Now that the weather is colder here in New England and is official winter, I often get asked, “Aren’t your feet cold?”. Normally if I’m indoors, they aren’t. But yes, if I’m outside for a few minutes and the temperature reads 20F / -7C, my feet do get cold. The cold actually becomes unbearable and feel like they are about to fall off. I may be more adapted than most other people who habitually go shod, but I am human and posses no special talents.
Two components to cold weather adaptation
I believe there are two components to cold weather adaptation. Both of which take time and practice.
1. The first component I believe is psychological. Your feet only feel cold because that’s what your brain is telling you. It’s like entering a pool for the first time. At first, the water feels cold, but after some time, it no longer does. Your psychological base-line of what cold is, is lowered.
2. The second component is physical. This I believe takes takes more time to adapt, and genetics may play a role. Some studies
show that women have colder extremities then men. Studies though do show that cold adaptation
is possible. There have been reports of Sherpas surviving nights on Mt. Everest barefoot
Men vs Women colder hands heat map
What I do in colder weather
What I’ve personally being doing in colder weather is wearing Bedrock Sandals. They have huge advantages over flipflops, as they are more durable, have a heel strap, and are water proof. If I happen to be going through puddles or snow, the sandals are less likely to slip and the water will run off. If I happen to be outside for a long period of time, such as a hike or shoveling my driveway, I’ll wear boots.
There are some very talented barefooters (also called snowfooters) who do shovel their driveways barefoot. I am somewhat baffled by these people and applaud them. The important thing in cold weather is to be safe and be happy.
I came across an interesting story on Yahoo Answers about some scientists who were doing research on Mount Everest and came across a Sherpa who was barefoot, and had told the scientists that he had slept outside on the snow. I was skeptical of the story, but had heard similar stories of Sherpas going barefoot on the mountain. Even though the story seemed hard to believe, I thought there may be some truth to it, and I decided to do some investigation.
As a member of the Society for Barefoot Living (SBL), I reached out to other members for information and found some images. Now, I’m not one to believe everything I read, so I dug further, seeking credible sources.
The Published Story
I happened to find the story published in the , and a few books including ‘Mountains and Man: A Study of Process and Environment’ and Life Magazine.
According to the , not only was the man barefoot, but he had survived 4 days without frostbite:
Body temperature and respiratory experiments are reported on a Nepalese pilgrim who survived, uninjured, 4 days of exposure at 15,000–17,500 ft in midwinter, wearing only light clothing and no shoes or gloves.
An except from ‘Mountains and Man: A Study of Process and Environment’ tells the following description:
Feet of a Nepalese pilgrim from ‘Mountains and Man: A Study of Process and Environment’
It’s quite remarkable what the human body is capable of.
Here is more information about the story: