Keeping up your outdoor walking routine in the winter

Waling in winter


Discover the joys of winter walking and how to do it safely in this article. You'll learn essential tips for dressing warmly, protecting your feet and what to carry for a safe experience. A must-read for anyone looking to enjoy Southern Oregon's trails year-round while staying safe.

For many people, walking is the perfect form of exercise. It’s relatively low impact, involves all the major muscle groups and can be done easily with a friend. Plus, here in Southern Oregon we have the pleasure of many well-planned walking trails which give us a breath of fresh beauty while we benefit from daily exercise. What’s not to love? 

Except, of course, in winter. That outdoor scenery may still be breathtaking, but it also comes with a few safety hazards. Ice, frigid temperatures and darker skies can all create obstacles to a safe and enjoyable walk. Here are a few suggestions for walking in winter without compromising your health. 

Be prepared. Always bring a backpack or fanny pack stocked with tissues, lip balm and sunglasses. If you’re planning to walk for longer than 30 minutes, or if you’re exploring an unfamiliar trail, also pack a poncho, moisturizing skin lotion, extra sunscreen (apply a layer before you leave the house), a flashlight and a cell phone for emergencies. Keep a walking stick or a set of trekking poles in your car just in case. 

Dress in layers. When you start your walk, you’ll want to wear enough clothing to keep your body warm in the chilly temps. However, as you build momentum, you’ll get hot and start to sweat. So choose lightweight layers you can peel off easily and store in your backpack, such as a nylon jacket, scarf and gloves. Base layers of long underwear or leggings and a thin turtleneck made from sweat-wicking fabric will keep your body protected and comfortable even as you shed your outer clothes. If the air is especially chilly or windy, cover your ears with a headband or muffs. 

Protect your feet. Wear two pairs of socks — a thin pair against your skin and a thick pair over that. Leave enough wiggle room for your toes to move. You might need to wear a larger shoe size to accommodate the extra bulk. Shoes should be made from waterproof materials to prevent the misery of wet, cracked feet.  And make sure your shoes have lug soles for a strong grip on the snow and ice. You may even want to wear slip-on ice cleats. Never wear smooth-soled shoes for winter walking. They won’t stand a chance on icy patches, and you’ll end up with your bottom on the ground, or worse.  

Be flexible. Finally, be prepared to change your plans if the weather is just too dangerous for walking. Check the wind chill index before you leave; wind chills below zero may damage exposed skin on your cheeks or hands. Icy or slushy terrain may be too hazardous even for the sturdiest hiking boots. If you do go out and you feel your body parts getting numb, head back inside as quickly as possible. No exercise routine is worth a case of frostbite. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed


Health Topics

Asante Walk for Hope

Celebrate with cancer survivors at this year’s Walk for Hope, scheduled for Oct. 5 at the Heimann Cancer Center in Medford. Register to walk or volunteer by Sept. 20 to receive a free T-shirt.