Winter means many different things, to many different people. To me, it means snow, ice, and a windchill up to -15F (-26C). Based on your locale, you will have to adjust things to fit your needs. I have written at length about barefoot winter running advice, options, clothing, and experience.
The reoccurring question is, "Can I run barefoot in the winter?"
The answer, which rears its head for most running related questions, is "it depends on...".
It's important to tell yourself that just because someone else can run barefoot in the snow, doesn't mean you're capable of it.
Once you're done with that thought, remind yourself that the human body is capable of amazing, and often mind baffling feats.We are each an experiment of one. Set your mind right, so you're able to experiment with your body correctly.
There are four key factors which will impact your ability to run in the snow: snowfall, temperature, windchill, and the road salt situation.
Snowfall is important to consider because running in snow above your ankles will have a drastically different feel and impact on your body heat than running with the snow solely beneath your soles.
Temperature and windchill both affect the duration of the time you can experiment before you reach a dangerous situation.
Road Salt can cause all sorts of problems. If your neighbors salt the sidewalks you may find them painful to traverse. Even more problematic is the effect of the salt. Water that would have normally been ice, or remained snow is now a liquid whose temperature is below freezing. Stepping in a road "puddle" or getting your feet wet with this below freezing mixture can accelerate foot damage.
Your ability, and desire, to adapt slowly.
Just as learning to run barefoot took patience, learning to run barefoot in the snow will take a similar patience. The risk of too much, too soon though is vastly different.
In the warmer months, you find yourself with blisters or cuts. In the winter, you will find yourself with frostbite.Be sure you learn the warning signs so that you can take corrective action immediately.
Don't let barefoot run scare you though, just be safe -- try it, experiment and see what works for you. I'd love to hear about your experiences, both success and failures. It helps me learn more.
Just remember: always have a backup plan to prevent frostbite and don't push it!
Resources for learning more:
- Frostbite. Know what it looks like, what it feels like, and how to heal it if you find yourself with it.
- Barefoot Rick's Winter Running Diary and Discussion. You'll find 5 years worth of anecdotal information and his discussion with the NY Times.
- Additional guide and thoughts from the MapleGrove barefoot guy.