How to Survive Running Through a Michigan Winter

by Christina Morrow

I think it’s an unusual person who actually loves training through Winter in Michigan. It’s not only bitter cold most of the time, it’s often dark and icy, which can also make it frankly dangerous. But if you want to run a spring race, there’s a good chance you’ll also be running this winter, and there are some ways to make it a good experience. Dare I say, you might even come to enjoy running all year round!


The first thing you’ll have to combat is the cold. The average high in GR in January is a whopping 30 degrees and the low is often around 17 degrees. The general rule of thumb is to dress as though the outside temperature is actually 20 degrees warmer than what the thermometer is reading. So it if happens to be a balmy 30, dress as though it were 50 out because you will heat up as you run. I know that I tend to run very hot, so I actually have more of a 30 degree rule, but you’ll learn how to judge that for yourself. So, once you’ve established how cold out it is, you’ll want to dress in layers. The different layers have different properties that provide you with unique benefits, but they’re also sheddable in case you ended up misjudging the temp (wind and precipitation will always change how the temp will actually feel). So, layers:

Baselayer: This layer is right next to your skin. Because it will be responsible for wicking away sweat, you want to make sure it will do this job efficiently, especially because excess moisture combined with cold is a sure path to a miserable run. Most of us prefer a wool baselayer because it will wick sweat in its vapor form before it has time to condense – super efficient!

Midlayer: This is the layer that will provide most of your warmth. You’ll still want a breathable material, so the moisture can continue to be pulled away from your body. Depending on the temperature and whether or not there’s precipitation, you might stop after these two layers.

Outer layer: This layer will provide added warmth and will also protect you from the elements. You’ll rarely have a perfectly waterproof layer, because then the fabric won’t breathe well, but these water-resistant layers will keep any precipitation out.

Beyond your layers, you’ll also want to be sure you have either wool or synthetic material socks, and something to keep your hands and head warm. A good bra is also key, regardless of when you run, and you may also want to invest in a pair of shoes that provides some protection from snow and slush you’ll inevitably be running through.


If you’re running this winter, you’re more than likely running at least part of the time in the dark. This means you want to take a number of precautions to make sure that drivers can see you, whether or not you’re actually running on the roads (you’re still bound to cross at least an intersection or driveway). You want something that is passively reflective, but it’s also smart to have something that’s actively flashing both on your front and back. If you’re running with a K-9 partner, you’ll want to be sure that they’re also similarly outfitted since if your dog is anything like mine, they’re often leading the way past those driveways.

I’d also recommend a headlamp or handheld running flashlight. Not only will this help other see you, but it will also allow you to better see where you’re placing your feet. This will help you navigate patches of ice and those ever-present Michigan potholes.

Speaking of ice, if you’re often running where there’s a lot of slippery surfaces and little plowing or melting going, it might be worth adding a pair of Yaktrax or Ice Spikes to your arsenal. Added to the bottom of your regular running shoes, both products have metal bits that dig into the ice and snow your slogging through.


All the same rules apply to winter running as they do to summer running. You’ll want to make sure you’re hydrating on longer runs and taking in some extra calories via nutrition options.

When you’re training for a longer distance running, it’s much more involved than just lacing up a pair of shoes (you’ll also want to be sure they’re the right shoes for your gait and feet!). The good thing is, we’re here at Gazelle Sports to guide you every step of they way. Beyond product recommendations, we’ve got tons of tips, tricks, and guidance thanks to our combined hundreds of year’s of experience of running at every level. Come see us today!