8 Tips for Running in Wind

Here’s how to finally embrace gusty weather safely.


If a blustery day makes you think twice about lacing up, you’re certainly not alone. Even running greats like Olympian Deena Kastor have admitted their distaste for windy weather: “The wind is my nemesis, it makes me angry,” she told Runner’s World back in 2014.

But everyone has to face days where weather conditions aren’t ideal and when you do overcome your dislike for a condition like the wind, it only helps you build grit and preps you for race day when weather can be unpredictable.

“The more practice you get in various elements, the better prepared you’ll be on race day,” says Sara Hayes, a run coach and founder of Mindful Miles. “Mental and physical preparation give us the tools to enjoy the moment, regardless of what’s happening around us.”

Running in wind can also help you in a race: In the 2011 Boston Marathon, Geoffrey Mutai reached a stunning victory, setting a course record of 2:03:02, thanks (at least in part) to a strong wind at his back.

If you’re met with wind on your run, here are eight pro tips for making it a bit more of a breeze.

1. Manage Your Expectations
“On windy days, it’s best to change your mindset to focus on effort rather than aiming for a specific time,” says Ingrid Anderson, a physical therapist who works with runners.

To help you through those days you’re running into a headwind, just think of it as strength building — your legs power up to push you through and your mind has to get strong to stay in the game, too.

“Running in the wind gives you an opportunity to strengthen your physical and mental grit and resilience,” says Hayes. “Wind is an inevitable part of running and you can’t avoid all of the elements, all of the time.” So embrace it!

As you might expect, that’s because it can help lower the amount of wind resistance you face. In fact, researchers found that runners could theoretically increase their power by about 6 percent (for each 1 percent of body weight) when drafting, per a 2022 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Work out a plan with the other runners in your group to determine who will be facing the headwinds and when.“You can take turns letting someone lead,” says Hayes. “Meanwhile, if you’re racing, you can try to draft off of anyone [in front of you].”

3. Avoid Hunching Over in Headwinds
When facing a headwind, try not to hunch over (as many runners do in this scenario).

“The goal is to stay as relaxed as possible, because added tension from hunching over will burn more energy and cause your muscles to tire out faster,” says Hayes. “Consider leaning into it from your ankles and your whole body, rather than your waist. If you have a slight forward lean, it will help to reduce resistance.”

Think about running in the wind the same way you would with running up a hill: You don’t want to be completely upright, but you also don’t want to be completely hunched over. Balance here is key.

Hayes adds that adopting a more aerodynamic position by tucking your elbows into your sides and minimising your profile to reduce the surface area exposed to the wind can also be helpful, particularly during gusty winds or when running into a consistent headwind. To minimise your profile, make sure your forearms swing parallel to the top of your hip bones.

“Because most runners have a tendency to swing their arms from side to side, wasting energy, I like to offer the visual cue of keeping your forearms on a train track,” adds Hayes. “Keep your head in a neutral position, looking straight ahead. If the wind is strong, you might even tilt your head slightly downward to further reduce resistance.”

4. Stay Controlled in Tailwinds and Crosswinds
Tailwinds (the kind that blows from behind you) and crosswinds (those that blow across your path) may require adjustments in your gait.

“The tailwind can cause you to lose control of your form, which is a similar experience to running downhill, so it’s important to stay loose and be mindful of keeping form,” says Hayes. “When running with a tailwind, try to maintain a smooth and controlled stride, as the wind is pushing you from behind. In crosswinds, be mindful of your balance and consider leaning slightly into the wind to maintain stability.”

4. Gear Up Properly
Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking, and wind-resistant clothing to help minimise resistance. Wind-resistant clothing is typically made from dense fabrics designed to block wind. (But because of this, keep in mind that wind-resistant hats might muffle sound more on already noisy, windy days.)

“Wearing a hat or a headband can help to keep your hair out of your face and sunglasses will protect your eyes, especially in gusty conditions,” says Hayes.

Meanwhile, make sure your shoes are providing adequate stability and that they are tied properly. “The added instability from wind gusts creates significantly more work for your ankles, so you need to make sure your feet are properly supported,” says Anderson.

5. Repeat a Mantra
A big part of succeeding in windy runs is mental, so considering a mantra to carry you through the workout. It might be: “It’s just wind, I’m stronger than this,” or “I’m stronger with every step.”

“This gives you the reminder that this tough moment is momentary, you can outlast it, and you’ll become a stronger runner and person for it,’ says Hayes.

A small 2014 study in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal found that recreationally active athletes who practised positive self-talk, like “feeling good!” and “push through this!,” significantly enhanced endurance performance on a stationary bike test, compared to a control group that saw no significant difference.

Meanwhile, a 2019 study in the Sports (Basel) journal found that self-talk led to less anxiety and higher scores in areas like self-confidence and performance (measured by metrics like endurance, fitness, strength, coordination skills, and so forth) in junior sub-elite athletes.

You can also remind yourself: “I’m cashing in on a hard run now for a fun run later,” Hayes says.

“Not every run is going to be the best run ever and you have to pay your dues,” she adds. “By showing up for the less-than-ideal runs, you’re increasing your level of joy during future runs because you have more perspective.”

6. Check the Wind Speed and Other Weather Conditions
Before you head out, check local weather advisories and warnings: Meteorological services often issue advisories for high winds or severe conditions.

“Check the current wind speed and wind chill factor before heading out,” says Hayes. “Even if the temperature itself is not extremely low, a strong wind can make it feel much colder and increase the risk of cold-related injuries.” Rain or snow combined with wind can increase the risk of hypothermia or other weather-related issues.

Also, consider the risk of flying debris. “If trees are swaying excessively or you see branches falling, it indicates strong winds that could pose a risk,” says Hayes. “If visibility is affected by debris like dust, sand, or snow, or the wind is strong enough to cause flying objects, it’s best to skip the run.”

Keep in mind that wind can be more challenging in open areas with little shelter. If your route includes bridges, cliffs, or other exposed terrains, the effects of the wind may be more pronounced.

7. Consider Any Underlying Conditions
Gusty or unpredictable winds bring increased injury risks. For example, Anderson worked with a patient who was running between two buildings when he was hit with a wind gust that knocked him down onto a curb and led to a severe hip injury.

“If your balance is compromised, or you have an underlying condition such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, it’s best to consider the treadmill or a rest day on gusty days,” says Anderson.

Meanwhile, if you have a respiratory condition, high winds can exacerbate breathing difficulties. Consider your personal ability to tolerate and adapt to windy conditions and speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

8. Trust Your Instincts
When you’re on a strict training plan, it can feel excruciating to miss a run — but sometimes, it’s in your best interest.

“If you feel uneasy or unsafe due to the wind conditions, it’s better to err on the side of caution and postpone your run,” says Hayes. “One missed or abbreviated run will not deter your training.”

READ MORE ON: training tips weather

Copyright © 2024 Hearst