As I keep saying, I don’t have anything to prove. I just love running barefoot and I’m learning that my feet are more adaptable than I knew when I started this barefoot lifestyle. So, this winter I developed the loose, but cautious goal to try running in colder temperatures than last year. At first, I didn’t think that would include snow. I surprised myself by feeling ready to try even that the first week of January.
Even though I felt basically ready for this test, I did have a couple of things to consider. One, I hadn’t run strictly barefoot in over a month due to very cold, wet weather. That is, daytime highs very briefly in the 20’s (°F), plus varying layers of ice and wet snow. Secondly, I had had the flu knock me out of my running routine for 2 weeks. My first measly 3.1 miles after being sick with the worst of it had been in Sockwas in roadside slush and mud. I hadn’t run enough or fast enough to generate much heat.
But, about 3 days later, it was a sunny 35°F. The snow was semi-packed with some bare spots. And my husband was taking me to run in a more remote location around the local lake. There would not have been any cars driving there to create mush.
Unsure still of my overall heat-generating stamina, I dressed in several layers. My underlayer was new Icebreaker wool. For my feet, I had Icebreaker wool socks, topped with Sockwa G4’s, which are waterproof neoprene uppers with knobby, grippy soles. The soles are flexible and thin and let me feel the ground nicely in these wetter conditions.
Usually, I don’t like to interrupt a run with footwear changes, but I knew I needed to be willing to for a test run in the snow since it was part of a 4-5 mile overall run. I also knew I wanted to warm up significantly and do my test near the end of my run, just in case I had trouble. (click on any photo to enlarge)
When it was finally time to run in totally bare feet in the snow, I was definitely mentally ready. I slipped off the Sockwas and socks and took off. The feel of running completely barefoot again brought joy. The snow was packed hard in many places, but my feet were not struggling with traction. I could run faster on the snow than on the patches of bare gravel. My feet felt the cold on the snow and ice, more than when I had run on dry asphalt. After 0.2 miles, the soles of my feet developed a slightly uncomfortably ‘burning’ sensation. I ran another 0.1 miles without trouble, but opted to put on the Sockwas, sans socks, since I was being cautious.
I was pleased to find that my feet felt immediately warm again. I took this as a sign that they had not been at risk. In another 0.1 miles, I went bare again, but succumbed to the ‘burning’ sensation after just 0.1 miles. I ran the last 0.1 miles back to the car in my Sockwas. Still, my feet were warm right away again and there was ZERO loss of feeling and NO numbing.
From what I have read, everyone has different cold tolerance levels. Also, time spent barefoot, plus gradual exposure to cold, lead not only to increased tolerance, but to being comfortable in relatively cold temperatures. For the person who understands the benefits of being barefoot, and has been going barefoot as much as possible, this is good news. I don’t know how much more I’ll get to running barefoot in the snow this year, but I am encouraged to try again.