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Monday, November 15, 2010

My first winter barefoot run

I'm not going to lie citizens.  The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy does have his weakness.  Up until this weekend, that weakness was barefoot running in the snow.  And of course, doughnuts are another chink in my armor (to hell with paleo if I see a box of doughnuts).  Mostly this weakness is just me being a primadonna.  We Minnesotans try to act like we're tough in the winter.  We go outside in t-shirts in negative degree weather.  We make jokes about how it's not the heat, it's the humidity that will get you in the winter. 

I do all of that...and I am serious for the most part.  I've taken a run in -20 degree weather.  Even though I wore goggles, my eyelids froze shut at least three times.  And with the goggles and all my black winter tech-gear I looked like the Red Baron and Ninja Gaiden had a baby.  But if snow touches my toes, I will scream like a girl at a Bieber concert.

Over the weekend, we got 12 inches of snow in Maple Grove.  Before that, temperatures were in the 60s.  Winter came right up to Fall and sucker punched him right in the nugs.  And I was determined to shed my fear of barefoot running in the snow.  So right after getting up, I went outside in my pjs and bare feet.


I was pleasantly surprised.  The snow wasn't that cold.  My feet were actually quite comfortable.  And the snow was melting fast beneath my feet.  What a cool feeling!

I hustled back inside and went upstairs to get dressed.  My wife was still asleep (it was 6am).  I told my wife the following: 1) Fall is over, 2) I'm going for a barefoot run, and 3) Clara is on the couch watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  I'm pretty sure she was still asleep when I talked to her, but she responded, "If you get frostbite, call 911 and not me."  I admire her having her priorities in line: sleep first, then her husband's safety.  

Before going out I went over all of the advice I've read about running barefoot in the winter.  Number one: protect your core.  I put on enough DryFit to equip a convoy to Mt. Everest.  Number two: get warm.  I put my feet right up to one of my heating vents and started doing jumping jacks to get my blood flowing.  It worked; I was now sweating.  Then I popped out the garage into the fresh snow.   

My first barefoot run wasn't a long run; just around the streets in my neighborhood.  The plows hadn't gone through yet, so a fresh layer of about 3 inches of snow covered everything.  It only partially covered my feet in soft, very wet snow.  After the first couple steps, I felt my feet numb up quick.  But as soon as they numbed up, I felt a surge of heat radiate down my legs to warm them back up.  I stopped at a dry spot under a  tree, and my feet dried off immediately and returned to their pre-run temperature. 

I started out again and my toes were toasty warm.  This time the snow melted under my feet.  In this area, the trees kept a lot of the snow off the road.  So the terrain alternated between spots of 1-2 inches, slush, and wet blacktop.  The snow numbed my feet again, but not nearly as much.  It felt just like running through a puddle.  So I kept going.  My plans to go around the block changed as I ran down the next street.  Still feeling warm then, I turned up onto a local trail.  One mile turned into two, and I could have gone further.  But I decided to stop to not push my luck.  All I would need to end my fun is the lecture I would get from people after getting frostbite during my first barefoot snow run. 

And what a fantastic run it was!  Like being a kid again, playing in the snow.  After a 2-miler on Saturday and a 6-miler on Sunday, I am officially a winter barefoot runner.  I guess that's a good thing, because after moving my snow plow into my garage I can't find my Vibrams.  Anyway, I hope this winter provides tons of fun, and I will keep you all posted as to my frozen barefoot antics.  Cheers! 


  1. This sounds like an amazing run. Way before I started running barefoot I tried walking barefoot in the snow, just to see how far I could go. My mom used to tell me stories how she would play in the snow with her siblings sans shoes. Well, I did not make it very far.
    We won't be getting any snow here, in SF Bay Area but next time we head into the mountains I will certainly give it a try. I am a bit envious now.

  2. From what I can tell, it's all about getting used to the cold. So if I had just stepped out into the snow after keeping my feet in shoes all fall, I probably won't have been able to run. Since I've been barefooting daily in 30 degree weather, I was fine.

  3. Very interesting. It sounds like you're proceeding in a thoughtful manner. It would be really great if I didn't have to put shoes on to continue running through the winter -- (so far our weather has been amazingly warm but I know the issue is coming up) -- but I'm not sure I have the guts to give it a try since I HATE being cold.

    Although this is how it starts isn't it? Hearing about how one person did it and then thinking maybe I can too...

    aka "Barefoot Fresca"

  4. Well I wouldn't have thought running in the snow barefoot was possible either if it wasn't for Barefoot Rick and his amazing accomplishments. I hope that hearing about my adventures gives you the courage to try it out.

    It really is a fantastic experience. I compare it to my first couple barefoot runs. So much to learn and discover! And the cold is getting easier to manage the more I just go out and do it.

    In fact, the cold isn't so much the problem anymore. It's the terrain. Snow doesn't melt in a flat layer...it creates little nooks and crannies. And those are sharp! Running on that irregular ice is the worst part for sure!

  5. If you want the true winter test on those feet of yours, get ready for the spring thaw on Lake Minnetonka. We used to wait until it was slippery as glass after it refroze in March. Never tried running on Minnetonka barefoot. If I still lived there, trust me, I would be up for the challenge.

    I used to run from Howards Point in Shorewood to Enchanted Island. It was always an adventure. The deeper the snow the better.

    Carver park was another favorite. I enjoyed winter running more in Minnesota more than summer as there seemed to be more possibilities.

    Maybe someone will make a neoprene sock to run in for the winter.



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