7 years of running barefoot under my belt, a few weeks ago I had a slight epiphany when it comes to running barefoot in the winter, humidity determines a lot with the comfort level. You have the obvious common factors of what will make your barefoot run enjoyable, challenging, or miserable during the colder months which are, temperature, dry or wet conditions, ice, snow, wind, but one thing I never took into consideration was the humidity. Living in New England we experience periods of high humidity in the spring/summer months, at least with me I never gave humidity a thought during winter. See how strange my mind thinks as someone who runs barefoot in all seasons.
I get mixed reviews from my feet running barefoot in the winter, it can be 20 degrees F and that run can feel great, the next run it can be in the 30’s and the feet feel over-sensitive. Again, common sense will tell you that wet conditions in winter is always a challenge as opposed to dry conditions. The point is why do some colder runs feel more comfortable than warmer runs? That’s where the humidity factor comes into play, something I never thought about until a few weeks ago.
Every morning before a run I check my trusty “Weather Channel” app on my phone to see what I’m dealing with and off I go. Last week before a run I checked the temperature before my 5:00AM run and it was 35 degrees F, not bad at all, scroll down a bit more and I notice the humidity was 60%, wow I thought, that is high even though when you go outside you don’t initial feel that humidity. I got 4 miles in, dry conditions, but the feet were super sensitive on this run, and it actually felt like it was in the 20’s. That’s when my very small light bulb in my head went off, humidity! I put that thought in my memory bank for the next run.
A few days later, the same process wake up at 5AM, check my phone first before I head out. Temperature reads 28F, wind at 15 mph, and humidity at 20%. Given the fact I had that wind going, this run was much more comfortable, the sensitivity was minimal compared to the previous run at 35 degrees. What I learned with this observation is the comfort of running barefoot in lower temperatures all depends on the humidity index. High humidity expect some discomfort, low humidity is your friend.
Case in point on this morning 3.5 mile barefoot run, 15 degrees F. Coldest run of the season so far, humidity was 30% which made it very tolerable and was still more comfortable than my run last week at 35 degrees F. Once it hits the teens I become more cautious, it’s not about distance but exposure to time. Reflecting back to a few snow runs throughout the years, I remember that nice, fresh, crisp fluffy snow where surprisingly it feels great to run barefoot in, compared to that thick dense snow where the coldness just cuts you to the bone, I’m sure it had to do with the humidity. Absolutely useless information, but to a barefoot runner maybe it can hold some value.