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The Effects of Cold Temperatures on Running Time

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
The Effects of Cold Temperatures on Running Time
Two people are running in the snow. Photo Credit: Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images

If you're a runner, you probably won't let a little cold weather stop you from running. Running in cold temperatures does require some common-sense planning. You also need to stay alert to signs of potential injury from cold temperatures. The degree to which the cold affects your running times depends on how cold it is. The lower the temperature, the more time you can expect to add to your run, coach Tom Schwarz explains.

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Overall Effects

Both heat and cold can affect your running times, with a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit being optimal, Schwarz states. The lower the temperature, the greater the effect. According to a formula Schwarz devised, you can expect a time increase of 1.66 percent when the temperature drops to 30, a 3 percent increase at 20, a 5.33 percent increase at 10 degree Fahrenheit and an 8.33 percent increase in time when the temperature hits zero.

Running Conditions

Running conditions in cold weather can also affect your speed. Running on ice or snow will slow you down; wearing shoes with studs can help to improve traction and help you keep your speed up. Running into a cold wind can also affect your speed, and hypothermia can affect your coordination, which will certainly impact your overall running time.


Take precautions to keep from developing hypothermia when you run in the cold. Although it's a myth that you lose a huge percentage of your body heat through the top of your head, you do lose some, so wear a hat. A hat or scarf that covers your nose and mouth warms the air before you breathe it. Layer your clothing rather than wearing one heavy layer, which can slow you down. Layering also keeps you warmer by trapping warm air between the layers. Avoid cotton, which doesn't dry easily. Materials that breathe, such as Goretex, are both lightweight and warm.


You can run even when it's cold, but you'll run more comfortably, safely and probably faster when you take precautions. Warming up your muscles to avoid injury before starting off on a run is even more essential when the temperature drops. If you develop signs of hypothermia, such as slowed thinking, decreased coordination or sluggish speech, it's time to go back inside and warm up until the weather does.

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