The winter of 2013-2014 started in my neighbourhood (Port Credit, Ontario, Canada) in early November and has continued unabated to the posting of this. With our Spring only 8 calendar days away, it feels like MONTHS from actually breaking. Today is the 1st time we’ve had temperatures above ZERO Celsius in 4 1/2 months.
Beginning in November, we got hit with heavy snowfall, sub-zero Celsius temperatures, ice storms and an obscenely high amount of road salt. Needless to say, this made my barefoot run outings virtually impossible to complete. I did try, however, on numerous occasions, to keep my barefoot running streaks alive. It simply was not to be…not often do I surrender to the elements – this winter proved to be the exception.
The following is a list of how I managed to survive temperatures consistently colder than -20 Celsius with the wind chill and keep running barefoot or close to it:
- with no wet, ice-cold slush soaked in road salt, I was able to run barefoot down to -15 Celsius on all surfaces (it actually felt great to do so – fast on my feet, no pain and no frostbite).
- attempting to go barefoot colder than -15 Celsius or warmer than -15 Celsius (to -5 Celsius) in slushy, salty, icy road conditions proved impossible for me. Once the soles of the toes of my feet started burning and/or sticking to the hard ice, it was too late – FROSTBITE central.
- once the frostbite took hold, the bottoms of my toes blackened quickly. The burning pain does NOT stop until the black surface skin has peeled off and the tender exposed ‘new’ skin heals. I do NOT recommend this for anyone…
- of course, I was able to run through the frostbite by wearing my SOCKWA G3s with my 3/4 length Barefoot-Science inserts. These proved to be my best options to keep my feet warm enough and give me the best foot activation possible without being barefoot.
- I tried the new winter Vibram Lontras – they were fine when I was coaching outdoors, keeping my feet protected and toes from freezing. When running, however, I found them too stiff, heavy, restrictive and insensitive to proprioceptive firing.
- I also tried the Xeros but, with my feet fully exposed, they were only good down to about -12 Celsius if that. Also, I did not get the same proprioceptive feedback as with the Sockwa/Barefoot-Science combination. This may improve once I use them in warmer temps with the Barefoot-Science inserts in place.
As you can read, it is NOT an easy process to remain true to fully barefoot running in the harsh realities of certain winters in certain countries. Adapting to save one’s feet for another day becomes the rallying cry for we barefoot runners. Believe me – if the coach cannot run in it barefoot, not many can!!
Here’s to the onset of the Canadian Spring season and consistent outdoor barefoot running – faster, stronger, safer!