It’s no secret that temperatures drop in winter. Running in the winter can make you feel like you earned that nice, warm shower at the end of each run, but to keep earning that shower you have to run smart. Running injury free is a task that we all take up as soon as we put on our shoes, but in winter, there are some factors that require a little more attention to stay healthy. I, and many others, have encountered falls, tightness, foot pain, freezing hands, and near misses with people and cars- just to name a few. These common winter injuries are preventable and may take some trial and error, but will make your winter running much more comfortable, enjoyable, and rewarding in the long run.
With temperature drops, especially in Reno, comes ice. Roads and sidewalks freeze overnight and cause danger to both pedestrians and drivers alike. I myself have fallen or slipped while running on an icy surface and scraped a knee or rolled an ankle. I realized after that it would’ve been avoidable if I slowed down and walked or if I went around the patch of ice. It’s better to slow down than ruin the fun for the rest of the run. We also have a product for those of you that run on icy paths frequently called Yak Tracks. Yak Tracks are like tire chains for your shoes. You find the right size, stretch it over the bottom of your shoe, and make sure it fits snug. Then you have much better traction on icy roads and sidewalks. Injuries are a slippery slope, so it’s best to be prepared.
We all get told to stay warm, which is why dressing appropriately and warming up correctly is especially critical in winter. Our muscles naturally get tighter when it’s cold. They’re like a rubber band in a way, the colder they get the less elastic they get. While this applies to all seasons, active stretches are best to warm up with. This means moving while also stretching. Some stretches are dynamic in nature, but for the ones that aren’t you can take a step or two in between reps to keep the blood moving. My personal favorite to start with is swinging my legs, one at a time, across my body for ten swings each and then next to my body for ten. If you’re feeling especially tight in the calves like I do, calf sleeves are a great way to stay loose and warm. The sleeves promote circulation through compression which aids in keeping them loose. After your run, rolling is a great way to relieve your muscles after the work they’ve done. Rollers vary in stiffness, size and shape, so it’s best to test them out with our demos at all locations!
A specific problem I see in winter is reactivation or temporary worsening of plantar pain. The bottom of your foot is remarkably engineered to run in an extremely efficient way. With your foot being the closest thing to the ground, it often can get the coldest which tightens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. There are more than a few things you can do to help mitigate and start feeling better after using your tools. The first thing you can do if you haven’t is to get new shoes and get a gait analysis. The analysis will help us eliminate half the shoes from our wall so we can get the best shoe for you. After you get your gait analysis and tell us about your pain, we’ll pull appropriate shoes based on your circumstances. Next, we might try an insole. This will provide more support to your foot and can ease the discomfort. Then we should consider the socks you wear. There are options from great companies such as Balega, Feetures, Swiftwick, OS1st, CEP, and Injinji. Do not be overwhelmed by the options. The shop staff can help you find a sock that will wick away moisture to keep your foot warm, dry, and happy. We also have products to help massage and relax your foot like the Footlog and a host of balls of differing textures, sizes, and densities. This combination of gear along with a good pair of Oofos or Hoka Oras to wear around the house should aid in your journey to have less foot pain, especially when it’s cold out.
While your body gets roughly 15° warmer while running, it’s still no spring day. Numbness and cold extremities are very common, especially for me. Cross country post season starts mid fall and track preseason starts in the middle of winter, so even though I’m working out, my hands, toes, and ears still burn from the cold. I usually run with a pair of thicker gloves, a beanie, a light jacket, and thick socks. This keeps the things that get cold warm, without making me too hot. You know your body best so experiment with ways to keep warm. We have plenty of hats, gloves, mittens, and running jackets (and more) for you try on and see how they feel before you add them to your gear arsenal. While we’re on accessories, sunglasses are never a bad idea. The snow, ice, and water make it hard for me to see when I’m running, so I pop on a pair of sunglasses, and I feel safer knowing I can see the cars and pedestrians around me. A pair of polarized, UV-protecting Goodrs should work some magic in both style and function.
General safety tips also reduce injuries as well. Plan your routes ahead of time to try to stay in sunny areas. It is also good to notice where shade is because shady spots, like (for example) those on Baring, Sparks, and Vista Blvds., tend to accumulate lots of ice that does not melt. Running in the afternoon or evening also gives time for the ice to melt, so if that is an option, I would take it. As always, be aware when you are running, look for obstacles and pay attention to your surroundings. Roads are icy too, so it is always a good idea to make sure a car you see is fully stopped before crossing the street. Checking the weather and road conditions the night before and making sure you have the appropriate gear makes getting ready take less time and leaves more time for the run! Always tell someone where you are going. Winter runs can feel like an adventure and if you are going on an adventure (in your neighborhood or farther abroad) include the times, place, when you expect to be back, and what vehicle you are taking. It never hurts to be prepared!
While outdoor activities that are not snow sports tend to slow down in the winter, the love of running does not. What really keeps runners warm is that fire and passion for running. Winter presents unique challenges that the other seasons have that can cause injuries to start or get worse, but they are preventable. The best way to deal with an injury is to stop it before it starts! My coworkers and I are always more than happy to share our experience to help you stay injury free in the cold months and the rest of the year, too! We have plenty of knowledge and helpful products to support your active lifestyle goals. Stay warm out there. Cheers and keep running!