Barefoot in Winter Part 3

Rod Begg (aka BarefootYOW): Ottawa runner new to barefoot running (2010)
Goals: Run healthy and squeeze in a marathon
Interests: Running and sea kayaking (year round)
Favorite run: Rain forest of Guyana

Winter is a central aspect of our Canadian culture. It defines us, whether you’re a snow bird or hockey fanatic. Winter running is fun, beneficial, and challenging for barefooting. I take my toque off to anyone who runs in winter. Just being outside in the cold and wind is an accomplishment, as most sit by the TV and wait for the Easter Bunny to bring warmer weather.

How does one run barefoot in the winter? It is certainly not an endeavour to simply jump right into. It is important to acclimatize gradually. Running throughout the fall and into December will provide the conditioning for your body and more importantly your psyche. It is all relative, some folks feel that +5°C is cold while others -5°C. There are a handful of barefoot winter runners worldwide. The most infamous is Barefoot Rick. This marvel has run every day since 2005. Check out his website, but beware, you may need a strong stomach for some of the frostbite photographs. Running in the barefoot style requires a light touch. Look at the following photo, and compare the footprint of the shod runner (left) and barefoot (right) .

Footprints

What have I learned in my first winter barefoot?

Here’s a list of my tips:

1. Finding your comfort zone in critical. Listen to your feet.

2. Dry is better. Wet soft feet are more susceptible to wear.

3. Warm up first. Run a couple kilometers first THEN take off your footwear.

4. Your feet will start to sweat after about 3 km of cold exposure.

5. Always bring backup. Carry shoes in case you become too cold.

6. Don’t use Vibram Five Fingers as your backup footwear. You cannot get cold toes into them, and that is dangerous.

7. SALT – is a foot killer. Avoid salty conditions at all cost.

8. Run with ID. Some police officer will stop you (because they think you’re psycho).

What to wear when it is too cold? I have found that I enjoy running with Kigo water shoes. They meet my requirements for a winter minimalist ‘shoe’. They have zero drop, are extremely flexible, light, and have a 4mm sole. These are fantastic on ice, slush, packed snow, and puddles. The main advantage of water shoes is that they are better at keeping your toes warm. The old glove versus mitten debate is true. Separated toes will get colder faster … guaranteed!

Running in the winter exposes you to the Creator’s splendor. Get outside. Feel the brisk wind. Feel the sensation of snow or ice on your soles and soul. Run like you’re a kid. Play in the snow. Run with a smile, as you see the reaction of the rubber-neckers.

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