Staying Warm and Staying Minimal

Steve AnkneyGeneralLeave a Comment

For those of you who run in Vibram FiveFingers, and, like Meagan and I, are going to attempt to brave the great outdoors this winter by continuing to run outside, this post is for you!

Yesterday was a bit of a reality check for both Meagan and I when we headed to Milwaukee to lock down a DJ for our wedding. We found, to our surprise, when we pulled out of the underground parking garage of our apartment complex, that we had finally received some snow!  I didn’t think much of it at first, but as we pulled up to the gas station, I shivered because I realized I was wearing my Vibram FiveFinger Speeds and knew that my toes were going to be soaked in an instant.  The second I stepped out of the car, the wet pavement took over my helpless shoes.  I knew at that moment that we were going to need something more substantial (but still minimal) to run in during the treacherous winter months of Wisconsin.


Since beginning our minimalist venture in summer ’11, we knew the day would come when we would have to face the wet pavement and cold temperatures that go hand-in-hand (or toe-to-toe, if you like) with winter running. Here are a few of the best suggestions we’ve gathered by word-of-mouth and through online research for keeping your toes toasty warm and staying minimal during the winter months.

  • Try Smartwool toe-socks.  Yes, your feet will still inevitably still get wet if you are wearing FiveFingers, but at least wearing wool will allow your toes to stay warm.  Wool is one of the only natural fabrics that is able to keep you warm even after it’s wet.  You can pick up a pair of Smartwool toe-socks from your local running store for roughly $15 a pair, or you can purchase a 3-pack for $45 at
  • Try the Vibram FiveFingers Flow.  Originally designed for use in water sports, the upper part of the Flows are made from the synthetic material neoprene.  Neoprene is the same material used in wet suits, so the intent is not necessarily to keep you dry but, like wool, attempts to keep you warm despite being wet.  You can purchase the Flows at full-price for $90.00 at REI or
  • This one hurts for me to say, but retreating indoors and running on a treadmill is a viable option.  As a minimalist runner, however, I find that I struggle some with maintaining my form while using a treadmill, so please exercise caution and make sure you aren’t compromising your form as you try to stay in shape during the winter months.
  • Lastly, you can take the slightly easier (and, unfortunately, more expensive) road out and try a different pair of minimalist shoes.

Other Minimalist Shoes

We decided to go with our last suggestion and try a different minimalist shoe altogether.  The major flaw with Vibram FFs during the winter is that by having five individual toe-pockets in a minimalist shoe, you allow for not only two areas where water can get in (like a more traditional shoe), but six different areas (that is, between each toe and both sides of the shoe).  In addition, having your toes in five separate pockets makes it difficult to keep them warm. It’s similar to wearing gloves instead of mittens–your fingers stay warmer in mittens because they can all share heat! Luckily, there are now several minimalist shoe options on the market that do not rely on the separate toe pocket model. This, along with the fact that they have a slightly more traditional sole, where the rubber extends up the side of the shoe slightly, means that they do a better job of limiting the amount of water getting into the shoe from the sides. There are also multiple versions available that are waterproof, making them a great option for keeping your footwear minimal in the winter months.  The waterproof versions we were able to find are as follows:

All of the shoes listed above, excluding the VIVOBAREFOOT (which I can’t seem to find anywhere except on their website), are available at REI.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t offer a ton of options and the prices are not within everyone’s range.  I hope that by this time next year there will be more waterproof options to choose from or that Vibram adds a new waterproof option of their own.

Final Decision

Just after our first 5K in the new shoes.

After much debate and after trying on multiple different pairs of shoes, Meagan chose the New Balance Minimus Multi-Sport (WO10 – Women’s – Our friend @allynorris will be writing a guest-review for the Minimus, and I went with a non-waterproof shoe, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove (Men’s).  The decision to go with a non-waterproof shoe was extremely difficult for me. However, I felt uncomfortable with the relatively high price of the Merrell Embark Glove, which retails at $170, and I was not particularly fond of the look of the New Balance Minimus Multi-Sport for men (UPDATE: After much debate I went with the Embark Glove check out the review).

First Run

At this point, Meagan and I have only gone for our first run.  Both of us came back with very warm feet and, even though my shoes aren’t waterproof, I don’t foresee it being an issue.  I’ll miss my Bikilas for the next few months, but spring will be here soon enough and I’ll be ready to stick my toes into a brand-new pair of the Vibram FiveFinger See-Ya (new for the 2012 season).

Vibram FiveFinger See-Ya - To debut in 2012