For a certain breed of Minnesotan, running outdoors is as much a part of winter as shoveling snow or pulling on a wool cap.

The raw wind, biting cold, the ice and snow make the conditions challenging. But if winter running carries risks, it also offers unique rewards: the transcendent, still beauty of newly fallen snow; a sense of triumph for fighting the elements — and winning. These simple gifts are enough to get many of us outdoors in polar vortex country.

“As a Minnesotan, a physician and a runner, I know winter running is an underappreciated joy,” said Dr. Rick Bosacker of Lino Lakes.

We asked local runners to offer advice on how to be a better winter runner. Whether you’re a fair-weather runner or an old hand at running outdoors year-round, their wide-ranging, free-wheeling tips will help make this “underappreciated joy” better and safer.

Prepare your body

Eat and drink a lot of water before you run. This is super important for temperature regulation.

– Evan Kearney, Minneapolis


Cover any exposed skin. Eucerin, Aquaphor, Vaseline, even Crisco works wonders.

– Dr. Rick Bosacker, Lino Lakes


Wear anti-perspirant on your feet and avoid wool socks. Your feet sweating too much is a sign of heat escaping your body. You want to prevent that.

– Wakako “KoKo” Nishimura, Plymouth


Cold air needs to be moistened and warmed. So breathe through nose and mouth simultaneously. Hold the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth to allow air to flow all around.

– Dr. Rick Bosacker, Lino Lakes


Prepare your mind

Don’t listen to other people when they say it’s too cold — you’ll know when it’s too cold for you.

– Rupa Ryan, Minneapolis


Be smart. It’s one thing to be a hearty Minnesotan, and another to be unsafe. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. I pay close attention to my toes, fingers and nose.

– Caryn Mohr, Falcon Heights (blog:


Have fun, and be proud of yourself for running when everyone else is hibernating.

– Jessie Benson, Minneapolis (blog:


What to bring

Fill your bottle with warm-to-hot water (not boiling). That will prevent the water from freezing too fast. Handheld water bottles will absorb the heat from your hands, as well. (They also work well as mini crash pads in case you slip.)

– Wakako “KoKo” Nishimura, Plymouth


Carry your phone, but keep it close to your body. (In low single digits and below, the phone will shut off and not turn back on if it’s in an outer pocket.)

– Kyle Anderson, Minneapolis


I always carry my Car2Go card in case I need to unexpectedly scurry home.

– Doron Clark, Minneapolis


plan your course

Consider shortening your run. Would I prefer to run 8 to 10 miles on any given day? Of course, but at this point, I can only comfortably run 6 to 7 miles.

– Rupa Ryan, Minneapolis


Stay a bit closer to home than normal. Because you produce so much body heat when running, it takes only a few light layers to stay warm, even in below-zero temperatures. But if you turn an ankle or have some other issue that leads you to walk for significant stretches, those layers aren’t sufficient.

– Tim Snell, Minnetonka


Don’t try to break records. It’s not possible.

– Juan Antonio Kotzopolakis


Watch out for black ice — especially on bridges and through tunnels. Be careful when turning, as it is much easier to fall. Sometimes, running on the snow is a safer option, although it can be more difficult.

– Ben Drexler, Minneapolis


I run on bike paths, which tend to be more consistently in good condition than regular city sidewalks. And the winter bikers don’t seem to mind sharing the paths with runners. I even occasionally get a high five from a biker when the conditions are particularly challenging.

– Amy Bergquist, Minneapolis



The buddy system is never a bad idea, particularly when running in remote locations in cold conditions.

– Ben Neeser, St. Paul


Make it fun by joining a run club, running with friends, or signing up for a race. That will get you out the door and make it a social event.

– Caryn Mohr, Falcon Heights


Bring your dog along. But remember that if you’re cold, so is it. A nice fleece jacket and some booties make things a lot more enjoyable for your canine companion.

– Kyle Anderson, Minneapolis


Clothing and gear

Wear windproof undies, good gloves and a balaclava. The rest is psychology.

– Matt Frantzen, Minneapolis


My winter trail-running shoes (Salomon Speedcross 3) have been amazing. They keep my feet warm and dry, unlike mesh-toed shoes. They have extra stability and grip for snow pack and slushy sidewalks.

– Rachel Wiken, St. Paul


Invest in quality, warm gloves. Craft brand (designed for cross-country skiing) are some of the best.

– Jessie Benson, Minneapolis


When there’s snow on the trail, I wear STABILicers sports cleats over my running shoes.

– Caitlyn Witt, St. Paul

Stay dry. This sounds silly, but I put regular shopping bags over my sock-covered feet to prevent snow and water from getting into my shoes and freezing my feet. My feet will get wet from sweat (gross, I know), but at least it will prevent them from getting soaked from all of the snow.

– Wakako “KoKo” Nishimura, Plymouth


For the best traction, screw 3/8-inch drywall screws into the soles of an old pair of running shoes to guarantee traction on icy spots.

– Jeremy Lindquist, Stillwater