How to run when it’s so cold you can’t feel your toes

It’s sub-zero outside and the wind is bitter. You’re asking yourself whether you should go out for a run or stay in the warm. If, like me, you start your day with a run, then it’s probably dark as well – which only adds to the quandary.

Get the right kit

Running in the cold requires good kit you know you can rely on. Here are some favourites:

  • Long-sleeved merino wool tops – warm yet with an almost magical ability to wick sweat away from your skin.
  • Loads of layers – the colder it is, the more I wrap up (makes sense, right). Each of those layers helps to trap some air.
  • A good waterproof as the final layer – with up to four layers underneath.
  • A snug buff to keep my head warm – comfy, yet breathable. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear a really thick neck warmer from my old motorcycle kit. It’s a bit over the top but it keeps me toasty.

As for gloves, I find them tricky and I’d love any ideas you have (leave me a comment below). I suffer from Reynaud’s phenomenon, which means my hands have very poor circulation in the cold, and the pain can be excruciating. I tend to wear Gore-Tex gloves even when it is not so cold. I bought some Raidlight mittens which I can put on top when it gets colder again. And, for extreme weather, my super-thick motor cycle gloves do the trick. It looks a bit odd, but it’s all function over form!

More than layering

Now for a less obvious thing: staying hydrated. Do remember to stay hydrated in the cold. That cold, icy breath you are expelling includes moisture. If you’re over-dressed (like me) to stay warm, you’ll also sweat more than usual.

I’ve written about my pre-run routine before. Other than when I clock up a long run on a Sunday, I usually run without eating beforehand (fasted), drinking just garlic water before I set off. But when it’s cold, I love a black coffee to get me in the mood and ready to leave.

It sounds corny but it’s true: I’ve never regretted actually going for a run. It might feel like the hardest thing just to get out there, but you inevitably feel a huge sense of achievement on the way back. Even better, if it’s really freezing, you’ll see the surprise on drivers’ faces as you run past!

Endurance running encompasses a lot. Running in ‘extreme’ temperatures could easily be part of it. It’s mind over matter, one foot in front of the other, whatever the thermometer says. Just be sensible, get prepared with the right kit, and know that you have my absolute respect!

Let me know your cold weather kit suggestions below or drop me a line on I’d love to know what your tried and tested staples are!

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