5 Tips for Safe Winter Running from an Expert
Staying indoors during extreme cold is a no-brainer. But dedicated runners may be reluctant to stay inside with the temperature at a relatively warm 25 degrees.
“I have seen too many walkers and runners with ankle fractures when it is icy out.”
That’s the expected high on January 25 for the Securian Winter Run in St. Paul, MN, one of the biggest events in the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. It’s a normal high temperature for Minnesota: Maybe not too warm, but below freezing. That’s when runners should be particularly aware of hazards that do not exist in warm weather.
Dr. Paul Langer, a podiatrist with Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) and president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, is a marathoner who runs throughout the winter. TCO provides medical services at the Securian Winter Run.
“Some people find they run better in cold weather conditions,” said Langer. “I have set most of my personal records in spring races.”
“The only thing that keeps me from running outdoors in winter is ice,” he added. “I have seen too many walkers and runners with ankle fractures when it is icy out.”
Tip #1: Don’t be surprised by ice
Ice catches even experienced winter athletes by surprise during freeze-thaw cycles, especially in the morning when the previous night’s freeze hasn’t melted. Dr. Langer recommends using cleat-like foot gear that improves traction or just playing it safe and running indoors.
Tip #2: Protect knees and ankles with tights or knee-high socks
“The cold can exacerbate overuse injuries,” says Langer. “I advise patients with knee or ankle issues to keep their lower extremities insulated in winter.” He says the Achilles tendon, for example, has very little soft tissue protection where it attaches to the heel and less blood supply to keep it warm. Extra layers on joints can help prevent pain.
Tip #3: Consider winter running shoes or duct tape your regular shoes
The wind- and water-resistant uppers and more aggressive outsoles on winter running shoes are great for cold climates and snow conditions, says Langer.
“Even in the extreme cold, I have never had to worry about cold feet when I wear winter running shoes,” he said. “It seems the blood flow is strong enough to keep the chill away.”
He suggests duct tape on the toe and upper of regular running shoes to minimize wind chill.
Tip #4: Wear shoes with extra cushioning
Midsoles are firmer and less compliant in the cold. Langer says heavily-cushioned shoes in winter and more stable shoes in summer are best for injury-prone runners.
Tip #5: Enjoy it!
“On those days when the snow is falling and my feet are cutting fresh tracks, I value the opportunity that running gives me to be outside instead of letting winter trap me inside,” says Dr. Langer.
Register for the Securian Winter Run
The Securian Winter Run is actually three events in one: a half marathon (a qualifying event for the Twin Cities Marathon), 10K, and 5K. The 10K and 5K offer opportunities, as Dr. Langer says, to not let winter trap you inside. Find out more about the Securian Winter Run and register here.