Winter Running - Sam Hill - Hill Performance

Posted on Tue, Feb 09, 2021

It’s frosty out there! Ever heard that phrase “be bold, start cold”? I'm not a fan! How about “be sensible, start comfortably warm”? It’s not quite as catchy but, to me, makes loads more sense.

Our muscle tissue is responsible for generating up to 70% of our body heat, so if they’re cold when we are running it goes without saying that there will be an efficiency cost.

It’s not only good to be warm and comfortable from an energy point of view but if you are running out on the trail or up in the mountains, wearing and carrying the right kit is important to keep you safe too!

I have spent a lot of time running in the snow and have found a that these few key bits of kit make the whole experience a lot more pleasurable: 

Shoes: It's horrible having cold feet so my strategy is a good thick pair of socks with a shoe that has an over gaiter. Something like the Terrex Agravic Tech Pro. If you don't want to spring for a fancy shoe like that then a good gore-tex shoe with a mini-gaiter (like this: Kalenji trail gaiters) is a more cost-effective way of keeping the snow and mud from getting into your shoe.

Traction: If it is super icy you need more than just rubber! I have some shoes where I can screw little spikes to the lugs, but if you can’t do that then some over the shoe microspikes make a big difference! If you are just on easy trails and roads something like this: Nortec Sports STREET, works well, but if you are going into the mountains take some of these: Nortec Sports TRAIL  

Legs: Keep them warm! You might think you look hard-wearing shorts in the snow but it seems illogical to me. Keeping my legs warm helps keep everything else warm, prevents potential injury and just makes sense. I love my cross country ski legging because they are windproof and fleece inside. If it is really windy I will put my waterproof trousers on. The wind has a massive effect on how cold it actually feels and waterproofs are the best way to keep the wind off. Check out this chart to see just how much the wind has an effect on us: 

Body: Use layers so you can easily adjust your temperature. I mainly use a thin softshell jacket as my top layer as it is windproof, breathable and adds a bit more warmth. A lot of people like merino wool base layers, I find them a bit heavy and prefer to wear a short sleeve layered with a long sleeve synthetic base layer - but that is just personal preference. Either way, different layers are definitely better than one big warm layer. It's not a big deal to take something off and tie it around your waist or even consider taking a small bag with you to stuff spare layers into.

Head: who doesn’t love a Buff?! On brutally cold days I have been known to use 4 at once: one on my head, one around my neck and over my nose, and two on my wrists to 'seal' between my gloves and jacket so I don't get a draught up my sleeves.

Hands: I have two favourites here. First I have some softshell gloves with a windproof mitten cover and second, some amazing Primaloft mittens. I also picked up a pair of these a while back (Decathlon Mountain Trekking Waterproof Over-Gloves) and they are a great small and light option to stick over your small liner gloves if you get caught out. They are enough to keep the wind off and also a great light option if you need gloves for your mandatory race kit.

In the bag: If I am going up into the hills I carry all of the above plus an extra warm layer, waterproof jacket and trousers, an emergency shelter (like the SOL emergency bivvy), a head torch, spare warm gloves, and plenty of food. It’s easy to get caught out in the winter and it’s important that you don’t rely on anyone else to get you out of trouble!

Stay safe out there and make the most this novel weather the UK seems to be getting.


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