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Exercising Outdoors in the Winter

Sure, it’s cold outside. But that’s no reason to sack out on the sofa — or even limit your exercise to the gym. From hitting a running trail to cutting the slopes, exercising outdoors in winter weather can be both invigorating and deliver an efficacious workout. Just make sure to dress for the elements, starting with your feet.

Here’s the lowdown on what you need to know:

Sock Talk. Never wear cotton socks with running, hiking or walking shoes, or ski or snowboard boots. They don’t absorb moisture, which can keep your feet wet and put them at risk for frostbite. Instead, choose a pair made from a wicking fabric, such as acrylic, CoolMax, wool or IsoWool. On especially cold days, you can put hand warmers inside your socks, on top of your toes. Once your feet warm up, make sure to remove the warmers to prevent overheating. And never put warmers in your shoes. There’s no air circulation there, which means your feet will sweat prematurely and the moisture won’t evaporate.  In the end, your feet will actually feel colder.

• Shoe Review. To keep that toasty warmth in and slush out of running and walking shoes, pick a style with the least amount of mesh. Also, go for Gore-Tex uppers if possible. If snow or slush is unavoidable, consider investing in trail running shoes, which are water-resistant and offer more traction. To prevent slipping when paths are icy, try a slip-on traction device on your running shoes.

Ski Boots 101. Ski boots should fit snugly, but be comfortable. If they’re too loose, your foot and ankle can slide around, resulting in a sprain, strain, or fracture. Whether renting or purchasing boots, always make sure to bring along the socks that you plan to wear on the slopes, and work with a professional to assess the fit. Because ski boots don’t allow for your normal gait and ankle flexion, your regular orthotics are not appropriate. If you’re an avid skier, you may want to have special skiing orthotics made for your boots.

• Snowboard Boot Basics. Snowboard boots should also fit snugly, especially in the heel, yet still be comfortable. Snowboard boots are typically offered in assorted flexibility, ranging from soft to stiff. Boot flex is a personal preference but also coincides with the type of snowboarding you do. Soft-flexing boots, for example, are more conducive to freestyle/park riding and beginner all-mountain riding.

To ensure the best fit when trying on snowboard boots, be sure to completely lace them and stand up, and try boots on with the socks that you’ll be wearing in action.

With both new ski and snowboard boots, always wear them a few times around the house to break them in, before hitting the slopes.

Central Massachusetts Podiatry

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