With an abundance of easily accessible trails, Central Oregon is a haven for trail runners of all levels. For most of the year runners can hit just about anywhere without having to deal with harsh conditions—but as the always unpredictable winter begins to roll in, a shift in running strategy is necessary to continue through the end of the year.
- Max King
- Winter running in Central Oregon can be exhilarating—but you need to be properly prepared.
FootZone ambassador and world champion mountain and ultra-runner—and local—Max King offered some helpful advice on how to keep up the miles through the coming months; so don't go hiding those running shoes in the closet just yet.
"Trail runners are pretty lucky in Central Oregon because even if there's snow on the ground in the mountains we can usually find a clear patch of dirt to run on out east of town," King tells the Source. "Sometimes though we'll get a blanket of snow over everything and then it can be a bit more treacherous."
When getting ready to head out for a winter run King says it's important to keep track of the conditions, especially if snow is falling at higher elevations. The conditions will affect what shoes to wear, how warm to dress and how long to be out on the trail.
"If there are a couple of inches of snow, a loop that usually takes 40 minutes may take well over an hour," says King. "Getting a small injury this time of year can be life threatening if you're not able to run back to the trailhead. Make sure you prepare by letting someone know where you're going and how long you expect to be. Carry a cell phone with you so you can call for help."
Winter conditions also call for different gear. When there's some snow on the trail or potential for ice, King likes to have metal traction on the bottom of his shoes, which can come in the form of sheet metal screws, ice spikes or shoes with spikes built in. Waterproof shoes are also an excellent have for winter running to keep feet dry and toes warm. If the snow is more than a few inches deep, ankle gaiters can be huge.
Another thing to remember: layering. King says at the start of a run, runners should feel a bit chilled, because as you run the body will begin to warm up. Feeling too comfortable at the start is a recipe for overheating—and if the snow is anything over a few inches, King says then it's time to put skis on as to avoid potential ankle twists and other hazards.
"I don't mind running in the cold weather, but what I really hate are cold fingers and toes, so I'm really particular about my glove choice and I put a lot of thought into which gloves I put on. For me, gloves are my most important clothing item."
For people looking to get more into winter running, King recommends starting out on the east side of town and going on a snow-free trail. He mentions the Badlands, Horse Butte or Smith Rock trails as good places to start.
"Once you've got that dialed in then head out to Shevlin Park or the Deschutes River Trail just after a small dusting of snow," adds King. "This will help you be able to see rocks and minimize the potential for ice on the trail."