This being my 1st blog of 2014 after a month-long hiatus, I thought it appropriate to write about running barefoot (or at least trying to!) in the Canadian winter.
Being based on the shores of Lake Ontario in Port Credit, Canada, I am not often exposed to extreme winter weather. This winter (which began in mid November) has been the exception. It has been consistently cold (temps ranging from O celsius to -41 celsius) with more snow (1 to 2 metres) and ice (the great ice storm of Christmas 2013!) than in many decades. With the city applying salt and sand to the roads and walkways in record amounts (to the point where there is now a shortage) and the resultant melting, running barefoot for any significant time has been virtually impossible.
The challenge is not generally the snow and ice, one can run barefoot on surfaces like this without too much difficulty as long as you keep moving. The bigger challenge is running on damp, salt-covered asphalt roads in minus celsius temperatures. Concrete surfaces are actually warmer to run on in the winter. So, if you do wish to run barefoot in the Canadian winter, how do you do it? Well, here are a few tips.
Lets assume you have been running barefoot outdoors for at least a few months in the Canadian summer and autumn weather:
- build up a base where your feet and body are used to running barefoot.
- depending on the temperature (if colder than -8 celsius), I recommend starting out in some type of minimalist footwear (I use the Sockwa, the winter Vibram Lontra or the Nike 3.0 with no socks).
- once you go a few kilometres and your feet have acclimated slightly, remove your footwear and continue barefoot.
- you must mentally fight through the initial sensation of ‘burning’, ripping from salt particles and imbalance.
- if you can do that for at least 1 or 2 kilometres, your feet will adapt and actually warm up. If this does NOT happen, then the conditions are too extreme and you MUST put your footwear back on to avoid frostbite.
- I also recommend warming up barefoot more than normal before going outdoors and testing the ground by running in and out of your starting point for a few minutes to acclimate your feet to the conditions.
Believe it or not, your feet (and body) will adapt to quite extreme winter conditions (personally, I don’t recommend attempting to run barefoot in temperatures below -15 Celsius). Why, you ask, would ANYONE even WANT to run barefoot in the winter?? The answer to that is I have NO idea! Seriously, for those who are committed to running barefoot, it simply allows you to run injury-free, experience the sensation of strong, balanced running and maintain a base for the more agreeable warmer weather of the other 3 seasons.
Who knows?? Maybe I will even see a few of you running barefoot in my ‘hood’ this winter!