatus from Nov. to Feb/Mar or focus on treadmill runs. Thanks for the tips.

Runnin' for Sweets

Monday 11th of November 2019

Training outside in the winter can definitely be tough!! Hopefully the snowfall this winter is a bit more manageable and you’re able to get outside more often. Good luck with your training!