How Can You Run in the Snow Without Falling?

Here we are again. It’s the middle of winter and where you are, there’s probably snow on the ground because you’re here in this particular video.

Here we are again. It’s the middle of winter and where you are, there’s probably snow on the ground because you’re here in this particular video. You want to go out for a run, but you’re concerned because it’s kind of icy, it’s kind of snowy, you just don’t know, can you run in the snow without falling?

If you haven’t been with me on the channel before, hit that subscribe button. Stick around with me for future episodes of Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running from anything like today’s topic, to training, injuries, and the entire span of what it is to be a runner and runner’s life. Now, I will be the first to admit that I go out running when it’s been snowing for a long time really, without a whole lot of consideration. I’m getting a little bit smarter about it as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now competitively, and I don’t really let the snow stop me that much.

I did however when I was younger, go out just anytime. But most recently, it was snowing, we had maybe four to five inches on the ground, there was a layer of ice underneath the snow. And it was such that it was going to be an impediment to running because when we run to the snow, we’re going to slow down, it changes our biomechanics, and we simply can’t go as fast as we normally would. Now, if you’re packing down snow, you’re the first one on it, you’re going to go slower than if you let other people pack it down first, and then run on top of that.

So, that’s kind of what I did. It was a Friday, snowing, I let people go out onto the trail near me. And then on Saturday, I went out and I did my run on top of that. Instead of being the first one out, I kind of let other people be the first one out, take the shot for me, and then run on top of that.

Now, on that run, something happened that doesn’t typically happen. I’ve been doing real well, I’d hit my turnaround, I was coming back, I had about a mile and a half to go. Coming up to this parking lot, I’d gone through it on the way out, it was an out and back run. I saw this patch of ice. I said oh, there’s some ice. Let’s avoid that. I don’t want to be on that. I’m going to go around and be smart. Well, what I didn’t know is where I was stepping there was black ice. I hit it. I slid. I smashed my knee on the ground, rolled a couple times as to not put more pressure onto that knee, probably looked ridiculous.

Got up took a couple of minutes, a guy stopped, checked that I was okay, thank you very much if you’re watching this video, although he probably wouldn’t recognize me. We both had masks on because it was that cold. And as I’ll show you in the pictures this is kind of the aftermath of what that was. I didn’t even know it was that bad because I ran the last mile and half really without issue. But it was a case of overconfidence, right? As I mentioned at the top of this video, I’ve been doing this forever. I mean, I never really give a whole lot of consideration to the snow. I know that it’s going to be a matter of, hey, I can go out and run.

I know I’m going to shorten my stride, which it’s actually a good exercise to shorten your stride and increase your turnover. Because when you push off longer, you’re more likely to slip. So, you’re going to have this slightly, I’ll call it choppier, but it’s more efficient, high turnover kind of cadence when you’re running in the snow. You’re also going to work your core more. So, the same kind of mileage as you normally run feels longer. But I got a little bit beat up because I fell.

And again, it was a matter of overconfidence. I should have just stopped and probably walked across this parking lot. Because there were various patches of ice, not ice, black ice, that it really wasn’t worth kind of busting my knee over. And it ended up being swollen for a couple of days. Fortunately, back to running here in, I think three days later, really without too much incident. But it could have been much worse.

So, the question really is, how do you run without falling, without making dumb mistakes like I made? And the simple answer is you get crampons. Now these are devices that are made to go on your shoes, go on the bottom. There’s these nice little spikes on them. These particular ones have effectively chains. It’s kind of like chains for your tires. Here’s the non-crampon shoe here. These are going to let you dig into the ice and get more traction. Now, you can, in a pinch, if you ran high school or college cross country, use your spikes. But I wouldn’t recommend those necessarily for a long run. There’s a lack of padding. It’s going to fit tighter, there’s going to be less protection around your foot, but they can work.

I’ve told this story before, but in college we did what I refer to as the ice mile. Our coach, rightly or wrongly, decided we’re going to do a mile time trial on the track when he was covered in snow and ice, I happened to be the only one that brought spikes with me. And that meant I ended up finishing like 20-30 seconds ahead of other guys who were of basically equal fitness with me, because they didn’t have traction, they were just wearing basically regular trainers. And I had some kind of traction on me. And that is the significant difference here is that when you have extra traction, you’re less likely to slip. And you’re going to be able to go out and run without making dumb mistakes like I did.

So, get some crampons. No, maybe you’re not going to use them every single day, but they’re a good thing to have in the closet. And that’s why I finally went and bought some after 20 years of running. Try to be smarter than myself instead of being overconfident. Go back to that beginner’s mind, what should you be doing instead of thinking, I’m good enough to not do this thing. Nobody is immune from overconfidence, myself included, obviously. So, crampons are really the answer, get some traction on your shoes, just like putting chains on your tires on your car if you need to get through something thick, like ice and snow. And that is going to be the best way to go out and run without falling.

But as I mentioned, also, you’re going to shorten your stride. If you have one of those really long strides, a low cadence where you push hard off the back, you’re going to want to shorten that up, increase your cadence, and then use that to run in the snow. Because the farther you push off, the more unstable your core becomes, and the higher likelihood that you’re going to slip and you hit a patch of ice when you’re going through that push off motion. So, use it as an opportunity to increase your cadence and work on that high turnover. Which will in turn, generate a high turnover when you are running on regular payment, regular track, regular surface so that you can run faster, more efficiently, more effectively.

So, do you have any other tips for running on the snow? Hopefully it’s not dragging a bag of kitty litter with you wherever you go because that would be heavy and unnecessary. Leave them down in those comments below, share them with me, share them with your fellow runners. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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