As a runner, wind probably isn’t on your mind as it is for, say, a glider pilot or a cyclist. Nevertheless, it can take minutes off your time, tire and dehydrate you, and freeze your fingers and nose. It deserves some attention.


Here are typical time penalties from running into a headwind:

10 mph wind: 20 seconds per mile

15 mph wind: 30 seconds per mile

20 mph wind: 60 seconds per mile

This is also to say you’ll get tired sooner. Don’t count on covering the same distance as you would on a calm day. And don’t assume that only a headwind will slow you down. A strong crosswind can be almost as tiring, and much more destabilizing.

In colder weather, consider the wind chill factor. Your exposed skin will be cooled more quickly, in direct proportion to the wind speed. If the actual temperature is below freezing, high winds make frostbite a possibility. Pay special attention to extremities like ears, nose, and fingers.

Wind is dehydrating. Assume you’ll need more water, all else being equal.

How to Dress

Emphasize wind-resistant coverage over insulation. Lightweight, breathable shell jackets shed the wind without trapping too much body heat and moisture. In milder conditions, stretch fabrics trade some wind resistance for increased breathability.

Form-fitting clothes make you more aerodynamic. You’ll expend less energy, and be less annoyed by the sound of loose fabric getting thrashed in a gale.

Consider lightweight gloves, like synthetic liner gloves, and lightweight fleece hats. In more severe conditions, consider a wind-blocking fleece hat.


Try to avoid obvious wind traps, like ridge tops and narrow valleys that can act as wind tunnels.

The universal windy route advice: start into the wind, so you’ll have a tailwind coming home. Try to avoid charging off with a tailwind, feeling like a superhero, covering miles at a personal-record pace—only to turn around to face the mother of all reality checks. Few runners make this mistake more than once.

Tips and Tricks

Pay attention to time and effort more than distance. A mile is not a mile when the wind is howling.

Consider bringing lip balm, to combat the drying effects of wind.

If you’re running in a group, draft one another, the way cyclists do. Run in a line, single file or two-by-two, following in the slipstream of those in front. The front-runners are doing more work. After a couple of minutes at the front, they move to the side, slow a bit, and drop to the back.