New experiment for a new year: winter running in Vibram FiveFingers shoes

I first started wearing Vibram FiveFingers minimalist shoes in October of 2009, but every year, I have not worn them in the winter months when the temperature drops below freezing and there is snow or ice on the ground (January, February).

Somehow, today as I saw a bit of snow fall outside (with very little accumulation), I decided to do a short run (less than two miles) in my Bikila LS shoes while returning some items to the local library, to get a taste of whether it is practical to try regular winter running in these shoes, as the temperature drops and more snow falls.

Franklin wearing Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS with snow on the ground

Last year, sometime in early spring, I ran in regular mono-toed running shoes for the last time in my life. Every “normal” running shoe I have ever used (and I have worn probably two dozen different models in the past decade) had caused me some kind of disappointment. Switching completely to Vibram FiveFingers shoes had solved all my problems.

I have been fearful, however, of winter running in FiveFingers. Would my feet freeze? How would I handle cold water? Snow? Ice?

Today I decided that the only way to answer the questions would be to go out there and start experimenting.

I chose the Bikila LS because of the three models of FiveFingers I have (Bikila LS, KSO, KSO Trek), it is the most padded, least minimalist shoe. In fact, I wish it were more minimalist, because in the summer, my feet get so hot and sweaty (the ventilation is poor) that I get blisters if I run very fast or long. I speculated that these limitations might be virtues in colder conditions.

On my run today, I had to watch my footing because there were invisible icy spots on the roads. I am unsure of the traction of the Bikila LS shoes in case of ice, I must admit. However, my feet did not feel particularly uncomfortable. To be sure, it was a very short run, and the temperature of 29F was not very low.

When I returned home and took off my shoes, I noticed that my feet were very cold. I’m not sure whether to worry about that. I suspect that on longer runs with lower temperatures, I might have something to worry about, but I have to do more experiments. One option I have is to wear Injinji toe socks, of which I have a couple pairs. I don’t ordinarily wear these socks because they somewhat get in the way and bunch up when I wear them with FiveFingers shoes, but for winter they might be a lesser evil.

Also, for traction, I might want to try running in my KSO Trek, although I have tried to save those just for trail running and hiking.

How about mono-toed shoes?

Even so, it is possible that I will end up investigating a mono-toed minimalist shoe to keep my toes warm. I still don’t own a pair, although I have tried on some New Balance Minimus and Merrell Glove models. I did not like the feel of any of them, although I have not yet encountered the newer New Balance Minimus Zero shoes (to come out in February 2012) that might work better for me than the original Minimus line.

(Update of 2013-01-17)

A year later, I reported on restarting winter running in FiveFingers under milder conditions (so far).

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