Winter Running: 6 Tips for Snow Running Success

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Oh Gallatin Valley, ‘tis the season and we all know exactly what’s coming. Snow!!

And while many of us are stoked to rip down Bridger Bowl or Loan Peak, not everyone loves giving up their favorite running trails until the Spring thaw. So why should we have to?


If there is snow way you are willing to let winter running go, check out Physical Therapy Elite’s: 6 Tips For Snow Running Success.


1. Adaptation Period.

You know that feeling you get after your first long run of the season on ice and the subsequent calf burn you get the next day? Can I get a foam roller any one?

Running on snow and ice require your muscles to work differently than they do on bare land. And just as you wouldn't go from couch to 5 mile repeats at wind sprint speed - Don't expect to be able to just jump into running the same mileage that you have been recently running on bare ground. To minimize the likelihood for injury, take time to build run specific strength (great idea for “offseason” training anyways) and respect the tissue adaptation period.  Consider counting miles on snow/ice as double miles until you feel your body has fully adapted to the new surface. This generally takes 4-6 weeks.


2. Traction, Rocks!

Traction can be a huge advantage when on especially icy and mixed snow condition trails. It can make adventuring a little more secure and so much more enjoyable. We really love the Kahtoola Spikes sold at Bozeman Running Company. The Nano Spikes are great for around town and the Micro Spikes are perfect for bigger trail adventures.  

When trying to size your shoes for traction, you usually want to scale down one size from what the manufacturer recommends. Traction devices tend to get sized a bit larger to fit more cumbersome boots and there's nothing worse than slipping on a patch of ice only because your traction has shifted around to the side of your foot. The awesome folks at BRC can provide great insight to what will work best with your shoes.


3. Consider Snowshoes.

Consider challenging your running in new ways with a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoes open up virtually endless possibility for new trails. Atlas Snowshoes make a super rad, light weight run and race shoe. This can be an incredible compliment to your dry weather running and will push the boundaries of both your cardio and muscular endurance.


4. Choose Socks Wisely.

Keeping feet warm when running in snow/cold is a huge priority. This is not only a matter of comfort but a matter of safety. Cold/wet feet in sub freezing temps can result in a very real case of frostbite. Many of us in Montana already understand the no-no of cotton in the winter...but for those of us transplanted from warmer climates: “Doubling-up” on socks do nothing to keep feet warmer, especially with cotton. Look for socks that have a quality wool blend and at the very least are moisture wicking.


5. Explore More Trails.

Snowmobile routes, Nordic ski trails, and frozen lakes can all make for great winter trail running, so get creative.

When running on trails that are primarily used by other groups, be sure that they are, in fact, multi-use trails. The Bridger Ski Foundation does an awesome job of grooming Sourdough and other in town trails. Some ski trails allow foot travel on the outside of the classic tracks where you are not damaging the skate lane. BSF works super hard to make these trails awesome for Nordic skiers - so let’s all do our part to protect them.


6. Take Things In Stride.

Focus on shortening your stride when learning to run on snow/ice.

Besides being more efficient, a short, quick (and light) stride gives you more control and better ability to adjust quickly. Keeping your feet under your center of gravity will help you land with less ground reaction forces in turn preserving your forward momentum.


We have a natural tendency to lean back and on our heels when we’re scared. Skiers, you know that’s what most beginners do, and that’s exactly what makes skiing more difficult. The same is true with running. You want to lean forward slightly, relax your ankles, stay on your forefoot to midfoot, drive back with glutes and keep moving to snow running bliss!

Still have questions? As always, feel free to reach out to the running experts at Physical Therapy Elite.