Running in shorts and the effects of cold on the knees

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Can running in shorts at a low temperature negatively affect the body and the productivity of training?

You’ve probably seen runners in shorts in near-zero temperatures. Can’t that have a negative effect on your body and the productivity of your workout?

Most sports physical therapists believe this to be the case. Running in shorts in cold weather, especially in winter, is not a good idea. This is especially true for athletes with a history of knee injuries.

Sometimes the cold can be a catalyst for inflammatory processes in the knees if there have been any problems with them before. But more often the danger lies in the way the body functions at different temperatures.

Body’s response to cold

During the cold season, when the body is insufficiently insulated, the functioning of the circulation changes. Blood flows inward from the periphery, heating and supplying oxygen to the vital organs and gradually excluding the limbs from this process.

Of course, under such conditions, the knee joints cannot function properly, receiving a lack of lubrication and oxygen. And the ankle is also present in this chain. The cold makes the peripheral areas stiffer, so the likelihood of feeling knee pain while running in winter is higher than in summer.

This reasoning still has no confirmation and no official proof, but nevertheless, it seems quite logical and is held by most sports medicine specialists.

In the good old Soviet cycling school, we had this rule: do not expose your knees at temperatures below 12°C. By and large, that’s very fair. But even 12 degrees can feel and affect the body differently, depending on humidity, strength and wind direction. For cities like Peter, a northwest wind and a southeast wind change the feeling of the weather dramatically.

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In general, the 12°C rule can be followed by almost all runners, regardless of training and pace, as long as it is not raining and the sun is shining. But you should always remember the main thing – the colder it is outside, the longer the warm-up.

Sometimes experienced runners wear shorts in cold weather for powerful, active workouts, and tights or jogging pants for easy runs. In theory, though, if you do want to wear shorts, you should do exactly the opposite. After all, cold muscles and joints must not bear increased and, especially, peak loads. Especially shock loads.

The other side of running in shorts in the cold is the unnecessary hypothermia of what’s underneath them, for both men and women. This issue is most relevant in strong winds.

Anyway, no one has cancelled the hardening. Many athletes perfectly tolerate peak loads in winter with a minimum of clothing. And no negative effects of the cold on muscles, joints and ligaments have been detected in them. But it should be remembered that the same basic rule works here as everywhere else – gradualness.

You should also remember that the best medicine for the joints is movement. Therefore, no weather can be an excuse to stay at home.

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