Winter Running & Walking

Staying active during the cold, dark winter months in Michigan is not always the easiest thing, but it can be done with a little preparation and dedication. I started out as a walker and for a few years I signed up for a month-by-month membership at our small local gym to use the treadmills and other equipment. What I discovered, however, is that I don’t like being confined to the gym’s hours—using the equipment when it’s busy and exercising in front of others.

I found the answers to these issues when I changed from walking to running. I started running outside every morning, no matter how cold, icy or snowy it got. Now, this did take a little bit of adapting, but it certainly can be done.

Here are a few tips.

Invest in some good running shoes with Goretex.

I found a pair of trail runners in my favorite brand that has Goretex and they keep my feet nice and dry. Bonus: I also use these for running in my snowshoes as they are much more comfy than boots.

Invest in shoes or equipment to run on ice and slippery snow.

I personally LOVE my Icebug shoes, which have a tread made for traction and built in carbide studs. Some people put screws in the bottoms of their old running shoes or use “Yak-trax” or similar contraptions. But at the Traverse City Resolution Run I saw many “Yak-trax” along the course that had apparently fallen off during the race.


Can’t say it enough. If you want to be comfortable walking or running outside in the winter you need to layer up. There are many charts available online showing appropriate layers for different temperatures, but you also need to determine what works for YOU. I find that I am usually colder than the average person, so I often add an extra layer. I know I’m going to sweat anyway so I’d rather be comfortable. Start with a good base layer with compression and wicking fabrics. I prefer several light layers to a few bulky layers.

Wool blend socks.

Again, keeping your feet warm and dry is very important.

Cover your face.

I use turtlenecks with mesh that I can pull up to my nose and also a lightweight fleece “turtle fur” or “buff” that I can pull up when it’s extra cold or windy. I also put a little lip balm on my cheeks as a barrier to prevent frostbite or frostnip. It works better for me than petroleum jelly.


I’ve found some great wicking hats for winter running. When it’s extra cold I might add a fleece one over that or wear a jacket with a hood. I also wear a baseball cap when it’s rainy or snowy just to keep it out of my eyes.

Be visible!

Daylight is at a premium in the winter, and if you’re like me, you end up running in the dark frequently and on roads that may have snowbanks reducing the shoulders. Be sure to run AGAINST traffic so you can see the vehicles coming towards you. I have a headlamp which has a red flashing taillight, and reflective jackets and hats. It doesn’t even have to be completely dark to reduce a driver’s visibility. Better safe than sorry.

Just because it’s winter in Michigan, that’s no excuse to sit around inside or be confined to a treadmill! Get out and get some fresh air while you’re maintaining your fitness routine. You might just find out that it’s not so bad!

Written by Susan Horn, 2016 Michigan Fitness Ambassador