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Winter Running: Survival Tips For Your Feet

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The days are shorter, the air is colder and the streets are
slicker. Yet, many will still brave the cold, damp and dark
streets and trails as winter sets in. For those who don’t
mind a little rain, snow, sleet or below freezing
temperatures and run to survive the winter, it is important to
know how to protect the feet so they too, can survive the
winter months.

1. Consider running in a trail shoe, even if you are not
running on trails. Trail running shoes tend to protect your
feet more than lighter nylon running shoes. Trail shoes also
have more traction for slippery surfaces encountered during
winter running.

2. Avoid cotton socks. Synthetic socks wick away moisture
and help prevent blister formation and cold feet.

3. Make sure your shoes fit. Running shoes used for
summer may not be an appropriate fit for winter. Many
individuals will experience a small amount of swelling in
their feet during the summer. This may cause a loose fit for
winter, leading to heel slippage and potential blisters.

4. Pair your socks and shoes. Don’t assume your heavier
socks will work with your summer running shoes. Some
individuals wear heavier socks during the winter and this
may lead to the toes being cramped in the front of the shoe
causing discomfort, numbness and sometimes jamming of
the toes leading to blood under the toenails. The reverse is
also true. Your summer running socks may not work with
your winter or running shoes.

5. Avoid tight footwear in cold weather. Tight shoes may
decrease circulation to the toes and increase the chance for
nerve impingement on the top of the foot.

6. Run on flat surfaces. In cold weather it is more difficult to
adjust to uneven terrain because your muscles do not react
as quickly. This will increase your chances of developing
muscle strains and sprains. If you trail run in the winter,
choose trails with fewer rocks, roots and dips.

7. Don’t use your old worn-out shoes for winter running. Do
not start your winter running in shoes that have 400-500
miles on them. Wearing shoes that are worn-out can lead to
foot problems such as plantar fasciitis and tendonitis.

8. Warm up slowly. Your muscles will take longer to
warm-up in colder weather. Your chances of injury increase
when you do not take the time to warm-up properly.

9. Avoid speedwork in very cold weather. Speedwork in cold
weather will increase your chances of injury. Consider
saving speedwork for the warmer days, and use the colder
days for maintenance runs.

10. Take a break from running. Consider cross training if
you are feeling stiff and sore or if you are experiencing foot,
ankle or leg discomfort. Overuse injuries occur more
frequently in the winter as runners unconsciously alter their
gait to adapt to slippery, hard to see surfaces.

Christine Dobrowolski is a podiatrist and the author of
Those Aching Feet: Your Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment
of Common Foot Problems. To learn more about Dr.
Dobrowolski and her book visit For information about
products which help with common foot problems visit


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  • Posted On March 2, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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