Winter Running: Survival Tips For Your Feet

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 http://www.skipublishing.com/. For information about products which help with common foot problems visit http://www.northcoastfootcare.com.

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