Fit sportswoman doing warm up exercises in nature on a snow
Running is one of the best ways to stay healthy and in shape, but unfortunately, when you live in places like Canada, where the winters have an average temp between -5 and -15 degrees Celsius, running isn’t always an option. Running in cold weather during the winter months can be uncomfortable, but even more important, it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Which is why we want to talk about winter safety for runners, how to avoid injuries, and what are some alternative things you can do.

With the right preparation, running outdoors during winter can be both safe and enjoyable. To help you stay active and healthy this season, here is some advice from a professional physiotherapy clinic on how to prepare for outdoor runs during the winter months. Learn what steps to take before your next run so that you can enjoy running safely throughout the year. Now, grab your coffee, and let’s get started!

Prepare With The Right Gear

Nobody likes to be cold, but bundling up is important when heading out during the winter months here in Canada. You’ll want to make sure you’re wearing layers of appropriate materials that can keep you warm and dry as well as protect your skin from the elements. This might seem obvious, but the right type of layers is what is important! You’ll want to invest in some running tights that are insulated but with a breathable material; a mid-layer, a waterproof layer; gloves; and a beanie if necessary (which is most cases is).

African Canadian man running on winter day
With that being said, you don’t want too heavy of layers, there is a reason you don’t ever see people running around in a parka! When you go running during the winter months, one of the most important things to do is properly manage your sweat. So make sure you have a base layer of clothes that can help with the sweat. Then you can follow up with a normal layer, and lastly your waterproof or slightly heavier layer.

If you go too heavier or with too many layers, it just doesn’t work. After all, you’ll still be working up a sweat!

Stretching Is Essential (Duh)

We probably don’t need to tell you this if you’re a runner, but we’re going to anyways. Stretching before any workout is essential regardless of season, however, it’s especially important when it comes to winter running. Cold weather tends to make our muscles tighter so we recommend doing dynamic stretches beforehand – this helps activate the muscles and increase blood flow, which can help prevent injuries.

If you’re feeling particularly tight and sore before running more often than not, a physiotherapy session can be a great option. A professional physiotherapist can assess your range of motion and provide advice on stretching as well as strengthening exercises to help you prepare for winter runs. Always be prepared.

Use Shorter Strides

When running on icy ground, it’s important to take shorter strides than you normally would in order to keep your footing. This will help give you more balance and control while also reducing the risk of a fall or slip. This is critical if you want to avoid injuries while running on snow and ice. Also, when you’re running downhill, try to land with your foot flat as this will reduce the impact on your joints.

This might feel weird at first, but trust us when we say that it makes a huge difference in protecting against falls and it’s a lot better than having to come in for an injury because you decided to run like normal in bad conditions.


Woman running in winter time

Be Reflective & Keep An Eye Out

There are two big points here to be made that go hand in hand. Which both are mainly around dealing with vehicles on the roads. The first is to remember to always wear something, at the very least one thing, that is reflective. This is important because there are fewer hours of daylight during the winter months, and cars don’t always see runners who aren’t wearing reflective clothing. (Although you should be wearing this regardless of the weather conditions.)

The second point is to keep your head up when running. We know that it’s easy to zone out for a bit while running and think about other things, but keeping an eye on your surroundings is essential in order to be safe from cars or any other potential dangers. Cars won’t have as good of traction as they normally would, so even if they saw you, they may not be able to break or move out of the way due to the conditions. So make sure to be diligent and keep an eye out.

Wear Better Shoes With Grip

As a runner, you want to make sure that you are wearing the correct shoes for the terrain and the weather. Just because you have an expensive pair, doesn’t mean they’re right for any weather condition. During winter, especially, you need to be wearing shoes that have a good grip on slippery surfaces like ice or snow. Look for winter running or trail-running shoes as they tend to be more waterproof than regular running shoes, provide better protection from cold temperatures, and offer more traction (Which means fewer slips).

Post Run Advice

Taking care of your body after a cold winter run is just as important as preparing for the run. It’s important to remember that your muscles and body will be slightly more fatigued after running in the winter due to the cold temperature. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few post-run activities up your sleeve to help warm you up and get your blood flowing. A quick stretch can do wonders for sore, tired muscles, or even jumping jacks and push-ups if you’re feeling brave.

The other key thing is making sure you take off all of those wet and sweaty clothes. Before you jump in the shower, allow your body temperature to return to normal. Otherwise, that hot shower might be uncomfortable.

Now with that being covered, let’s take at a couple of alternative ways that you can train as a runner during the winter months.

Find Alternative Ways To Train During The Winter Months

Winter is a great time to mix up your running routine and try some new exercises. Swimming, cycling, and strength training are all good options when it comes to cross-training during the winter months. They all offer you the type of exercise your body needs!


Swimming is a great low-impact activity that helps build endurance without putting too much stress on your joints – something you can benefit from if you’re an avid runner looking for a break from the pavement.


Cycling will also help build your endurance while increasing leg strength.

Resistance Training

And lastly, resistance training with weights or bands is another way to increase muscle power and get ready for the warm days when you’ll be able to hit the roads again!

Even if you don’t completely take a break from running during the winter months, incorporating these types of exercises a couple of times a month can help reduce the chances of injury from running outside in the cold while still maintaining your strength and endurance.

tips for winter running from a physiotherapist

2023 Injury Prevention for Runners During Winter

It’s 2023 and we need to be diligent with how we treat our bodies. It’s been a tough winter already here in Canada, but by incorporating all of the tips we provided, you’ll be able to greatly lower that risk of injury.

Remember to have fun though! Winter can be a great season for outdoor runs as long as you prepare properly and follow these tips. So gear up, bundle up, stay hydrated, and enjoy the fresh air of winter! Here at our physiotherapy clinic in Belleville, we strive to connect and help our patients out. Even with these simple steps taken, you are well on your way to healthy winter. Now get out there and enjoy a safe winter run!

Happy running! 🙂