Runners on snow-covered path in winter

How to start winter running: tips and gear

As more and more people take up running each year, running when it’s cold and snowy out is also gaining in popularity. One of the advantages of running in winter is that the snow creates an uneven running surface that gives your stabilizing muscles an extra workout, while also cushioning every step. The challenges? Cold temps and slippery surfaces that can increase your risk of falling.

Here’s a quick look at some gear to consider for winter running to help you stay safe and enjoy your run in the snow. When you do head out, make sure to layer up properly, too.

Wear grippy running shoes


When you’re running in winter, traction is key. Your best ally to keep you from falling is what’s on your feet. Look for trail running shoes with lugs on the soles for solid traction (the number and size of the lugs vary from one brand of shoe to the next). Also look for waterproof shoes (or at least water-resistant) made with GORE-TEX® or similar type membrane to help keep your feet comfortable. When the snow clears, you can use your trail running shoes to explore park paths, or maybe even one of the many trail running races across Canada.

Get traction devices

If you already own running shoes but they have bad traction, pair them with some traction devices (sometimes called microspikes or by the brand name Yaktrax). This is a great option if you like your running shoes and don’t want to buy a new, grippier pair. There are many different options for traction devices: some are very versatile and can be used on many types of terrain, from forest trails to icy city sidewalks. If you plan to run only on trails, look for very sharp, pointy traction spikes that will bite into the packed snow and frozen ground.

Try running snowshoes

If you plan to run mostly in forests or on snow-covered trails, you can opt for running snowshoes. These are typically lighter and narrower than regular snowshoes. They’re also equipped with a pivot that lets your feet to move more freely for a comfortable stride. When you’re using these snowshoes, we recommend that you wear waterproof trail running shoes or running shoes. If you don’t have any waterproof shoes, look into some GORE-TEX socks to wear over thin socks. That way, your feet will stay dry even if your shoes don’t.

Carry some extras

If running is part of your daily or weekly routine all year-round, you may want to pick up a running backpack. It’s a smart way to carry some extra layers, water and some snacks (and is also a place to stash layers as you warm up). The most important thing when you choose a running backpack is to make sure that it bounces around as little as possible. Look for one that’s not too big (5L is a good place to start) and fits the shape of your back well. Try out several backpacks in store so you find the right one for you.

Find scenic ROUTES

Group of runners waving during a snowy MEC trail race

Running in the winter isn’t limited to the city. A huge variety of trails that work for summer running can also be awesome options for winter running. Want some tips on where to run? Visit a MEC store and get advice from our experts, or check out some maps and guidebooks for inspiration.

Jean-Sébastien Leroux

Urban cyclist, hiker and canoe camping enthusiast, Jean-Sébastien needs to move like he needs to breathe. His next adventure? Mountain biking, both in summer and winter.