If you’ve been experimenting with barefoot or minimalist running, you may be wondering what you’re supposed to do now that winter is here. Can you still run in Vibrams? Is it really safe to run barefoot in the snow? How can you keep up your mileage without flirting with frostbite?
Runners start looking for all sorts of crazy solutions to keep their feet warm as the weather cools. Some have tried everything from sticking portable hand warmers down their socks to buying a bigger shoe size so they can wear four pairs of socks underneath.
Take heart, winter isn't the apocalypse for barefoot running. Here are a few common-sense tips to get you through this season.
1. The shoes you have are probably fine.
Be patient and let your body adapt. Have you noticed that when the temperature hits 50 degrees in the fall, it feels cold, but when it hits 50 again in the spring you're running with shorts on? Your body has adapted to the colder weather.
The same goes for your feet. They can adapt, and quickly. Time varies depending on how much experience you have with cold weather, but most people feel comfortable in about one to two weeks.
You may eventually be able to run in very cold temperatures with very little on your feet. Experienced minimalist runners have reached temperatures as low as -20 degrees wearing nothing but a pair of Vibram KSOs and some Injinji socks. However, you don’t need to be that extreme to run outside this winter.
Most runs can feel comfortable in minimalist shoes. If you do need extra warmth, you may want to consider a pair of $12 socks instead of a new pair of $100 shoes.
2. Expose your feet to the cold.
Before your feet can adapt to the cold, they must be exposed to colder weather. The more you expose your feet, the faster your body can adapt. Head outside with as little as possible. Even if you're not a barefoot runner, kick those shoes off and head outside. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable at first, but if your feet start feeling numb head back inside or put something on.