Once you get used to wearing barefoot sandals for running or for walking or hiking or anything else, it’s pretty addicting. In fact, both my wife Lena and I have the same story. We started wearing the Xero Shoes that we made and then, after a couple of weeks, had some reason to put on some other pair of sandals like Chaco or Teva or Keen or just even a pair of running shoes and just put them on, and went, “Oh yeah, I cannot do this.” We were so enjoying the fun and the freedom that we had from wearing our sandals.
The question comes up, “What do you do in winter?” I’m not telling you to do one thing or another, I’m just going to tell you just what I did. Seven years ago, as winter was approaching here in Colorado, I was curious. How long would I be able to go until I felt the need to put on some shoes? Suddenly it was March. Then I tried it again the next year – same thing, and the next and the next and the next. It’s now been seven years and I haven’t worn any footwear during the winter other than my sandals.
There are two things that I have done, one more than the other. The one that I’ve done very little of is add a pair of socks. Get a pair of thick wool socks and toss them on your sandals. Even with a huarache style sandal, if you got an oversized sock, you can squeeze your toes in there and the sock will just work its way around the toe post. Or, you can wear our sport sandal, which does not have a thong, and so you can easily wear a pair of socks with those.
I will admit, when we developed our first sandal that you could wear socks with, Lena was a bit concerned because sometimes, you know, the sandal-sock combination is not the most attractive thing. But hey, I don’t care, we’re talking about winter, wear a pair of socks.
Some people use neoprene boots. I don’t personally recommend those because neoprene doesn’t breathe. The warmer your feet get the more they sweat, the more they sweat with something that doesn’t breathe the more water collects in them, and after a while neoprene smells like death. So be careful about something like that.
The second thing I do is I just change the way I deal with being outside. I don’t just go out without thinking for an extended long period of time. I will plan my trip so I go out and I come back before the weather gets too crazy. If I do have to spend a long time out, if I’m going to go for a run, I’ll go out for a little run first—I’ll warm-up inside, do some jumping jacks, do my warm-ups indoors—I’ll go out for a little run for two minutes, come back and warm up my feet. I’ll go out for another run for three minutes and come back and warm up my feet. Typically, after like three or four of these loops, the blood is really moving through my body and it’s really going to my feet, and I can go out for 20, 30, 40 minutes without a problem.
So pay attention. Be careful. Don’t be stupid. Don’t go past the point of being numb. As Ken Bob Saxton says, “Numb is dumb.” You don’t want dumb feet. Just know that what you can do in the cold is way more than you ever imagined you could. Experiment carefully, safely, and see what you discover. I can’t wait to hear.