Gear Up: How Best to Handle the Change in Running Seasons

There are a few reasons to be wary of running during the shortest days of the year. When it’s not quite fall and not quite winter, and definitely not summer, getting out poses a triple challenge for runners. How best to stay dry, stay warm, and stay visible?

The answer to all three is simple: gear up. Messy streets, low lights, and temperatures hovering around 0° are challenges best met head-on.

Footwear First

Finding good shoes can pose a challenge in any season, but when it comes to running in the ice and slush, softer soles and deeper treads allow for better traction.

James Davis—a year-round runner who works in the footwear department at Bushtukah—recommends a regular trail shoe with strong water-resistant coatings. To go a step further, get fully waterproof trail shoe models that are made with GoreTex.

“GoreTex is really great because it provides a better waterproofing coating and it’s a little warmer,” says Davis.

Their insulating liners are part of the shoe’s construction: a kind of hidden bootie that protects you from the elements. More adventurous runners who will trudge through deep snow may want to add ankle or shin gators to their footwear.

With element-proof shoes, thicker wool socks are also going to help. The thickness, just like other apparel options, are a matter of personal taste.

Dress Up Time

Even if late fall is a snowy one, it doesn’t quite call for winter’s jackets with built-in gators or toques and balaclavas. It is that time of year though to pull out weightier wool base layers, liner gloves, and windproof pants.

The real trick, says Davis, is to not overheat.

“I know a lot of people, myself included, who are guilty of wearing too many layers at the start of a run,” he says. “It’s best to be a little bit cool at the start because you’re going to heat up quickly.”

On the torso, start with a medium-weight, long-sleeve base layer made of wool. If that’s not enough, cotton gloves and a lightweight buff can keep out the elements. The idea is to keep the wind from getting in, which will be felt mostly on the legs.

“Choose something for your bottom half that provides wind-proofing and that has a softshell surface,” says Davis. “Really blocking the elements from reaching your legs is of great importance.”

Seen Means Safe

Besides staying warm and dry, safety and visibility are major concerns during this time of year. Runs before or after work often mean jogging in the dark. Unless you go running on a sunny lunch hour, says Davis, reflectors and lights are essential.

Reflectors come in all shapes and sizes: from wrist bands and ankle bands to safety vests, reflective stickers, or more technical running clothing with built-in strips or dots. Lighting accessories are just as versatile. There are basic blinking heel clips and armbands but, to both see and be seen, upgrade the game with a double-ended headlamp. The Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp is lightweight and has both a front lamp and red blinking lights on the rear.

It’s this kind of multi-function tool that parallels the best thing about fall-to-winter gear: what you use at this time of year will come in handy again in early spring.

Of course, the best thing to help get you through these short, dark days is a light at the end of the tunnel (or at the end of your training) and a 10K, half-marathon or marathon at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend might be just what you need! or get the runner in your life for their first race of 2019.