How to Keep Your Feet Warm on Winter Runs

One of the hardest things about running outside in the cold weather is dealing with cold feet. Unfortunately, the shoes and socks you are used to wearing in warmer weather don't work well in winter. Follow these tips to keep your feet warm so you can have a pleasant winter run.

Socks

Female running on elevated forest walkway in winter
Frank van Delft/Cultura/Getty Images

Be sure to wear a good pair of socks made of fabrics such as acrylic, CoolMax, or wool that wick moisture away from the feet. Never wear cotton socks when running because they keep sweat and moisture next to the skin, leaving your feet wet and at risk for frostbite. Your cold weather running socks may be thicker than your warm weather socks and a taller length to cover more of your ankle and calf.

Warm Up Inside

Your feet will obviously be the coldest at the beginning of your run. To avoid that uncomfortable feeling for your first mile or so, try marching or slowly jogging in place for a few minutes inside before you head out. If you're at a race, you can do that same thing at the race start. Keep flexing your feet or jog in place, on your toes, to keep the blood flowing to your feet.

Wear Two Pairs of Socks

If it's really cold, you may need to wear two pairs of socks—one thinner (synthetic material) pair closest to your feet and a thicker (wool) pair over them. The one caveat for this strategy is that you have to be careful that your running shoes still fit properly with the extra layer. You may want to purchase another pair of running shoes that are a half size bigger than regular running shoes so you have some extra room. To help prevent your feet from sweating too much, spray antiperspirant on them before you put your socks on.

Warmers in Your Shoes

You can find single-use foot warmers to slip into your shoes or use Grabber Hand Warmers for really cold days. You simply take them out of the package and they heat up through a reaction with air. The foot warmer designs go under your feet. You can use the hand warmer type inside your sock, on top of your toes. Once your feet warm up, you can take them out so you don't overheat. You might keep them handy in your pocket to warm up your hands at the end of your run.

Avoid Puddles, Slush, and Snow

Steer clear of the wet ground. It may seem like fun to run in the snow for a little while, but your feet will get wet and cold quickly. Wet feet lose heat far faster than dry feet and your body won't be able to keep the temperature up on your toes.

Shoes

For cold weather running, look for a running shoe with as little mesh as possible, since that's where the cold wind or water will get through to chill your feet. If you can't avoid running in the snow or slush, you may want to think about buying trail running shoes, which come in men's and ​women's designs. Many styles are somewhat water-resistant and will give you a little more traction in the snow.

Dress for Cold Weather and Wear a Hat

Keep the rest of your body insulated so you have enough heat to send to your feet. Learn to dress for cold weather running from head to toe. During warmer weather, you are focused on staying cool, but in winter you will need to also protect from the cold. On top, wear a wool or synthetic blend hat that will wick away sweat and protect your head and face from the winter sun. There are winter running hats for men and women.

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