First Barefoot Snow Run - Nov 19, 2010

Blog entry posted by Barefooting Bob, Dec 5, 2010.

Some might say I have crossed over the line from 'Crazy' to 'Down Right Insane', if they saw me running around downtown last Friday, decked in my winter running gear and no shoes. According to the majority, I was dressed for the weather (I guess that would mean I fall into the minority category) from the ankles up, but supposedly below my ankles were slightly lacking. I actually felt perfectly fine for the situation at hand of trying to dwell into the realms of snow barefoot running.

Who would of guessed that so many people would be concerned about the well being of my feet?

It was a perfectly balmy day in the 'Peg for November (-10 degrees / -20 degrees with the wind chill) partly cloudy with a pleasant swirling wind. The game plan was to do a 5 km loop from the office, thru the forks, up to Main Street and back to the office, all in all, about 30 minutes due to the surface conditions and expected lack of barefoot traction.

I got ready to go, suited up c/w running toque, scarf, wind repellent gloves, layered shirts and running jacket, and of course my winter Running Room pants (advise from Barefoot Rick stressed the importance of keeping your core warm, and your feet will follow). I decided to leave myGarmin behind this time, as I didn't think waiting for the satellite to be located would be particularly helpful for my bare feet, must keep moving until foot temperature stabilizes. This being said, I headed to the lobby to start my journey into territories not travelled by the masses.

I got to the lobby and looked out the glass entrance doors to 4 smokers all bundled up and shivering, trying to shelter themselves from the wind. My first thought was, 'Hmmm, this should be interesting, hopefully I don't give someone a heart attack (I found out later that all of them were shocked to see the 'CRAZY' guy from the 4th floor still running around without shoes! I wonder who they were referring too, not me!!). Getting a head full of steam, I opened up the exterior door and sprinted down the steps, holding my VFF's in my hands. Around the corner of the building I went and straight thru the first snow bank like a man on a mission, of course I was on a mission, To test the boundaries and go where no Winnipegger has gone before!!

The plan was to do a 5 km loop around the Forks, and see how the feet and toes react, before I tried stretching the distances out further. Let's just say, I have found out the hard way that getting your feet wet in slushy road conditions and then trail blazing thru snow drifts with barefeet, is not the best thing to do. My wet feet froze fairly quickly and I was limited to a 2.5 km run instead. Anyway I digress, so back to the report.

I was very happy at how my feet were responding to the snowy sidewalk and snow drifts both in traction and feeling of the sidewalk. I got some more weird looks from commuters (both pedestrian and car traffic), and a whole lot of finger pointing. I actually felt pretty good, and my feet were fine, I could sense a little bit of numbness settling in though, but I was not prepared for what was to come (this would be the damn slush). I got to a busy street corner, and was surprised to see wet slush all over the roads, not thinking anything of it, I bolted across the street trying to avoid the puddles and ended up bounding thru slush build up and basically soaking my feet. Somewhere in the back of mind, I thought that might not be too good, considering the temperature, and the uncleared sidewalks ahead. But me being me, and ever trying to push the limits, I trudged on thru the snow, causing more looks of confusion as I ran by the bundled masses walking thru the snow.

As I worked my way along Main Street back towards my office, I passed more finger pointing and surprised looks but I really didn't care, I was having a blast. By the time I hit 2 kms the numbness in a couple of my toes was definitely noticeable, but the strangest thing, the rest of my feet felt warm (relatively speaking), I heard that once you get to a certain point your feet start to relegate heat but I was surprised how noticeable it was. My first thought was this is pretty neat, my gloved hands and scarf covered face were colder than my bare feet, who would of guessed.

I pulled into the office and headed up to check out the damage on my feet, they didn' t look to bad at first glance, a little red and the numbness was definitely apparent. But as my feet started to defrost, the numbness was more apparent, and the pins and needles appeared, this of course caused me to dance around my office a little bit, and probably looked a little silly, but it helped push the feeling into my toes.

All in all, everything seemed fine, I expected some minor frost bite to appear because of the wet feet, and I was right, by the time I got home I ended up with 6 toes with frostbite blisters and minor swelling. I drained the blisters to help facilitate healing (and found out afterwards that you should not do this according to the professionals, you are suppose to let them heal and let them break open on their own). I had no ill effects to draining them, but one toe kept blistering up and filling back up with liquid, thus it was drained 3 or 4 times. It took about 5 days for the swelling to go down and the healing to complete, but no adverse effects were apparent. I waited for another 4 days after my toes were healed before I attempted another barefoot run (I will blog about this in a later post), but I was able to run in my Zems quite efficiently prior to that.

So now I know I can run barefoot in the snow, but I believe -20 is my limit, at least until I decided to push the boundaries again.

Barefooting Bob