Running Barefoot in the Winter

Yes, you should do a barefoot running workout.

Running barefoot in the winter may seem like a crazy idea but if your feet need strengthening, this is the best way to do it.

As long as you use a couple of common sense guidelines, you will have a great time.

Note: Running barefoot has 2 dangers.

  1. Doing too much at once and straining the weak musclesin the foot.
  2. Stepping on something.

So please carefully inspect any area before you run on it.

Good places to start your barefoot odyssey

  • Artificial playing fields. Doing a walking check and inspect for debris.
  • Treadmill
  • Mini trampoline

Bad places to run barefoot

  • the street
  • sidewalks
  • anywhere with dead grass,weeds, rocks.

My Story

Last Friday I am driving around town training clients and listening to “Born to Run” on audiobooks when a crazy thought hit me.

Today I could be like Barefoot Ted! This tenderfoot is going going to run barefoot in the middle of January in the Rocky Mountains. It was a beautiful sunny day in the 40’s, so why not?

I know where there is a spongy, artificial turf field.

perfect barefoot running area

This is one of those fields that uses old tires as an underlay. Nice and bouncy!

running barefoot

Should I be embarrassed to say I have never run barefoot before?

Is it unmanly to say I have tender feet?

Yes and yes. I don’t know where you stand on the minimalist versus maximalist argument but I think we can all agree that strong feet are better than weak feet.

As a general rule stronger is better in anything.

As the Strength coach/warrior philosopher Mark Rippetoe once said,

“Stronger people are harder to kill and generally more useful in society.”

The same can be said for you feet.

The 2 things that have really helped me rehab my legs and get ready for 2017 are:

Checking out my feet everyday and doing quick rolling and smashing.

  • Using a foam roller on my shins. (The old Bonesaw)
  • Rolling the bottom of my foot on a golf ball. (to break up any beginning plantar fasciitis)
  • Stretching the toes, grabbing the golf ball with my toes etc…
  • Checking out the Achilles tendon with my fingers to find any hot areas.

Conditioning and strength training

  • One legged balancing.
  • One legged calf holds.
  • One legged RDL’s (Romanian Deadlifts)

But the obvious way to strengthen the foot is running barefoot.

So here is how you do it.

Rule 1: Keep the workout short.

I started with a 100 yard walk to loosen up the feet, then six 40 yard jogs.

That is your barefoot running workout. Not convinced? See rule 2.

Rule 2: Take it easy

You would be a fool to sprint the first time you do this. Take it easy.  Think about your feet landing lightly underneath you and the arch flexing to prope the you forward.

Don’t worry about speed.

Rule 3: Do the barefoot running workout once or twice a week.

Running barefoot is not going to help your feet if you do it once.

My feeling is most people try this and either go too long or too fast and give up on it because they are so sore the next day.

It is a short workout but it may take time to gradually build up your strength.

Remember, you are doing this in addition to your running. Play it smart.

Notes about my first barefoot running workout:

I have been rolling my feet religiously and wearing minimalist shoes and have been very comfortable in them.


minimalist shoe

Chuck Taylors

New Balance Minimus

New Balance Minimus

But in no way was I prepared for walking on turf. My feet came alive! I could feel every blade of fake grass. It was really cool. All the nerves in my feet were firing off and coming alive.

Here is another thing I noticed.

Even wearing minimalist shoes, my feet were tight. When I started walking barefoot I finally felt what they mean by a “springy” arch.

The jogging itself wasn’t painful and felt natural.

The next day there was tightness and a hint of soreness in the Achilles.

Next barefoot running workout

I think I am going to keep the workout length the same. What I want to do is wear my Lumo Run sensor and compare the metrics to see if there is any difference between wearing shoes and going barefoot.