Trying To Prepare Myself For Winter Running

Hi everyone!  Now that I’m settling into normal life in Anchorage, I’m realizing that there are some things that just aren’t as “normal” here as they were at home.  Especially when it comes to winter.  I’m learning now that everything I do – driving, running, shopping, picking out clothes, etc. – is going to be different up here.  And that’s totally okay!  I’m ready for some new adventures and experiences.  But the problem is, I don’t know how to deal with some of these things.  Some of these new experiences have been explained to me by my coworkers and friends – like driving in snow – but some are still a mystery to me.

IMG_3327Studded tires to help me on the roads this winter

So here’s to a winter of trying new things and spending tons of time Googling how to prepare for the following:

Running in the snow –  I did take every opportunity to run in the snow last year, and learned that it’s tougher than I thought.  It kind of feels like running in sand, and it slows you down a lot.  And the amount of snow we’re going to have on the running trails this winter is pretty crazy.  So how am I preparing for the fact that my running trails (and every outdoor surface) will soon be covered in snow and ice?


Studded shoes!  Just like my tires!  I chose to get my old Mizunos studded at Skinny Raven Sports so that my current pair of Adidas can be used indoors as well as outdoors with my Yaktrax.  I’m also getting a gym membership for those days where I really can’t handle the snowy trails.  Now here’s my question for all of you hardcore snow runners:  do you do anything to keep the snow out of your shoes?  Like wearing gaiters?  If not, any good sock suggestions for staying warm and dry?

Running in the cold – Last year I got sick running in 13 degree temps after getting a cramp and stopping until it passed, which caused my body temperature to drop too low.  This year I’ve already run in 18 degree temps and did great, but it’s still not totally comfortable.  How have I been preparing so far?


Using my scarf/Buff and wearing fleece-lined layers, especially on my head.  Here’s the problem:  it’s going to get so much colder here, and I’m barely comfortable now.  How can I adjust to even colder temperatures?  What do you all use to stay warm when it’s 0 degrees outside and you’re out for a run?  Especially when it comes to keeping your hands warm?  And let’s talk about phones – will mine freeze if I’m using it to track my run in temps like that?

Running in the dark – This one I am totally unprepared for.  This is the only thing I’ve done to prepare myself:


It’s hard to see it with all of the skinny trees around, but there are streetlights along this trail.  I tried to prepare by finding a nearby trail that’s lighted at night all winter long.  It helps that the trail is illuminated and I can see where I’m going, but I can’t see the pesky hiding moose – and who knows if other runners/skiers will see me coming?  There’s no traffic to worry about, but I still want to stay visible and make sure that I can see everything around me.  I know I should probably have a head lamp and some kind of visibility items on my body.  But what’s the best option out there?  I don’t even know what brands to look for!  Are headlamps even comfortable?

Running in the gym – I don’t want to do this one, but I’m sure it’s going to happen at some points.  Or at a lot of points.  I trained for the Disney Princess Half almost exclusively on my old treadmill (and loved it!), but that was in the privacy of my own apartment with my own TV to keep me company.  So how can I keep myself distracted during the upcoming long training runs on a treadmill?  If reading while running was easier I’d be all over that!

The good news is that with the Pre-Christmas season upon us, I’ve got people asking me what I want for Christmas already.  And I’ve been thinking that getting some good running gear for the long, dark, cold, snowy winter ahead would be great.  But I have no idea what to ask for!  How do you find the best winter running gear out of the thousands of products out there?  I’d love to hear what you can’t live without this winter.  Help me out!

Do you have any advice for a newbie Alaskan runner?  Past Polar Vortex running techniques would be appreciated!

34 thoughts on “Trying To Prepare Myself For Winter Running

  1. Oh wow – I had no idea you could but studs in your shoes – cool! I’ve seen people at my gym bring their tablets and stream their netflix shoes through it (but I guess it depends if you have a tablet (I don’t) and if there is wifi at the gym).

    1. I wish I had a tablet! That would be such a cool idea! Yeah studding works well if you’re going to be running in the snow a lot – that’s the case here so I’m glad the running store here has that service!

    1. Haha it’s rough but not as bad as I thought! The worst part is before and after the run – it’s super cold!

  2. I’m pretty good at dealing with the cold and being out in it, but I’ve never tried running in the snow. Thats when I switch to gym before work (if I can go, seeing as they can’t seem to plow in VA). I didn’t know you could stud running shoes. That’s awesome. Props to you.

    I’m considering (in addition to music) trying out podcasts while running this winter to keep my interest. Also I’m going to give audio books a try, at the recommendation of a friend who’s been doing that.

    1. That’s such a good idea! I am on high alert with all of the moose sightings when I run outside so podcasts will have to be an indoors thing for me. Snow is more fun to run in than I thought it would be, but it’s definitely harder too!

    1. Thank you for the suggestion! That head lamp looks awesome! Luckily I won’t see a single car on my runs but I do want to be reflective so that other runners and skiers can see me. I’ll have to check some stuff out!

  3. I’m no help, I run pretty much exclusively indoors during the winter. I’m too afraid of slipping! It would be really cool if you did a post later of all the recommendations you got/what you bought to help others!

    1. Haha I haven’t slipped yet, so if I can do it anyone can! There’s something so pretty about running in the snow. I definitely want to do a post later with all the ideas!

  4. Headlamps are very comfortable, and fun to wear. It makes ya feel like a cave explorer. I’ve also seen knuckle lights that go on your hands which look awesome. Also, the best thing to do at the gym is listen to the “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show Replay Channel” on the iHeart Radio app. It’s GREAT. They keep you laughing through your workout, and keep you completely distracted. It’s my cure for long boring treadmills lol also, some other pod-casts may be good too lol… but Elvis is where it’s at 😉

    1. OH MY GOD I LOVE ELVIS DURAN! We don’t have him on the radio here but I used to listen to him for hours every day on my commutes back in Philly! I will definitely download some of his stuff! And I’m glad to hear that headlamps are comfortable. I’ve never worn one but now I think I need to!

  5. Studded tires are the best! It’s scary when you first take them off though. It feels like you’re sliding all over.
    I didn’t know you could get shoes professionally studded. Is that costly?!

    1. Oh no! Don’t tell me that! Although I will probably have these on until April so I’ll worry about that later. I know that you can stud them at home yourself but there was no way I was trying that. The running store here charges $10 per shoe but I got them done half price this weekend!

  6. I’ve used a headlamp while running – mine is Petzl brand – I think the model is Tikka 2. My best advice is to find one that you can adjust where the light goes – one that has the option to rachet up or down – otherwise the light just diffuses into the dark!

    1. You are the second person to recommend that brand! I will have to try it out! I also love that advice, that’s something I never would have thought to do. Thanks!

  7. This is amazing to me! Here I am dreading a Virginia winter, and I’m am sure there will be very few days that get anywhere near as cold as you’re getting ready for!
    Although, last year was an extremely snowy year… I love the idea of studding your running shoes, I didn’t realize you could do that.

    1. I’m not sure what to think about winter because Anchorage is not the snowiest or coldest city in the US. It is the darkest though in the winter, so I’m really worried about being able to run in the dark after work! I know that many times last year it was warmer here than in Philly so I’m just going to hope I can handle whatever happens this year. Winter is definitely longer so I need good suggestions to get through it!

    1. I think that’s what they did to my shoes! I didn’t watch them, but I know they used a drill. They look super intense so I hope they work!

  8. I love winter running in NY, but it’s probably nothing compared to Alaska! Last year on below zero days, I layered up with a heat tech inner layer, mid layer and jacket. Ski gloves with an inner liner and double layers of socks helped. The big thing for me was wearing a running cap and a balaclava on top of it. My balaclava has a cover for over the mouth that’s easy to tug up and down. I probably looked a little silly in two hats, but I wasn’t cold.

    1. Some places in NY are snowier than Anchorage so maybe we’ll be running in similar stuff! I love your suggestion for layering gloves – my fingers are always cold no matter what! And I definitely need a balaclava. That’s on my Christmas list!

  9. Gosh. I wouldn’t even know where to begin! It’s a whole new lifestyle all together! I do know that you could try using the disposable hand warmers to keep your hands warm but they might be a little pricey to keep buying. As for snow driving, I had to learn how to do it last year in the PA snow”pocalypse” so if this southern gal can do it, you totally can!

    1. Thanks! I know many times last year it was warmer in Anchorage than in Philly, so I’m hoping that trend continues. I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like for sure!

  10. No need for gaiters. And just normal socks. Your feet will be plenty hot from running and just get wet anyways. I never used a headlamp on the coastal trail and such. Usually enough light when you adjust. And the Chester creek trail is lighted for a large ways. Any headlamp from rei will work great. Your phone may turn off in the cold, so just keep it in a pocket. And a nice pair of running gloves will work. Or two pairs and double up. I’ve run down to -30 for a 2 hour run before. It’s fine as long as you don’t stop!

  11. Okay so I don’t know which one of you is answering here but whoever it is, you are a badass for doing a run like that! Other comments:

    1. On those trails will the snow be over my ankles or is it packed down pretty quickly?
    2. I wil definitely be using the Chester Creek Trail after work for its awesome street lights and the fact that it’s super close to my apartment. Did you wear a head lamp when you ran on lighted trails or is that overkill?
    3. My phone has randomly shut off twice lately while running!!! Now I know why! Pocket time I guess.

    Thanks for the tips! I think I can handle this 🙂 Also, I was driving past Spenard Roadhouse today and saw so many hipsters in the parking lot and it made me laugh. I thought you would have enjoyed it!

  12. I have nothing to add about running in frigid weather (southern gal). But, if you want to be seen, try an LED armband from NiteBeams. It has a couple of settings (constant, flashing) and comes in a variety of colors. Others will definitely see YOU. Love reading about Alaska!

  13. My only advice is for running in the dark. Try knuckle lights. They’re like a head lamp for your hands. I like them much better than a head lamp, both in terms of comfort and coverage. Good luck!

      1. They worked well with my running mittens last winter, so I imagine they’d work with gloves. The strap part is adjustable and is rubber so it doesn’t slip too much.

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