Winter running

I am getting cold feet. I knew this was going to happen – it’s the fundamental reason we do wear shoes. They protect our feet from the elements. And I am a wimp that way … I hate it when my feet are cold. Cold, wet feet is the worst. So yesterday I did just that – I got my feet really cold and wet. Ughh!

It snowed here on Friday, and yesterday the temperature was just around freezing all day. The roads in the neighborhood were wet from melting snow and partly covered in slush. Great day for running barefoot. Not really, but I figured I’d try it anyway. I know I can run barefoot reasonably comfortably down to about 40 F (4.4 Deg. Celsius) air temperature, especially if it’s sunny and the sun warms the pavement a bit. So this was an opportunity to push that limit. And it was also an opportunity to see if my Sanuks would work as running shoes to help keep my feet warm in such conditions.

I ran a mile barefoot and after about a Minute my feet started going numb – after 3 Min the soles of my feet were so numb that I received very little feedback from them, which defeats the purpose of running barefoot in the first place. And then I had to run back up the hill to get home (=warm). After about 5 Min the cold started to feel painful, I was really pushing hard, panting and sweating up that hill. I had hoped that dressing more warmly would help. I can’t say that it did not, but it did not solve the problem. I was careful not to let my running technique slip too much (so I would not hurt my feet), but I was really anxious to get back into the warm. I ran that mile in a pretty good time (7:49), but the last bit was unpleasant.

After I warmed my feet, I put on my Sanuks and tried again. I ran the exact same stretch, down the hill and back up, and my feet were fine. The shoes got a bit wet, though, and I could tell the difference right away. Still, my feet were reasonably warm in the Sanuks. However, they really are not particularly suitable for running. I could feel my feet rooting around in the shoes searching for “a grip” – the shoes to not transmit the traction very well at all. My time slipped well below 8 Min, even though on the second run I’m usually a bit faster than on my first.

So clearly (and logically) insulating your feet against the cold ground even with a thin sole keeps them much warmer. But the real test for me was whether the Sanuks are suitable for running, and I think the verdict is “not so much”. So in the meantime I’ll stick to running barefoot  on warmer days and biking on colder days. Too bad they won’t let me run barefoot on the treadmill at the gym.

One Response to “Winter running”

  1. Jason Robillard Says:

    Oddly, I find my feet “warm up” after about a mile when running in snow and sub-freezing temps. I think it is a function of increased circulation and heat generated my muscles. This effect seems effective in temps all the way down to about 25 degrees or so.