Is it ever too cold for running?

Some people will tell you that as long as you have the right gear, it’s never too cold to run. There is a kernel of truth to that statement, but there are truly dangerous conditions when you should either reschedule or take it to the treadmill — or do some other type of inside cardio instead: stationary bike, rowing, rebounding are all good choices if you have the equipment.

If you don’t have any indoor cardio options, all you have to do is turn to the numerous apps available online.

When can it be too dangerous to run?

Blizzard conditions
You may not mind running in the snow — maybe even in deep snow — but you have two choices outside:

  1. Drive to a (hopefully) cleared path
  2. Run in your neighborhood

Both choices are dangerous in a blizzard. Running in your neighborhood might be an option, but then you have to hope that cars don’t go off the run and hit you. Driving somewhere to run (some gyms even have indoor tracks) might work, but then you have to worry about yourself skidding off the road, or getting into an accident.

Not to mention the chance of a fall and injury.

It’s not worth it!

It’s not just the temp, it’s the conditions
Hypothermia can set in even if the temperature is well above freezing — especially if it’s wet and windy. If you can’t stay dry, it’s very cold, and it’s windy — it may be time to reschedule that run. Especially if you’re running solo, because you’re unlikely to realize you’re becoming hypothermic.

Protect the digits . . .
. . . and the feet, nose, and ears. Those are all likely spots for frostbite. You may have your hands and feet covered, probably your ears, too. Your nose can be covered by a mask or well fitting gaiter — but just remember, that frostbite can occur with just half an hour exposure in temps below 0F/-18C.

Ice is definitely the most dangerous condition to run in | Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer on

Icy conditions
There are ways to get better traction in the ice:

  • Trail Shoes (bonus points for waterproof)
  • Screw shoes (read the instructions here)
  • Yaktrax or Nanospikes

I have used all of the above. They will definitely help, but none of the options available can 100% protect you from slipping and injuring yourself. You still have to weigh the danger from drivers whether you stay in your neighborhood or drive somewhere.

Final Thoughts
Yes, you can, with the proper gear, run in almost any weather, but sometimes you have to ask yourself is it really worth it? What am I risking if I reschedule my run? What am I risking if I fall and injure myself?

Runners are a stubborn lot, and yes, I’ve run in some pretty bad weather conditions. Definitely some I shouldn’t have run in. Just know before you go and weigh the risk vs reward for you. Don’t be swayed by your running friends if your gut is just telling you it’s not the right day for you.

How low will YOU go?
Have you ever had frostbite? I’m happy to say I haven’t!
What’s your favorite gear for staying upright in slippery conditions?


Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.


31 thoughts on “Is it ever too cold for running?

  1. Oh, gosh, I absolutely HATE cold weather. I truly admire all the runners who go out in freezing conditions.
    The thing is, I hate the treadmill even more, so I will endure horrible conditions if it has to be.
    I appreciate your thoughts on being careful – sometimes it’s just not worth risking an injury.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with catrina. I hate being cold and wearing all the layers. But the treadmill is not a choice for me.

    I avoid the ice. Wait until the roads are salted. You can’t run on bike paths unfortunately.

    If it is snowy I wear yak trax. I did that yesterday. It was great.

    If it is cold, the wind matters a lot. Of course sun helps. It was -3 last weekend and -4 the weekend before. We were all fine and dressed appropriately but I admit I do need company. Not sure I would have gone alone for that many miles.

    I don’t have to run everyday so if the conditions are bad such as freezing rain I can skip a day or two. It’s rare that the weather is unbearable for more than a few days.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny you say that. My driveway is so icy that I drive to my lunch time runs and run in town where the roads are dry. I NEVER run on ice. Yak trax are good on snow.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Once I get down the driveway it’s ok. Today I crab walked down it because there was a dusting of snow & I couldn’t tell whether or not there was ice under it. Luckily there wasn’t.


  3. I’ve enjoyed runs in the upper teens when it was sunny and not windy. After my fall last year (which had nothing to do with slippery conditions) I am wary of running in slippery conditions, so I won’t run after a snow storm until the sidewalks are clear and dry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We don’t have sidewalks at all in my neighborhood. And people leave their cars parked on the street, which often leads to buildup of ice out into the street.

      But we’re also used to snow & ice up here and usually the snow removal is pretty good.

      I can run in cold and very windy — I did that today! But it depends on how I feel, and I often get tired of being cold on the run.


  4. Brrr. Just reading this post made me cold. Funny thing- when I lived up north, I ran outside in any conditions. And that was before we had all the fancy running gear- I just bundled up! I was also a LOT younger then, and had that “invincible youth” attitude. I’m sure I thought if I fell on the ice, I would just get back up and keep running- unlike now when visions of a broken hip go through my head. Luckily nowadays I don’t have to worry about any of that- only heatstroke in the summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful post with good considerations.
    Here the cold is not so frigid to skip the runs. It happens rarely.
    Just in case I wait for the warmer hours to make my workouts outside.
    Sometimes I drive somewhere to run but only to change route.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I used to be a die hard cold weather running and would run outside as long as it wasn’t icy. Now I think my cutoff for outdoor running is anything under 20 degrees. While I warm up quickly, I notice my breathing is really labored when it’s super cold outside.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great tips, Judy! I am also leery running on the wooded trails behind our house when it’s windy (no matter the temperature) for fear of a tree branch falling on me. A very popular local cyclist went out for a ride on a windy day two years ago and was hit by a falling tree limb and was killed. It was so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really do love to run in colder weather and I find it very exhilerating. Yes, it is important to make sure that it is safe to do so in terms of ice or visibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I used to run in just about anything, but now that I have a treadmill I’m more likely to run indoors. Especially because during the week I’m running early when it’s dark out. On Sunday I ran outside when it 10 degrees/feels like 4 and it wasn’t that bad. The sun was out and there weren’t strong wind gusts. I really think the wind is what makes some days feel the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I grew up in WV where it was much colder than where I live now in NC and I remember wheezing from the cold air sometimes when I was a kid. That still hasn’t gone away as an adult so I’ve learned my cut-off for temperature and I just don’t run outside below that. My hands are also sensitive to the cold and as I’ve gotten older that has gotten worse. I now have to wear two pair of gloves, actually gloves under mittens just to keep my hands warm, and that’s in temps around 32 degrees. There’s no way I could run outside that often in the winter if I lived somewhere north of here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a pair of convertible gloves from Trailheads that are VERY warm. Like often too warm, although I wear them a lot!

      Unfortunately I’ve lived in some very cold places (Rochester NY & Burlington VT). I hadn’t yet started to run when I lived in either of those cities. Thank God — just walking in both places in the Winter (and I did) could be really tough!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree that with the right gear you can run in the cold weather. Years ago while training for a marathon I invested in some good running gear and “learned” how to properly dress for cold days. This year I am over it. I don’t want to run outside in that weather so I don’t. But, I’d rather run in cold weather than ice and snow. I hate snow and ice.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. There’s definitely a point where frostbite and hypothermia are increased risks! Plus, blood vessels and airways constrict at certain points. I generally will run into the teens but not much colder now, definitely never in the zero digits.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m so happy I don’t have to contend with the conditions you guys have to! It never gets too cold for us to run here but the way I can relate is looking at the flipside of it being too hot. There are times I’ve called off a run because of the heat – just not worth risking a heat stroke or something worse. Runners are so stubborn but health and safety should always come first.

    Liked by 1 person

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