“Whether the weather, block out the sun
whether the weather bring rain
whether the weather can weather this fog
stupid questions are to blame…”
- Keller Williams, “Stupid Questions”
It’s been said about the outdoors that there’s “no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” and I completely agree. I thrive in shit weather. There’s nothing more pointless and disheartening than obsessing about the weather. For all of the moon landings and prehistoric trans-Pacific raft crossings, man is pretty awesome and has shaped this Earth.
Except for the weather, we still haven’t figured out how to control the weather. So stop worrying about it and adapt to it.
Here’s a “Greatest Hits” album of me getting it done in ridiculous weather:
I’ve been seeing a ton of people complaining about the weather and how it’s messing up their running and which roads or trails are currently plowed and runnable or where they can go to run like they want. I’m sorry to say this but you can’t run like you want to right now. Those runs you’re used to? Yeah, they have to change for a little bit. You might have to walk a half a block around insane snow banks or past that person’s house that can’t get out to shovel their sidewalk yet.
I can’t help you with the where and when and how long and all that bullshit, look- just hire a life coach I guess. Try to be okay with your runs being what they are and not what they’re supposed to be. Get a treadmill or take a rest day. Best of luck.
Section One: Your Feet
Winter running in the snow is a challenge in itself, but you have a ton of options- more often than not I have gone without traction. Trail shoes, yes. Most of the year I am wearing road shoes if the trails are dry and not overly rocky. Trail shoes are always heavier, and I opt for light. Basically what I am saying is that most of the time you don’t even need trail shoes, even if you’re running trails exclusively (gasp).
“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”
- Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away
Believe it or not, your trail shoes will usually have more than enough in the way of lugs to keep you upright even in the worst of conditions. In the event there’s some challenging ice or crusty stuff or slushy mix and it makes going up and down steep trail tough (or you just want to spend money on something to flex on people that you in fact have disposable income) consider the following options:
Screw your shoes. Sheet metal screws in the bottom of your shoes will help you gain just enough purchase on crusty ice and will only run you about $3.
Here’s step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do my preferred winter traction devices (you will need running shoes, a cordless drill, twenty-four (24) #6 3/8th inch hex head sheet metal screws and a 7mm hex head socket bit):
- Locate the shoes you want to use. Here I’m using the Altra Superior 4’s, mostly because I bought the wrong size so I have to wear very bulky socks to make up the extra room in these so they basically became my “winter” running shoes. I’ll talk more about gear like socks, underwear (ooh la la) and base layers in the section below.
2. Locate the bottom of the shoe. This should be easy but here’s a pic anyway:
3. Get your cordless drill. Put the adapter piece in and attach the hex head socket bit. This will not work if you try to just screw it with the screwdriver attachment. It just doesn’t work, gotta do it this way, TRUST ME. Your fingers will thank you.
4. Get your screws.
5. Start putting them in around the outside of the shoe. If you are a heel striker, put more in the back. I am not a heel striker and run kinda prancy so I go more in the midfoot and forefoot.
And that’s basically it. Stay off your wife’s hardwood floors in these my dudes- just like put them on in your car or something.
Yes, you can put them in the middle of the shoe provided your soles are thick enough. 3/8ths of an inch is less than 10 mm (9.525 to be exact) so unless you’re wearing bath slippers you really shouldn’t need to worry about these fuckers poking through and stabbing you. Maybe if you’re wearing a shoe with more of a rocker shape like Hokas you’ll want to put some towards the middle but I’m pretty confident running with screws around the edge, considering I usually slip out laterally. But you do you- you know your running style better than anyone so try some different things, results will always vary one person to the next.
Another option is these bad bois:
These are the $70 version from REI but word is Kahtoola never patented these so the $20 versions on Amazon are just as good. I mean, if you get one season out a pair of $20 ones I say go for it. I just ordered a pair for shits and giggles, they were literally $21.99.
Moving on, these look like bullshit but some people swear by them (NANOspikes):
Only advantage these have is that you can slip them off if you encounter concrete/asphalt.
“You’re as cold as ice…”
- Foreigner, “Cold as Ice“
These next three also both look like bullshit, first two from YakTrax and last one from Korkers:
Best advantage of the screw shoes is that you can run on asphalt/concrete and not even notice them and if you do wear them down to nubs you only lost $3. Something to consider if you are a cheap ass.
Now what if the snow is really, really deep and you’re post-holing up to your crotch? Gotta go snowshoes. I’ve been hearing really good things about Dion Snowshoes especially for running- they make a whole line of racing snowshoes that are sleek, fast and light. Here’s a link to them: Dion Performance Snowshoes
I got me a pair of Tubbs Wilderness 25s with Grateful Dead logo because that’s how I do: Tubbs x Grateful Dead Wilderness 25
The best thing about snowshoes is there’s a “Ten Step Mastery Program” to learning how to move in snowshoes. You take ten steps and that’s it, you have now mastered snowshoes.
Another invaluable thing I’ve learned about the snow is this: you gotta spend time out there because there’s literally hundreds of different feels, textures and types of snow. It’s been said the Inuits have like 500 words for snow, and while that’s not even a little bit true they do have hundreds of ways to describe snow conditions. I spend a lot of time in the snow as not only a skier and runner but as a shoveler, snowball aficionado, fort maker, sledder and father of a 5-year old. Hence, I have an easier time in the snow than someone that is new to moving their body in accumulated frozen water falling from the sky.
I’ve both run and skied in Sierra cement (wet, heavy, cement-like); I’ve been in powder, corn, crud, graupel, hail, sleet, freezing rain, crusty bullshit; you name it. Every condition calls for a different method of both traction and technique. Experiment. A lot. All the advice in the world from the self-styled Facebook running experts will never replace the actual hands-on experience of doing it.
I opt for Merino wool in the winter. I have a pair of thinner Darn Tough socks I really like (VT represent, also LIFETIME WARRANTY!) but in all honesty I have been wearing these Costco Merino wool socks I got as a 6-pack a few years ago for Christmas. Under $5 a pair and they’re as good now as the day I got them. Best thing about Merino wool- you can literally take a dump in them and they DO NOT STINK. Metaphorically speaking, please don’t poop in your socks. But seriously, your feet will be warm and dry and they naturally wick away moisture, just really one of the world’s most amazing fabrics. It’s soft, breathable, anti-microbial, fuck yeah.
Section Two: Clothing
“Run me out in the cold rain and snow…”
- Grateful Dead, “Cold Rain and Snow”
Okay so we’re talking “cold enough to elicit a baselayer” which for me is “around” freezing and below. I’ll wear shorts above like 37. But, so much depends on the wind chill. Right around 35 and below I’ll wear a cheap baselayer (again; Costco synthetic cheap stuff is fine) and if there’s no wind I’ll just wear a long sleeve tech over it.
I wear some “special” North Face underwear that has a wind patch to protect the sensitive appendages (I think it’s been discontinued but here’s a similar pair I found on RW).
For ladies: I’ve seen a few reviews for the Sugoi MidZero Bun Toaster, it’s basically the same thing I have but for ladies.
As for running tights I wear these Asics Core Thermopolis – but again, other companies make comparable stuff. It has a brushed fabric, sort of fleece inside.
If it’s really cold, like single digits- I’ll throw another pair of tights over those.
B. MORE LAYERS
Layering is the key- the general idea is to dress for it to be 20-25 degrees warmer, because that’s the heat you will likely generate within 10-15 minutes of starting. So I envision what I would wear say waiting for a bus when it’s like 45 degrees. I would try to wear similar layers for running at 20-25.
Tech shirt over baselayer most of the time, if it’s not windy. The wind will basically make freezing feel like knives. A 20-mph wind at 30 degrees makes it feel 17, and that sucks. Then say you’re running 10-minute miles, that’s an additional 6 mph of “wind” you are creating so it now feels like 15. Ugh, stop with the math.
So if yes to the wind, I’ll wear my Patagonia Houdini over that. It typically retails at $99 but if you can find last year’s colors on Backcountry.com or leftovers at the end of the season at REI you can save $25-30. It’s awesome because it weighs nothing and packs down really small and the best thing about it is that it is not actually breathable because none of that shit is. Waterproof and breathable is a myth. There, I said it. We all know it’s true. Anyway, a comparable light shell like that is usually good enough.
If it’s all the way down in single digits and I don’t want to restrict movement by wearing like eleven layers, I’ll run in a puffy. I have a synthetic down puffer from North Face called the ThermoBall– why synthetic? It has one advantage over down in that it will still keep you warm when wet. Down gets wet, it’s useless. All the outdoor companies make a synthetic puffy.
Gloves, hats, buffs, neck gaiters, etc. all that stuff is great- wear them. All the fabrics are great, PolarTec, merino wool, etc. For whatever reason I absolutely destroy gloves, they rip, tear, start to just disintegrate on me. I can get 1000 miles out of a pair of Hokas but I’m lucky to get a whole season out of one pair of gloves. So I buy cheap-ass ones from Target or Kohl’s. I’ll wear my ski mittens over running gloves when it’s like 7 degrees out.
I’ll typically wear a regular “summer” Buff and double them up for single digits, I have like 5 or 6 Buffs. Same goes for hats- just a cheapy one from the $4.99 rack at a truck stop is fine. Whatever.
Question: What if I’m Hiking?
Hiking is a slower version of ultrarunning. There I said it, it’s true and we all know it. Okay, I’ll basically dress for it to be like 5-10 degrees warmer since I’m moving about as half as fast as running so usually for winter hiking I still wear a running baselayer (special underwear with tights and a synthetic top) but will add a fleece-like top as a midlayer and the puffy and finally some waterproof softshell pants.
Question: What if I think people will be looking at my junk in tights?
Stop sexualizing running. No one is looking at your dick, dude. Shorts over tights is stupid, seriously just grow up and stop projecting.
Question: How do I run in really cold rain?
Ugh, this is the hardest question. There’s really no good answer. I mean, if you’re not racing, just take a rest day. If you are racing just fucking do it, get it done and don’t die. If you absolutely have to run in like a 40 degree downpour, then pray. In my experience, keeping your hands dry is of utmost importance- one or even two changes of gloves if you’re out there multiple hours. I wore rubber gardening gloves over North Face eTips at Boston in the above pic and they were dry for maybe the first hour. But a total of three hours and 10 minutes and my fingertips were icicles.
I’ll wear a hat to try to trap heat in, maybe throw the Houdini hood up too but then there’s a risk of over-heating since it’s not breathable (fact). Sometimes a buff on my head then a hat on top of that- there’s really no good answer to this question actually. It’s just like “you’re wet, you’re cold, just get through it…” and really try to change into dry stuff as much as you can.
“Shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather. Quiver in my voice as I cry, what a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?”
- 10,000 Maniacs, “Like the Weather”
Okay, so that’s basically it. I’ve spent hours and hours being uncomfortable to write this blog post and hopefully you realize me being a smart ass is actually me trying to help you. I want to see you succeed, I want to see you enjoy yourself.
I’m sure I’ll write a “How to Run in the Heat” article this summer once the incessant “ugh it’s so hot rn lol” posts start bothering me.