Snow – the right time to go “bare foot”?

Yesterday, we finally had a bit of new snow all the way down to the Rhine valley which was followed by a few hours of sunny weather – ideal for a little walk outside.

Blades of grass under snow near "Kaisereiche"
Blades of grass under snow near "Kaisereiche"

On the same day, I received a parcel with a pair of “Five Fingers KSO” shoes that I had recently ordered. This is an experiment for me – I read lots of reports on “running shoes have too much damping” and “feet are not made for such shoes” and “we all should move back to natural running”. The Five Fingers attempt to give an “almost-barefoot” feeling to build up strength again in the foot strings and muscles that have lied dormant for too long. Of course, that whole process will take months or more, but I am not really in a hurry.

So, I was very interested to find out myself what it’s going to be like to walk and run in such “shoes”. I guess a cold Saturday with snow is not the ideal test bed for a first try, but I was curious, so I put them on and had a 5km walk through the snow. However, since I am a coward, I was cheating a bit: I did also wear toe socks.

Five Fingers KSO
Five Fingers KSO in snowy conditions

First finding: The “KSO” (“Keep things out” – they enclose the feet pretty tightly) are really not made for snowy/icy conditions. Walking up/down steep passages felt quite slippery. There are other products from Vibram that are better fit for such purposes, and I am now waiting for the snow to melt away again to test mine in better weather conditions :-). Still, I did not slip a single time – walking in such shoes makes you more careful where you put your feet.

Second finding: Although the KSOs really don’t give a lot of protection (the sole is some 3.5mm thick), stones or gravel were no problem at all. I certainly feel them when I step on them (that’s the whole idea – “feel connected to the ground below your feet”), but they do not hurt at all. I inspected my feet afterwards, and found not a single scratch.

Third finding, and this was a real surprise – it wasn’t cold at all. Although I spent around one hour at pretty cold conditions, there were only occasional feelings of “it might get a little chilly now”, but this went away after a few seconds. Back home, I checked the temperature of my toes, and they really didn’t feel cold at all. I believe these thin soles cause the feet to “work with the ground” so much that they have no chance to cool down – unlike normal shoes, where the feet don’t really have a lot of work to do. This was really encouraging since I sometimes do suffer a bit from cold toes.

Slippery, but not cold at all - they make your feet work!
Slippery, but not cold at all - makes your feet work

In general, I am now very much looking forward to gain more experience with these. One dream would be take them on a hiking trip in the Alps – I saw a young man doing that last year near Oberstdorf (in a high-alpine situation on a “Via Ferrata”), and he confirmed it feels pretty safe. I find that idea fascinating.