Most seasoned runners (and most beginners, too) know the importance the major running weather concerns – wearing breathable clothing in the summer and bundling up in the winter. When you are a barefoot runner, there are a few more factors to consider.
In the height of summer, concrete and asphalt can get very hot. As your feet adapt to barefoot running you will become less sensitive to temperature, but still be sure to use caution in hot climates or on very sunny days. If you find that your favorite running surfaces get pretty hot by the afternoon, try to get your barefoot runs in early in the day, before the roads and sidewalks have a chance to get too warm. If you have to run in the afternoon in hot sunny weather, then it’s a great time to switch to grass!
In cold weather you will have the opposite problem, and you still need to take precautions. If you find that your feet are going numb in the cold, avoid barefoot running until it warms up, or take your running indoors to a treadmill. It’s more a personal factor than one of running with or without shoes; if you are prone to feeling the cold then barefoot running in winter may not be for you. However, many people find they notice the cold less when they run barefoot, because of the increased circulation to their feet. Give it a try before you tell yourself it’s too cold to go out without shoes!
Snow and ice are good reasons to avoid a run altogether, with or without shoes. The running barefoot book has a chapter dedicated to dealing with the weather while shodless, so reading that will give you a better idea of what is possible and what should be avoided. Wet, cold feet or slippery surfaces lead to running injuries shod or not. If you are out for a run and you hit an icy patch, chances are you’ll find you have more traction barefoot than in running shoes, but for safety’s sake, avoid running outside in harsh winter conditions altogether. In snow you can’t see what’s underfoot – a hazard for barefoot runners, but shod runners too can trip or stumble on obstacles hidden by a layer of snow. In very cold or snowy weather, head for an indoor run – hit the treadmill barefoot or find a gym with an indoor track and get your shoes off there!
Daylight (or lack thereof)
Running in the dark carries risk for all runners, shoes or not. If you run barefoot in dark or dusky conditions, take the same precautions you would in shoes. A headlamp is a great idea; it allows you to see what’s on the ground and lets you keep your arms free for balance. If you head out in the dark, slow your pace down to give you a little more time to avoid any hazards that you spot. Try to choose a route you know fairly well and that has plenty of light from streetlights – not only will you be less likely to stumble and you’ll be able to see hazards better, running in brightly lit places makes good sense for any nighttime runner just for personal safety.
What precautions do you take when running barefoot in different conditions?
Photo Credit: Jesse Kruger on Flickr