How to Start Running in the Winter

When people ask us “when is the best time to start running,” our answer is simple: it’s always the best time to start running! Rather than being inspired by the seasons, be inspired by how you feel. If finding a new way to stay active and social through the long winter months is something that interests you, then there is no reason to wait for fair weather to start, or restart, your running journey.

With the right tips and gear, running through the winter is not as daunting as it may seem. Today on the BlackToe Running blog, we’re sharing some expert advice that will help you start (and enjoy!) a winter running program.

1. The Best Way to Start is to Not Stop

One of the best ways to stick with your winter running program is to ease into it by starting early. Most runners agree that lower temperatures, ideal humidity, and just enough daylight hours make fall the most enjoyable running season of the year. Starting your running journey early in the fall will help you acclimate to the gradual changes into subzero temperatures and lack of sunlight.

2. Buy Your Gear Early

It’s a good idea to grab your winter running gear early. You can quickly lose momentum when you skip your runs, and being prepared for a sudden change in weather will help you clock those kilometres while everyone else is scrambling to buy thermal gear. Our must-have winter running gear list includes:

  • Three important layers: a sweat-wicking base layer, a thermal mid-layer, and a rain/wind resistant outer shell or jacket
  • Thermal running tights (and wind boxers or bun toasters as an extra layer of protection against the elements)
  • Mitts or gloves
  • A hat or ear warmers
  • A buff for your neck and face
  • Wool running socks

3. Use the Wind to Your Advantage

The windchill can be a particularly challenging part of winter running. It can help to run into the wind during the first half of your run, and with the wind behind you for the second half. This is because running with the wind at your back will make you sweaty, so if you start your run into the wind, you’ll avoid unwanted chills on the way home as your sweaty clothes cool against your body. Plus, a tailwind always feels extra helpful on the second half of a run!

4. Plot Your Route

You’ll quickly get to know which areas of town are plowed and salted regularly, and it’s smart to stick to those routes. The Martin Goodman Trail (MGT) that runs along the lake is typically in good shape through the winter, and is heavily travelled even when it’s dark. If you need suggestions for safe and fun winter running routes (Kringlewood, anyone?), don’t hesitate to reach out to your local run store!

5. Invest in Good Shoes

The big question: “do I need separate running shoes to use in the winter?” You will certainly be much more comfortable and confident if you invest in a pair of seasonal running shoes. Winter-specific shoes have features like a water-resistant upper, a grippy tread for advanced traction, and additional insulation for warmth. Not only will having a good pair of winter running shoes encourage you to stick to your training in poor weather, but they’ll also help you keep you safe in slippery conditions.

6. Stay Visible

Lights are a vital part of winter running. We’re fortunate here in Toronto in that we often get treated to periods of mild winter weather, but there’s nothing we can do to change how many hours of darkness we get. Accidents involving pedestrians increase in the winter, so wearing at least one light source on your front and back is strongly recommended. You can also improve your visibility with brightly coloured shoes and running gear.

7. Make it Social

We guarantee that running with a buddy or group will provide the motivation that’s sometimes needed to make it through tough winter runs. There is a camaraderie that comes with making it through a particularly blustery winter run with a few friends, and of course the post-run brunch doesn’t hurt either! If you’re looking to meet people to run with this winter, ask your local run shop about openings in their run clubs.

It’s Time to Enjoy the Many Benefits of Winter Running! 

Winter running has plenty of physical and mental benefits. Running in all types of weather builds resilience and endurance, and when things get tough during a race it can help to remember a time when you overcame a brutal wind chill or unexpected snow storm. Plus with the right technical gear and a well-plowed running route, you’ll be prepared for anything our Canadian winters can throw your way.

Need help getting started with your winter running journey? Reach out to us here at BlackToe Running for recommendations about winter running shoes, technical gear, local running routes, our run club, and any other questions you may have about winter running - we're here to help!