I am often asked how I cope with cold hands – specifically Raynaud’s Syndrome – when running in winter. To be honest, I can suffer with cold hands at any time of the year and I have a strategy for keeping my hands warm when running.
I wear gloves right from the start of a run. If I wait until my hands feel cold before putting on gloves, I end up unable to warm them up. So, it’s critical that I wear gloves as soon as I start a run.
The best winter gloves for running are actually mittens. I like inov-8 Extreme Thermo Mitts from SportsShoes at £31.49. There are also lighter weight Race Ultra mitts for £19.99 from Amazon and from SportsShoes.com. The Thermo are my go to for all runs in winter.
Even when my hands feel warm I tend to keep my gloves on because I know that it can be too easy for the chill to set in,
Waterproof over-mitts are not cheap (they can be around £50) but they are an essential for me. I keep them stuffed in a corner of my running pack and put them on when I feel the first bit of cold getting through my gloves to my hands. They provide a surprisingly good extra windproof layer.
Also, the waterproof layer is important if it starts to rain or snow. Wet hands feel the cold more quickly.
If I am going out for more than about eight miles, or I know the route will be at higher altitude, I pack a pair of down mitts. These offer a much warmer layer for times when my hands start to feel the chill. This can strike at any time.
I might be running along with warm hands and then the wind speed or direction hits my hands and makes them cold. Or if I stop, even for just a few minutes, my hands will suddenly feel very cold.
The higher I climb on a run, the more vulnerable my hands are to the cold and sometimes the only solution is to wear my biggest, fattest down gloves as I run. I have a pair of Berghaus Ulvetanna Downs Mitts. Sadly, these are no longer in production. Look for others, such as Black Diamond Mercury mittens that pack a serious amount of warming down.
In my experience, it’s the big and puffy down mitts that give my hands the boost of warmth that they need and I have not found anything else, other than what I mention below, to help.
You’ll notice that a lot of what I am writing about is mittens. Mittens allow you to retain warmth in your fingers. When wearing gloves, the fingers become separated and need to fend for themselves with warmth.
Heated mitts are brilliant although they are not as easy to stuff into a small space a running pack. The rechargeable batteries tend to make them a bit heavier, too, but they are a great solution if you know it will be a day when you will have very cold hands.
I have tested 30Seven Heated Mittens and SealSkinz Heated Gloves. They add gentle warmth to cold hands and fingers when no other gloves will do the job. The battery will decharge fairly quickly if you have them on a high heat setting but sometimes it’s just a short boost of warmth that you need.
If I stop for a while when running, or after a run, the damp in my clothing layers will quickly chill me. I try to take off the damp and sweaty layers that are next to my skin as quickly as possible.
Putting on a dry base layer, followed by a couple of insulated layers helps to retain body heat and, therefore, keeps my hands as warm as possible.
I try not to let the bare skin of my hands feel the outside air and, if I remember, I will use a hand warmer or hot water bottle after a run.
Cold hands and Raynaud’s can be very painful and frustrating in winter and especially for runners. The best strategy is to never let the cold in.
It might seem like a hassle to carry extra gloves and layers when you run, but it makes a huge difference to my comfort levels and preventing my fingers from turning white and numb.
At home warmth
The journey home after a run can be the worst part for people with Raynaud’s. I try to have lots of warming layers to put on. However, even then I can find my fingers turning numb within minutes of a run.
I usually head for the shower or a warm bath as soon as I get home. If I leave the shower too long my hands can takes hours to thaw out.
But don’t put hot water straight on to numb fingers because this can be dangerous. You won’t feel the full heat of the water and you may end up burning the skin. It’s the same for a hot radiator.
The best strategy for dealing with cold hands when running and after running is to try to keep them warm – and to boost the circulation of blood to your hands by maintaining a warm torso/body.
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