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Tips for Staying Safe and Injury Free while Running Outside this Winter


As the snow starts flying in Bozeman in October and November, I find myself getting hyped on the upcoming ski season. As exciting as ski season is, I still find myself getting plenty of mileage in running outside to stay in shape during the winter. If you are like me and get bored with pounding miles on the treadmill, winter can be a challenging time to keep up the motivation to run outside while staying injury free.

One major issue running outside is avoiding slipping and falling. Running on sidewalks is questionable at best, depending on recent storms that have come through and you’re neighborhood shoveling motivation. Wearing micro-spikes or Yak-Tracks can actually be more dangerous as you catch some dry pavement and slip. I find that sticking to town trails can be a better bet. They get pretty well packed down and stay consistently snow-covered. This way, wearing shoe traction is consistently beneficial. If you are mixing up between trails and streets, a good option is to wear trail shoes that have a slightly softer sole and a little extra grip than normal running shoes.

Another concern in winter is visibility for both yourself and others. Short days provide for many miles in the dark. Investing in a good headlamp so you can see well, especially those surprising little icy patches, is absolutely necessary. You also want to make sure that you are visible to others. Wearing reflective clothing or at least a couple garments is key to letting cars see you if you are out on the streets. Most running jackets and shirts have reflective material along the zippers and some gloves, pants, and headbands have reflective properties as well. Sometimes, this reflective material does wear out after multiple washes, so make sure to double check some of your older gear.

Dressing to get out and run in cold months is one of the more challenging skills to develop. We all have our different thresholds of cold tolerance and this also depends greatly on how long one plans to be out exercising. Synthetic or wool layers help to wick sweat and keep you warm. I would also advise underdressing slightly or at least wearing layers that are easy to get on and off as you warm up. A light-weight wind-shell is a nice option that can provide for a surprising amount of warm and helps cut the chilly wind. Gloves, headbands or hats are crucial accessories for me. I have gloves that have a mitten flap cover that can be tucked away as I warm up. A baseball cap is nice to wear if it is snowing or raining to keep your eyes from getting pelted with snow-flakes or raindrops. Tall socks are also a bonus when you accidentally post-hole through a snow bank.

From an injury perspective, consider that running on snow and icy conditions will require using more and different muscles than running on dry, level ground. I highly recommend building up mileage in these snowy conditions. As this extra conditioning is greatly beneficial to build stability and core strength, you do have to consider that some of these muscles are great deconditioned for this type of activity. If you try to keep up with your normal mileage, you may find yourself with an unnecessary case of plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ tendonitis or some other pesky over-use injury.

Chelsee Pummel is a Bozeman Health Physical Therapist at the Ridge Athletic Club.

Categories: Simply Healthy