Sandals and Cold Weather

It’s time to answer a question I get at least once a week (even in the middle of Summer people ask me this). And the question is:

What do you do in the Winter when you want to wear Xero Shoes?

There are a few options. But let me preface them by saying that the only times I’ve worn anything other than my huaraches since September 2009 are:

  1. In the Winter of 2009 when I wore my running shoes (to shovel snow… but see below!)
  2. Twice when I had to be in court (I put on my custom-designed, all black Nike Free… my knees were killing me after a couple of hours)
  3. When I’m on the track (I’m a sprinter) going faster than 80% of my full speed (you need spikes for that)

That said, here are the answers to coping with the cold

First answer: You’ll adapt.

I’m not superhuman, or missing nerve endings. I’ve adapted. And I’m NOTHING compared to my friend from, Michael Sandler. Check out THIS:

Think about it, our ancestors lived in some mighty cold places without shoes for quite a while. You can, too. Now, granted, they grew up that way and adapted, but you’ll be amazed at how much your body will adapt if you give it time.

My first Winter after I started wearing huaraches was a cold one. And I didn’t wear my Xero Shoes the whole time. But by the 2nd Winter, it never occurred to me to wear anything else, unless I knew I’d be spending a LOT of time outside, mostly standing on frozen ground.

I figured I’d put on shoes if I felt the need… and the next thing I knew it was Spring.

Here’s the video I just shot, after we got 18″+ of snow in Boulder in 2011. It’s about 15 degrees out.

What I did is this:

  • Outside for about 10 minutes
  • Inside to dry off my feet and warm them for 5
  • Outside for another 10
  • Inside to dry and warm for about 3
  • Outside for 30+ minutes… by this time my body temp had gone way up. I was sweating quite a bit. And my feet felt totally warm. Not numb. Warm. When I got inside after finishing the shoveling, they didn’t have to thaw or warm up or anything.

Lena wants me point out that you should check the Wiki about frostbite so you don’t do something stupid and get hurt 😉

Okay, the second answer: Get some oversized wool socks (think “socks + flip flops”)

You’ll need to loosen your lacing to get the socks on, but that’ll help.

The third answer: Try a pair of toe socks. More specifically, try ToeSox.

The fourth answer: Change the way you run.

In other words, if you feet can’t adapt, your brain can… don’t go out for a 10 mile run if your feet get cold after 1 mile.

Try something like what I did in my shoveling video:

  • Warm up inside.
  • Go out for a 1 mile loop (or less)
  • Come back inside and run up and down your stairs to let your feet get warm.
  • Repeat.

Oh, there is a fifth answer… but I can’t tell you what it is yet. Stay tuned 😉

And, hopefully obviously, people who suffer from neuropathy or other loss of sensation in the feet should take precautions to ensure their feet are properly insulated in all conditions.

17 thoughts on “Sandals and Cold Weather

  1. Oh, I’m not suggesting anyone DO this. As I said, I was just curious how long it would take until I felt the need to wear more than sandals (which provide the protection you describe)… and the next thing I knew it was Spring.

    This is just to suggest that what’s POSSIBLE may be more than you think is possible.

    1. Sorry, misunderstood the purpose of the thread. But I admit I am curious in trying…though I think I will focus on the running style as such for now and use my Goretexed Merrel alt waterproofed Vibrams until the spring arrives 😀

  2. Can’t wait for the fifth answer to be told!

  3. Steve, You still working on the 5th answer?

    1. We are… and we’re introducing it at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in 2 days… so I’ll post something about it soon thereafter.

      1. Still eagerly waiting on the 5th answer.

        1. You and me both! (we’re still working on it)

          1. Before reading this and new to your shoe (waiting) I knew you were thinking about this exact plan with variations.

          2. Well, how’s it with the fifth answer? What’s your answer for this nordic winter, -20 or -30 degrees? December, January and February are challenging months for runners. Especially barefoot runners:)

          3. We’re still working on #5… long story.

            I don’t have a specific answer for you for temperatures that low. It depends on how cold the ground is, what the air temperature is, what the humidity is, etc.

            But, in short, anything you can find that more sock-like, and provides insulation is your best bet.

      2. any news with the 5th anwser?

        1. Well, we’ve been able to make it, and it’s really cool (pun intended). We’re working with the manufacturer to see if it can be produced for a reasonable price. It’s not a good solution if we can’t afford to have them made, and they’d be too expensive for most people to buy. 🙁

  4. Today I adopted it 😀 It took 10 minutes, After that the soreness started to go away. And after another 10, I just felt warm. I mean my feets were literally warm! And it was -3C !

    1. Welcome, cold brother! 😉

  5. Thanks for this article! I live in North Europe and have been using sandals for some years except in the winter. I’lltry to adapt… I have also bought me a pair of Sealskinz socks. Just one question: are sandals very slippery on snow and ice?

    1. Snow? Not a problem. Ice? Depends on things like humidity and temperature.

      I’ve worn my sandals for the last 8 Colorado winters without a problem but, clearly, we can’t outsmart physics… so be careful on surfaces that are typically slippery no matter what shoe you wear.

  6. I wore my sandals (Z-Trail EV) yesterday with no socks on a solo 50K with a start temp of about 24°F. I was out running for a little over 5 hours. My toes were numb for about 15ish minutes in the beginning. but after that I could feel them again with full mobility. They never got cold again after that either! So your body will definitely adjust so long as your core temp is warm enough and you keep running!

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