The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Secrets to Winter Ready Running Feet

Posted by on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

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We’re still weeks away from the scientific beginning of winter, but in many areas it’s already cold, or even snowy and icy. Now for many people that means a hearty, “Goodbye, going indoors, see you next spring,” with only brief appearances trundling back and forth from cars to buildings in heavy layers of clothes. Shopping? Do it online. Movie? We’ll watch videos. Workout? That’s why we got the treadmill.

Others of us, though, can’t keep ourselves indoors, no matter how cold or nasty it is. Those people will brave anything for a breath of fresh air, no matter how wet or frosty it is outside. Their idea of a great vacation is a visit to an ice festival, not a beach on a tropical island.

I tend to be one of those people, in one way at least. In general I have a very low tolerance for the cold, and complain and shiver once temperatures begin to drop. However, I can’t stand running inside, so no matter how awful it is outside, I will find some way to get outside and get some sort of run in. I’ve had my hair freeze, ice crystals form on my eyelashes, and my shoes soaked from an ill-timed step through a puddle of slush all in the name of a winter run.

I’m sure there has to be a better way to prepare, though, especially when it comes to your feet. With that in mind, let’s look at some ways you can make your winter running both safe and fun.

Choose Winter Ready Running Shoes You may not see shoes advertised specifically as “winter running shoes” and “summer running shoes,” but you can tell pretty easily just by looking which kinds are right for which season. Shoes that are mostly mesh let in a lot of air, and therefore are best for summer; shoes that have few mesh panels are good for winter. It’s all in the timing. If your shoes are wearing down in October, look for winter types when you go shopping; if your shoes are wearing down in late March, it’s time to look for summer types. Some running shoe makers even have lines specifically designed for winter. Asics has the Gel-Arctic shoe which has spikes in it; Salomon has the Speedcross trail running shoe which has a waterproof coating, and the Spikecross, which has spikes; the Nike Free TR2 Winter has a water-resistant coating and a fleece lining.

Get Warm/Dry Socks There are plenty of running socks out there with varying levels of thickness and warmth. It’s important to keep your feet warm, of course, but if they’re too warm, your feet will sweat. Then you’ll not only feel miserable and cold, but you’ll create an environment for your feet where they’re more vulnerable to blisters and bacteria, which love to grow in warm, damp environments. In extreme cases, moisture on your skin in freezing temperatures can cause frostbite, so make sure you choose socks that wick moisture away from your skin. There are several good winter running sock brands; Drymax and SmartWool are some names to keep in mind when you shop.

Try Hand Warmers on Your Feet If it’s a bitterly cold day, you can give your feet a boost of warmth by putting those hand warmer packets into your socks, on top of your toes. They’ll help you get through that first mile before your blood really starts pumping. Don’t let your feet overheat, though–if your feet feel too warm, stop and take them out.

Stay on the Dry Path I probably don’t need to tell you to avoid running through slushy puddles, because you probably have at least once, and know how awful it feels to run with cold wet shoes and socks. But be careful of snow too–I’ll state the obvious by saying “snow is wet.” You may think that it’s fun to run through billows of soft, powdery new snow, and while your feet will feel fine for a little while, eventually that stuff will penetrate, too. So just steer clear of it.

Don’t Slip If you live in an area where there is a lot of ice and snow and where running trails and paths may not always be cleared of those things too quickly, you may want to invest in equipment that will give your feet some traction on slippery surfaces, like Yak Trax. If you’re an intrepid, DIY type, you can add traction to your shoes yourself, using these instructions from Competitor.

Hopefully you won’t suffer any kind of injury while you’re out running in the cold or snow, or any time of year. If you do have foot pain during or after running, contact a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). It’s bad enough to have cold feet; it’s worse to have cold, injured feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.