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Recently I was running in the hills, and although the air was quite chilly, it was warm enough when going uphill, that I've pulled my sleeves up to the elbow.

However, when I wanted to get a handkerchief, I've noticed they're a bit numb and I have problems grabbing it from my pocket.

It could be a serious issue if you've find yourself unable to put warmer clothes on.

What are the tricks for numb fingers, if you don't have any source of heat?

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    Your body is a source of heat. Use the warmer parts, armpits and groin area, which tend to be the last to get chilly when it's cold out.
    – noah
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 21:25
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    @noah that looks like an answer to me. Please post as one.
    – Willeke
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 21:59
  • @noah's point is indeed good, though not always applicable. It can be used at time on a bike, one hand at a time in the opposite armpit, but if you really need both hands simultaneously you need another solution.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 7:54
  • reminded me of thefreshreads.com/to-build-a-fire
    – aucuparia
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 17:58
  • Use gloves and a cap.
    – ahron
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 4:38

4 Answers 4

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Cold numbing extremities is partly due to cold actually at the extremities, and partly the blood reaching them not being very warm.

I've often seen winter runners wearing gloves and short sleeves. I've even done it myself, and occasionally cycle with full finger gloves but bare arms. If you run fast (unlike me), wind chill is an issue, as it is for me on a bike; in both cases the hands are very exposed to the wind. So a pair of thin, wind-resistant gloves might be a good idea - or slightly thicker ones if you already had something - but with full fingers.

The other side of the issue is the wrists - pulling your sleeves up is good for cooling, but exposes the blood vessels that run near the surface. You may need something as simple as pulling them back down again sooner than you thought, but if you go for gloves, ones that cover your wrists would be a good idea.

If, like me, you have long arms, that gap between sleeve and glove can let a lot of heat out. Running tops exist that have a hole to hook over your thumb - I have one that I more often use as a cycling base layer to close the gap. Warm wristbands (1980s style) might be worth a try too.

If you tend to overheat on the uphills in cold weather, a top that unzips near the throat is probably better than rolling up sleeves (or you might do both) - but remember to zip it up as soon as you cool down. That deliberately cools closer to your core.

Rewarming with your hands tucked under your arms does work, but it's not very quick to get the feeling back, and can be awkward or impossible if you need your hands. It would be better to use that at the first signs, more for prevention. So one thing you can do is check your fingers are behaving properly as you go along to know if you need to warm them; the tiny effort of wiggling them will also warm them a bit

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A fast method that works if you are not really cold but just have cold/clumsy fingers:

Flick your hand, as if you want to shuck off a glove. This will get the blood rushing into your hand, just enough for a short rush of warmth.

If you do happen to wear gloves or mittens when you make this movement, pinch it between thumb and the rest of the hand, or something like that, as it might be shaken out of place.

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I like to go trail running in the mountains in southern California. Sometimes in the spring or fall it's cold, and I have problems similar to yours. The following are not really tricks, but mainly just common sense.

  • Check the weather forecast before you go.

  • Consider safety in case you break an ankle or a wrist or something like that. If the cold is really starting to make it difficult to function, and you could have problems dealing with an emergency, then turn around.

  • If the conditions seem to merit it, bring a sweater tied around your waist. If necessary, put the sweater on and pull it down over your hands.

  • Bring a pair of gloves or the cut-off ends of a pair of socks that you can put on your hands.

  • If you're just going to pop up to a cold, windy peak and then head back down, then don't worry too much. You'll be OK.

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    +1 for "bring a cut-off pair of socks". I'd modify it to "bring an eztra extra {sic} pair of socks." I have used socks as mittens many times, because in snowy or other wet conditions, gloves and mittens get wet faster than socks. Amusing aside: An article on how to recognize Alzheimers said wearing socks as gloves is a sign of dementia. If so, I had dementia in graduate school.
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 19:12
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    @ab2 : Socks is a really great idea ! I Was thinking of it few weeks ago. Now, I am not in California. In North Dakota, our wind-chills get down to -60F and keeping hands warm is a constant challenge despite wearing 3-4 layers of gloves (to counter the wind-chill) as I walk my dog few times a day. If I couldn't walk out there, just because it's -30 F wind-chill, I wouldn't go out for half of the winter as the wind is relentless. I'm glad I am not the only one to consider socks as a last layer and I don't care if it's regarded as Alzheimer's, as long as my hands are not frostbitten :-)
    – 3D Coder
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 23:20
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If you exert yourself to a high level or extended duration, blood flow is restricted in muscle groups you are not using (and certain tissues/organs not involved in the activity). It is therefore that this situation can become more likely/severe during a run. Notice your toes didn’t go numb because you are using them to run, but if you were cycling you could also have this in your toes, and you would want to dismount and walk for a while (as long as it’s dry).

You will want to stop running, but keep your heart rate elevated, and use/work the muscles that have become numb to increase circulation to them, in addition to other efforts that may help.

A preventative measure would be to move you fingers while you run. This may be hard to focus on during a competition, so it should be factored beforehand if you are competing in the cold.

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