What to wear when winter running

Christian Schiester
© Jürgen Skarwan/Red Bull Content Pool

Trail runners Philipp Reiter and Christian Schiester give the gear lowdown on winter running.

It's said that winter forms our character and brings out our best. So it would be a shame to stop running just because of some snow and ice. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.

When the mercury drops, it could be tempting to wrap up in the warmest gear, or to invest in a futuristic suit like the one Christian Schiester is wearing above. But it's not something Schiester would recommend.

“In Antarctica, temperatures go as low as -40. It's not that bad in Europe,” the ultra-runner says. “The most important thing is to be dry,” he adds. “In winter, that means wearing three or four layers.”

Ryan Sandes running up the Matroosberg.
Ryan Sandes training in his hometown© Kolesky/Nikon/Red Bull Content Pool

Trail running wonderkid and ski mountaineer Philipp Reiter agrees, and warns that looking after your feet is most important. “Once your feet get wet, they become cold and that's the end of your snow-running loop for sure.”

The German athlete recommends wearing trainers with snow spikes. “Hard crusty snow, icy sections, wet stones and slippery roots – it’s all no problem with the right choice of shoe,” he says.

His winter weapon of choice is the Salomon Snowcross CS, which has small metal spikes for enhanced traction.

Salomon snowcross© Salomon/Amer Sports

“I didn’t believe that these nine little metal pins would have any effect and I totally lost my balance,” he says. “Not because I slid but because the grip was too good on ice.” He also recommmends wearing a gaiter to keep out snow if your shoe doesn't already have one.

Most brands now offer a winterised version of at least one of their trail shoes, or you could just add some running crampons, such as the Kahtoola MicroSpikes, to your normal shoe. But not everyone likes them.

“For me, running crampons are not necessary,” says Christian, who also wears trainers with spikes, a prototype from Asics.

Kilian Jornet training on the glacier.
Kilian Jornet is also a fan of winter running© zooom.at / Markus Berger

It’s better to freeze a little bit at first.

While dry feet are a given, it gets a bit trickier to keep your body heat balanced – you don't want to freeze but you don't want to overheat either. It may be tempting to wrap up in a light down jacket before heading out the door but it's not something Reiter advises.

“I promise that you will get sweaty as soon as it gets steeper. My experience is that it’s better to freeze a little bit at first and, once the engine has reached the 'operating temperature', you get in your comfort zone.”

His winter running outfit is not complete without a Buff and also some gloves – and not just for warm fingers. “I tell you that a fall will happen to you at least twice a season – I've already had one — and you don't want to cut your hand sliding,” he says.

Christian Schiester posing for a portrait with Antarctic mountains in the back.
Schiester in his custom-made suit in Antarctica© Jürgen Skarwan/Red Bull Content Pool

But more important than gear is style.

“The most important thing is to pay attention to your surroundings,” warns Schiester, who has ambitions to win both the North Pole and South Pole marathons. “It's more difficult running in the snow and ice. If you make a mistake, you can fall and break a leg.”

The secret is to run with smaller steps at a higher frequency, says Reiter. “That way, you're more efficient.”

There's one other important thing. And that's to enjoy it, he says.

“For me, winter running is more about experiencing trails in a totally new perspective and enjoying the wonderful winter landscape. It increases your mental strength and is a totally different kind of outdoor experience.”

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