10 Tips for Running in the Snow, Ice, and Everything Else That Comes With a Chicago Winter

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With the ice, snow, frigid temperatures and a short supply of daylight, it's easy to let your running routine—and your fitness—slide during winter months. But with the right gear, a few precautions and a mindful approach to winter running, you can run through the holidays and keep your training on track. Not to be confused with our guide on how to dress for the Chicago winter, this list focuses on how to run on snow, not in snow.

Know the dangers of running in the cold.

Before you head out, check out your weather app. If it's below freezing, take it a step further and check out the National Weather Service Wind Chill Chart. This chart creates a formula for calculating the dangers from winter winds and freezing temperatures. For example, in 0 degree temperatures with 15 miles per hour winds, the real feel is -19 and frostbite can happen in up to 10 minutes.

Watch and know where you're stepping.

Fresh powder can cover up slick spots on pavement, and melting snow can refreeze overnight, making you slide across the ground like your last gutterball. Choose fresh snow over ice or packed snow. You will get better traction on fresh snow and reduce the chance for slipping. 

Wear appropriate gear.

We're the experts on this. That's why we created a guide to dressing for every temperature change you may face during Chicago's winter. Spoiler: it all starts with proper layering.

  • Check out that guide here: http://www.fleetfeetchicago.com/news/guide-dressing-comfortably-for-a-run-in-chicagos-winter
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Increase traction on your shoes.

Several of our trusted brands make a "winterized" version of their shoes. Saucony has their Ice+ Pack, Nike has their Shield Pack, Mizuno makes a Gore-Tex model of the Rider silhouette and Brooks makes a Gore-Tex model of their famed Ghost silhouette.

Add traction with the same stability you are accustomed to on dry surfaces by using a traction device on the bottom of your shoes such as Yak Trax RunNote: Avoid wearing the Yak Trax indoors or roads without snow. The combination of removable spikes and steel coils, provides 360° of unbeatable traction.

Shorten your stride.

Shorten up your strides, especially on ice. This small adjustment in your stride will keep you more balanced, stable, and more prepared for a slip. This one can take some getting used to.

Be prepared to feel sore.

Since you're more concerned about your balance and stability, you will likely be sore in muscles that normally aren't sore after a run.  Running in snow and ice requires your inner and outer legs to work twice as hard as they work to keep you upright.  Runner's World recommends focusing on full body flexibility exercises and ease your way into snow running and alternating an outdoor snow run with an indoor treadmill run for a few weeks until your body adapts to the  greater demands.

Start against the wind.

This is a pro tip from our experience staff. Starting your route running against the wind and you'll thank yourself on the way home. Plus, you'll avoid getting chilled by the wind after you've been sweating.

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Switch up your goal.

If the traction just isn't there, don't even bother trying to hit your goal for the day. Aim for a time goal rather than a mileage goal. The physical exertion you are giving to stabilize yourself will be more than your normal runs.

When in doubt, walk it out.

Your time is not worth an injury. If you are crossing a patch of sidewalk that you think may be dangerous or has black ice, trust you instincts and take it slow.

Somedays it's just too cold.

For days when the temperature is too cold and the footing too icy to safely run outside—even if you have the right gear—it may be time to run on the *gasps* treadmill.


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