It's November in New England and the days are getting shorter and cooler. It is about the time of year that my barefoot running would start to tail off. I'm not that hardcore about it and I prefer to be comfortable in the cold so winter equals minimal shoes when outside.
Last year was my first winter as a minimal/barefoot runner and I dabbled a little on the treadmill through the dark months. I'm pretty convinced that it helped me really keep my form and foot condition in tact. I would say I did about 30% of my treadmill time without shoes last year.
This year, I have much better form and slightly tougher feet and I don't see myself wearing shoes at all this winter while on the dreadmill. I've definitely learned one or two tricks that have helped me immensely.
1. Buy your own treadmill and put it in front of a TV or iPad. I haven't heard of many gyms that allow you to be truly barefoot on their equipment and I really am not a fan of gyms anyway. We've had a treadmill at Casa Durtyfeets for about 10 years. It cost about $800 at Sears and has thousands of miles on it from winter running. It doesn't owe me a dime. Having my own treadmill also lowers the bar a ton for the spur of the moment winter evening runs. It's not the greatest but it's better than sitting on my butt.
2. Pawback! This is a slight alteration of your stride so that you start pulling your foot back slightly before touchdown so that it is moving at about the same speed as the belt. Good trick to reduce foot to belt friction which can be problematic. Jason wrote a good post on it over at BRU last year. You should definitely check it out.
Here's the money advice.
3. GET FAN AND BLOW IT DIRECTLY ON THE BELT! The belt gets pretty damn hot on my treadmill. Until I learned the fan trick, I used to have to move around to different spots to allow areas to cool down like Jason suggests in #2. I ended up with slight burns a few times. Nothing terrible but it was uncomfortable enough to make me stop. I fixed all that by getting a big box fan and putting it at the end of the belt. Problem solved. The belt stays plenty cool enough.
So there you have it. Winter sucks for runners and really sucks for barefoot runners but you don't have to let it get you down. Just take off your shoeshine up a good movie on Netflix and jump on the treadmill.