Barefoot Running in the Winter in Ohio on a Budget
I’ve turned a corner in my barefoot running life. It takes a long time for someone like me to build up mileage under normal circumstances, but barefoot running requires an even slower build up, so when I completely started over with barefoot running last year, I knew it would be a while until I was back to normal-for-me mileage. Then I moved to this neighborhood full of hills and I thought I might die. Then winter came and I thought I might die in a snow bank on a hill with frostbitten feet. But I didn’t! And now I’m back to my normal. And it makes me happy.
From almost the very beginning, it was clear that I wanted the feel of barefoot running, but with some shoe-like things on my feet because I couldn’t get the hang of not pushing off of the balls of my feet in order to minimize friction and avoid blisters. Back in those days (uh, 10 months ago), Vibrams were the recommended minimalist shoes. But I think they’re ugly and, though less expensive than regular running shoes, still more than I wanted to spend. Nowadays they have these minimalist shoes, which look totally rad:
But they’re $160 and it enrages me to spend that much of my clothing budget on a single item, so I’ll probably never buy them. Instead of real minimalist shoes, I bought $10 water shoes from the grocery store. To be honest, one of the reasons I started barefoot running last year was because I needed new running shoes, but I didn’t want to pay for them. I’d heard about barefoot running so I looked into more and gave it a try. I read Born to Run and all of the foot science stuff in there made so much sense to me, unlike most things I read which leave me mostly confused. And then I read some more things. But then I switched to wearing water shoes, so was I still running barefoot? Some of the internet says yes, but I have issues with exactness so I DON’T THINK SO! I’m a minimalist runner, but that phrase isn’t heard on NPR and whatnot so I’m saying “barefoot,” but you all know I really mean “minimalist,” right? In real life I say, “Well, not really barefoot, but almost.” which is too wordy for typing.
barefooting it for a few months, I put my regular old Asics on just to wear while having a garage sale and I threw my back out. The sciency stuff about barefoot running tells me that that was because the bulky Asics affected my gait so much that my back didn’t know what to do with itself so it tried to commit suicide. So I put those shoes in the Planet Aid box and bought myself some minimalist shoes that I could walk around in and not be embarrassed by (I’m looking at you, Vibrams. Yes, you’re embarrassing. And this is coming from me. Have you seen how I dress? If I think you’re embarrassing, then you have a problem). I believe that minimalist shoes should be cheap, so I bought these:
Lovely, under $40, room for my foot to experience its whole range of motion, no bunion pain, and no back pain. I had already built up the strength in my foot tendons and muscles by being close-to-barefoot at all times all summer, so I didn’t have that part of the curve to deal with. But the amazing lack of bunion pain when wearing real-live shoes caused a happiness to bubble up within me, the likes of which I usually don’t experience unless there is some sort of good food involved. Every single time I bought a new pair of shoes, I’d have bunion pain until my foot wore down that part of the shoe. I thought it was a fact of life. Turns out, I was suffering for no reason! And then I married barefoot running. (I didn’t really because I’m not adding a 2nd husband to my marriage until ALL people can get married to inanimate objects, ideas, or even just other people who happen to be the same sex. Wait, is that the “slippery slope” conservatives talk about? Haha, so dumb.)
When winter came, I knew I had to find a way to get through it without real shoes. I put some SmartWool on, upgraded to $30 water shoes, mostly because it seemed like I needed a little extra weather protection around the bottom of my feet, but also because we had sold our house and I was feeling so spendy! The shoes and socks were perfect if there was no precipitation or melty snow on the road. In other words, that combo was perfect for roughly 4 days of a mid-Ohio winter. Wet feet + cold weather = bullcrap. So I asked the internet to tell me what to wear instead, but the internet forgot that I don’t spend big money on single items that I can’t even wear to fancy places where I never go. It kept telling me to get those awful Vibrams and whatnot. I told the internet to try again and it found Seal Skinz for me. Good internet. Now that it’s allegedly almost spring, I have some things figured out. If it’s cold and wet, I wear my water shoes, SmartWool, and Seal Skinz.
If it’s cold and dry, just the water shoes and SmartWool. If it’s over 40 degrees and dry, it’s warm enough to wear just the water shoes and light socks. And that is so, so lovely. I don’t have to, but I usually choose to wear a light pair of running socks with my water shoes because, without the socks, the smell that grows within the disgusting shell of those shoes is life-threatening. Our house is small. If my running shoes smell bad, the whole house smells bad. Also, I like socks because I usually take the liner out of the bottom of the shoes because it tends to slip around and be weird, and then my feet don’t have to cope with leftover sticky stuff. That has only been an issue with the grocery store shoes, though. The Speedo ones still have their liner and I’ve been wearing them since December.
All of those things, including the walking around shoes, come to less than $100. The only part of my combo that will have to be replaced regularly is the water shoes, and now I know I can go back to the $10 grocery store shoes because the Seal Skinz eliminate my perceived need for more weather protection. I used to spend over $100 on shoes 3 times per year. Because that’s what they told me I needed to do and I am ever so compliant. I’d spend that money and still have bunion pain for weeks until I wore down the state-of-the-art cushioning that made my shoes more expensive. Stupid!