Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Running in Winter Conditions

With Sheffield Park Runs cancelled last week and more winter weather on its way its worth thinking about how to avoid injury when the roads are covered in snow and ice.

Every year we see injuries caused by changes in loading due to running on snow and ice. Typically affected are the the feet, back and hips. Even Elite orienteers who do much of their training in heavy terrain can quickly develop overuse injuries when suddenly doing a lot of running in deep snow.

(Photo by Dave Peel, Explorer Events)

Ice is both hard and slippy and both have an effect on the loads through your body. The harder surface combined with changes in footwear to increase grip mean more impact through the feet and body. And no matter how grippy your footwear your whole body will be working harder to provide the extra control and stability.

Softer snow tends to be easier, particularly if you run off-roads regularly, but you need to push off harder with a higher knee lift and this works the hips, pelvis and lower back harder. Melting snow or thinner coatings of soft snow can also be very slippy.


Veteran Road Runner, Equipment Geek and Bambi-on-Ice Paul Faulkner, has, as usual, tested the commonly available options.

If possible he suggests using shoes with grips, which for ice means attaching something like Yaktrax Ice Grips to your existing shoes, or buying a pair of shoes with metal studs built in such as the Inov-8 Oroc 340s. Paul advises that for soft snow normal footwear is fine, but using Yaktrax is better. On ice Yaktrax still function but purpose-built shoes such as Orocs are better.

If there are only patches of ice then running long distances with metal studs is likely to do more harm than good so it’s a question of using normal shoes and dodging the ice as much as possible.

If you aren’t confident then slow down, take shorter steps on icy sections, run on trails rather than roads where the ice tends to be broken up by the terrain, and run on grass at the side of roads and paths rather than on the tarmac.
Overuse Injuries

Anytime you vary your training you are at risk until your body adapts - so for most people snow and ice means increased risk. The best advice is be sensible - consider adapting mileage goals and reducing your hours training. Also consider:
  • Leaving extra recovery time between runs or sessions, particularly if you are feeling sore or tight from a previous run
  • Stretch and foam roller tight calves, feet, hips and back
  • Consider doing harder runs on a treadmill, noting this is also a change of surface
  • If possible cross-train - perhaps try biking on a turbo trainer, a spinning class, swimming or aqua-jogging.