How to Run During Winter in Canada

Winter running has lots of challenges. What do you wear? How do you layer? What should you wear on your feet? How long should you run in the cold? Why do your lungs BURN?!?!

Yes, all those thoughts go through my mind when winter temperatures start gracing us in Nova Scotia. It usually only takes one run to (rudely) remind me of what piece of gear I was missing in order to make it a good run. I was recently asked what I wear on my runs to stay warm/safe. These are only my opinions, please share your tips in the comments.

Running in Winter in Eastern Canada


Keep Your Feet Happy

We can have lots of snow in the winter but our conditions are always changing. If the roads are clear (sidewalks included), I usually just wear my normal running sneakers. However, don’t expect them to last after the winter months as the salt from the roads can take a toll on them.

I also have a pair of “gator” liners that you wear like socks. They keep your feet extremely warm and dry if you have to run through slush. I feel like I’m putting on a wet suit for my feet.


Last year (or the year before), I invested in a really good pair of Yak Tracks for running on the snow and ice. Yes, sometimes we run on ice folks! You need some kind of traction under your sneakers for snow and ice, otherwise you’ll end up on your butt and/or injured. I’ve yet to try spikes in my sneakers but I plan to get a set to try out soon.

Warm Legs

It’s never fun running with cold legs. I wear anything from running tights to thermal running tights. If it is extremely cold, I wear a wicking base layer  (merino wool long underwear) under my thermal tights. My thighs get really cold in the winter and stay cold for hours after a run so I’ve got to layer up.

Keep Your Core Warm

I also have two options for my core. Right now (0c to -15c) I usually wear three layers. A thank top, a long sleeve base layer and then, a jacket. Any colder (think adding on windchill to those temps), I wear a long sleeved base layer, VEST for my core, then a jacket. I want to keep my core warm when I run.


Neck Up

I wear anything from a Buff to ski/neck warmer that covers up to my nose. Honestly, if I have to cover my face that badly during a run, I’m really pushing it and I should just get on my treadmill. I also wear my sunglasses as I find the when the sun hits the snow it can be blinding.

I wear a running hat and reflective gear. I have a pair of running gloves that I wear however, on really cold days I double up and wear a pair of mittens over top.


Some Tips & Tricks to a Good Winter Run

  • Pee before you run. Your body tries to keep your urine warm, therefore heat is being taking away from your extremities (hands, feet). An empty bladder means warmer extremities. This is a winter camping trick that I use all the time.
  • The first few km/miles of your run are going to be cold while you warm up. Keep running, it will get better. If it doesn’t, call it a day.
  • Dress in enough layers but not too many – this can be tricky.
  • Test out your run. Take your first kilometre close to home or where you park your car. That way, if you are still cold after 5-6 minutes, you can add on another layer.
  • Cut your run short if you have to. No shame.
  • Don’t worry about your pace, focus on just running.

So, here’s to lots of great winter runs, warm hands and feet and good km/miles in your running shoes!

What’s your best winter tip you have?

What’s your favourite piece of WINTER running gear?

What’s the coldest temps you’ll run in?

Quick conversions: +5C = 41F  /   0C = 32 F  /  -5C = 23F   / -10C =  32F   /   -15C =  5F


12 thoughts on “How to Run During Winter in Canada

  1. Great post. We were thinking along the same lines today. While I live in the states, it feels like I am in Canada right now! Always good to have these tips. I have run up until about -15C. That’s about where I draw the line!

  2. Layers is definitely the key for running here in NS and as you know it can change from one hour to the next. If it’s too slippery I hit the treadmill. Right now sidewalks are clear so I am able to run outside!

  3. I used to live in the interior of BC where we had real Winter too. For many years I ran in the snow, avoided the ice and stayed indoors when the temperature was -30C or colder… and it often was in January especially. The worst was in the early Spring when the melts would come and the slush was icy and dangerous. After many many years of it, I finally broke down and got a treadmil… Now I live in Victoria and it is so much less of an issue. We had snow this past week for the first time since 2011! But staying warm and dry can be tough!

  4. I don’t have a specific cut off for temperatures–it’s more about the conditions. It can be bitterly cold but if the sun is shining and there’s little to no wind, I’ll run outside, no problem. I did that very thing this past Sunday! I have a NorthFace thermoball jacket which keeps me toasty warm on those days. It’s so light that I don’t mind it at all. I also use those hot hands things for my gloves and my shoes. If my feet and hands are warm, I can do anything!

  5. I don’t understand any of this LOL! Tomorrow is going to be 40*F at the normal time I Run and I am trying to wangle my way out of it. I’ve run down to temps in the mid-30s, and it’s been brutal. I have Raynaud’s so I need to use those crack-to-activate hand warmers in my gloves so I don’t lose feeling in my fingers, and my toes always seem to go numb. I don’t love it.

  6. We definitely have similar weather here in NH! Layering is so key and the buff is always great for keeping a draft from going down your jacket and for covering your face. I am dreading the icy runs as I already took a huge digger this winter!

  7. I didn’t know the pee trick! That makes total sense. My favorite winter running gear is a thermal vest that’s ridiculously reflective. Safe and warm! 🙂

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