Time has come, it starts to be darker and colder out there. Each year at the same time, this is the same thing: people are getting nervous about what to wear, either to be seen or staying warm. We see people getting dressed for a light 5K as if they were going to run a marathon in the North Pole while others are as bright as a xmas tree. This is a 5K guy: and you are dressing as you were training for badwater with the snow. So, if this is definitively useless to over-do it, there are still some basic things to do. Just observe three rules: see/be seen, stay warm and break the ice.
How to see and be seen
First thing: to see. For that, nothing better than a headlamp. I would not rely only on public lights – some area can be really dark and, if you are a woman, you probably want to see what is going on in these areas. If you are running often, a model with rechargeable batteries is a good idea, especially if you can charge it using micro-USB (and thus, use the same charger as your cellphone).
Second: be seen. Last year, I got a tracer360, a vest that change its color. Clearly embarrassed for myself, I wore it (I meant, it was a present – at least, you try it) and was feeling sorry for myself. I made probably more light than the traffic light. Yes, I was seen but it was clearly embarrassing and probably not necessary. I returned the present, pretexting it was not fitting me (and this was the truth as well).At a $70 MSRP, this is clearly a rip-off: a reflective vest (~ $20) will do as good without turning you into a local running attraction. So wear bright gear and if you are wondering if this is enough, take a reflective vest. But keep the xmas lights at home.
Same thing as for the reflective vest, vendors try to sell you expensive products where you really do not need to spend that much. Some products (such as the Nike Dri-Fit Flash Tight) can cost up to $150, which would be even more expensive that the cost for everything you need to run at night. The basic rule is to use layers. One short-sleeve t-shirt on top of a long-sleeve t-shirt is a good start. Use a sweater when this is really cold outside. But be careful: after 20 to 30 minutes, you will be warm, so, dress accordingly to the distance you are running. You probably have plenty of tech t-shirt already from the packet in the races. Also, a tech sweater costs around $40.
Use light gloves made with technical materials. Just avoid the big gloves: the cold will accumulate and freeze your fingers.You can get gloves around $10 to $20.
Break the ice
When the temperature gets really cold, running on icy roads or trails can be dangerous. I paid the price last year and fractured my hip at the end of a run. Several solution: special shoes, yaktrax, screws or ice spikes.
I used yaktrax last year and I was not satisfied. Hard to put, it sometimes detaches itself from the shoe and hardly sticks on the shoe. Also, it might not fit all shoes. The system is so hard to use that I did not use it everyday (too hard to put on the shoe). I would not recommend this system, especially considering its price (about $40 to $50).
The solution that many recommended is using either ice spikes or simple screws on your shoes. Basically, ice spikes seem to be screws dedicated to running shoes. The idea: you put screws under your shoe that will get you traction on icy roads/trails. Of course, you might still fall but the general idea is that it reduces the likelihood to fall. This is what I am trying this year. A pack of ice spikes costs about $15~$20 with shipping.
Hey dude, what do you use?
Having the Raunaud syndrome, I am clearly over-protecting my body against the cold. Even during summer, my fingers and toes can be blue-ish, so, I am trying to take care of this. Also, as I am running everyday, I experienced many different weather conditions.
On the top, I am using a long sleeves tech sweater over a short sleeves tech shirt. On the bottom, a tech pant over a tech running short. On the hands, a pair of tech gloves and on the head, a headband that protects my ears. Nothing else, and this is enough to keep me going through the winter. The use of technical material avoids the moisture to freeze and then, lower my body temperature. Finally, for the headlamp, a basic black diamond that can be charged on USB (charging after each use) and for the vest, a simple nathan reflective vest.
Overall, all the gear and devices cost me between about $150. Which very reasonable considering that can be the price of a single tech pant in some running store and I have seen some people spending 5 to 10 times that amount to run through the cold. Just do not over do it, save some money, spend it with your friends rather than on special gear and as Public Enemy used to say: do not believe the hype.