Running in Extreme Cold.


Today’s post is about running in the cold – specifically, the extreme cold. Obviously, “extreme cold” means different things to different people. For purposes of this post, it means temperature/wind that would give you frostbite in 30 minutes or less.

This post was prompted by my run yesterday. It was a balmy 0 degrees fahrenheit with a light breeze. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of days like that every winter (I can hear Canadians and Minnesotans snickering at me).

What to Wear

Layers. I usually wear pants, a thin shirt, a mid-layer shirt and a decent-quality running jacket. I wear a hat and gloves. If the temperature is hovering around zero, or if it’s really windy, I’ll use a neck warmer and a second pair of gloves.

Things to Remember

Don’t get your feet wet. Wet feet are definitely a recipe for frostbite.

Stay close to home. When the chill starts to set in, you don’t want to be several miles out.

Bring your phone and keep it out of the cold. You never know when you will need that emergency contact.

Focus. It is easy to get distracted when it’s that cold and you don’t want to fall on a snowy/icy patch.


Running in the cold is not dangerous, per se.

Your lungs will not freeze! That is an old myth, and a rather silly one at that!

Be smart.


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13 Responses to Running in Extreme Cold.

  1. Anything below 20’s keeps me inside.

  2. Chris P says:

    Excellent advice. I think it is important to note that some people require a little bit of time to get used to running in the cold. It usually takes my lungs a few weeks to get used to running in temps below 30F for instance. Before I get used to it, I tend to suffer from shortness of breath which really interferes with my running. Happy Running, and good luck with your next race!

  3. txa1265 says:

    Great post 🙂

    I think the other thing is to work into it gradually, both in terms of temperature / wind chill and also distance. Problem with people who make New Year’s Resolutions to run a marathon or whatever is that suddenly they are trying to run 5+ miles in sub-zero wind chills without any clue of how they should approach it!

    And I definitely agree on the distance thing – at this time of year I am never more than 0.75mi from home once the temp/wind chill gets below ~10F, and have my routes set up around the loops I can construct with the developments in the area, shifting based on wind speed and direction. Wind chill this morning was about -20F or so … but my 7.5 miles was very doable based on a strategic approach and long history of doing this.

    • Jason says:

      Great point – New Year’s resolutions can be a recipe for disaster. The last thing you want to do is get sweaty running and then be forced to walk!

  4. HC says:

    Great tips. I learned to stay close to home the hard way, running with the wind for miles. When I turned around it felt 10 degrees colder plus I was going slower because of strong winds. Now I stick to wide loops instead of straight out and backs in winter. I love cold weather running, but it does call for some flexibility.

  5. I’m so glad I don’t run in extreme cold!

  6. OmniRunner says:

    Good advice. It is all about layering and respecting mother nature. Sometimes I use sunscreen to protect my face.
    I’ve run well below 0 before. So far I’ve adjusted enough that 20F feels okay. Can’t wait for July!
    Cheers – Andy

  7. I follow a similar set of rules; I don’t mind cold temps theoretically but below zero feels like or actual is too much for my Raynauds and not worth it outside. One of my favorite tricks for super cold days outside, however, is vaseline on the cheeks. It might be an old wife’s tale but I haven’t had frostbite in a decade (knock on wood).

  8. Jane Likes to Run says:

    Great advice. I actually think running in the extreme cold can be safer than running in extreme heat. I learned the thing about cell phones the hard way. Nothing broke, but my ipod will not turn on in anything below -10. Lazy Bastard.

  9. Maria Mintz says:

    Taking the phone for emergencies is great idea. Can you fit it in your mitten to keep it warm? It saved your uncle’s life when he had a heart attack while biking a long distance.

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