Tips for running in snowy and icy conditions

Get to grips with wintry conditions

It’s the stuff that children love and runners dread; snow and ice! Winter running presents several challenges and not least traction when the temperature drops. However with some sensible modification, your training doesn’t have to be compromised and you can win the battle to stay on your feet. Check out these top tips from Louise Damen to help you to stay safe when running in snowy and icy conditions.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

Get to grips with footwear

When the going gets slippery, choice of footwear is crucial. If possible, opt for trail shoes that tend to provide better traction with a grippy sole. Alternatively you could invest in some lightweight over-the-shoe ice grips such as YakTrax.

Plan your route

If possible, head off-road. Trails and grass generally provide better grip and are less likely to be icy under a layer of snow. Once you’ve found somewhere suitable, be prepared to run numerous loops if necessary. Although there is the obvious boredom factor to contend with, you’ll soon become familiar and more comfortable with the underfoot conditions. Avoid deep snow where possible as not only will this make running more difficult, there could be hazardous objects buried underneath.

If running off-road isn’t an option then try to avoid smooth surfaces such as polished concrete, painted road lines, or manhole covers. These surfaces tend to become super slippery as they do not have anywhere for water to permeate into before freezing. If you are running on pavement or road that is wet and temperatures are close to the freezing point, be extra vigilant for forming ice.

Find good form

In order to avoid slipping and sliding, you may need to make some small adjustments to your running form. Try taking smaller steps to increase your cadence and reduce over-striding. Focus on landing with your foot directly below your hips. This ensures that your centre of mass is in alignment with your feet and increases the surface area of your foot that is making contact with the ground. With more of your weight over your foot, you are less likely to skid and slip.

Start slowly

When running on the white stuff it’s best to be cautious and to start slowly. This will allow you to get a feel for the conditions under-foot and build your confidence. Just as you would in a car, avoid any sudden braking or changes in direction where possible as this will increase your likelihood of skidding.

Hit the treadmill

If you have access to one, then a treadmill is a good option for staying safe when temperatures plunge, particularly for quality work such as tempo running or intervals. You’ll also have the additional advantage of staying warm and being able to train in a vest and shorts!

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