You touch that cool frosty window and wipe away the steam. What do you see? Snow coming down and your car tires half submerged in that pretty virgin white blanket. Throw on your winter sweater and wrap yourself in that wool scarf. Put on that bulky snow jacket that’s been hanging in your closet for eight months.
It is time for cold weather barefooting! Leave those snowboots in the closet and socks in the drawer! Instead, roll your pants up to the middle of your calves and plunge bare feet first into that frosty white carpet!
For most of you I’ll bet the thought of going barefoot in the snow is enough to send chills down your spine, but I guarantee you – after going through this website, you will be anticipating the first day of snow when you’ll get to feel for yourself what a pleasure it is to dip that toe in that cold powder! Trust me – it’s loads of fun!
Now if I had a dime for each time someone looked down at my bare feet making their way through the snow, a nickle for the times when bystanders looked down in bewilderment at the imprints of my bare sole in the fresh snow, I can spend my entire days creating sites like this one just for fun! Most people who live in climates where there are days of snow can’t even fathom the idea of treading the snow with nothing on their feet, let alone cold weather by itself. On the contrary, going barefoot in snow is fun to do and will become easy. By implementing the right steps, you will become a huge fan of winter barefooting.
Take it Slowly and Don’t Flip Flop
As Ken Evoy, the creator of Site Build It! (what I used to create this site) says, “learn from the tortoise”. Even if you have been cold weather barefooting already, going barefoot in the snow for the first time requires some adjustment.
For some of you who have never gone barefoot in the snow this may sound far fetched, but trust me, this could be really fun for you. I myself 10 years back would have never thought of setting my naked foot into snow, but not only do I look forward every year to cold weather barefooting, but now especially to jumping bare feet first into the first fall of snow!
Remember, the warmer weather is the best time to begin conditioning your feet for more challenging weather. Spring weather will strenghten your feet for the summer and the fall for the winter. It is easy for people who normally wear open shoes or flip flops in the warmer weather to immediately transition to closed shoes and socks when Jack Frost comes around. This is mainly because when you are wearing flip flops in cold weather, your feet are exposed but not grounded to the floor, they become more susceptible to the cold.
Try this experiment for yourself. One day when the weather is really cool and windy, doesn’t necessarily need to be snow on the ground – step out of your home for a few minutes in a pair of flip flops, open back slippers or just socks. Your feet feel really chilled right? Now try the same exercise in bare feet. Surprisingly your soles at first feel cold when they touch the ground, but after a minute acclimate themselves to the surrounding temperature. Meanwhile, the tops of your feet do not feel as cold as when you are in flip flops. Why is that?
When your feet are uncovered but not touching the ground, there is no pressure on the foot. Therefore the brain does not know how much blood to tell the heart to pump to the feet. This leaves your toes dangling on the edge of your flip flop sole, causing them to freeze. To make it worse, since rubber is not an insulator of the cold or heat, your feet will end up being colder in them than if they were bare and touching the ground. When your feet are properly grounded without anything intervening, your blood circulates more naturally to the bottoms of your feet and toes.
Here is another experiment to try. In the winter time, go outside in boots and socks. You may get the false impression of heat, but really your feet are cooler from getting less blood circulation. What happens when you remove them? Your feet are cold almost instantly. Now go outside barefoot for a couple of minutes and come back into your home. What happens? Your feet warm up and feel toasty almost immediately.
From these exercises, you will see how your feet react and adjust to their environment when there is nothing to inhibit them. When I first snowfooted for the first time, I’ll admit, my feet felt cold and I had the urge to put my shoes back on. What happened? Since my feet were already wet from the snow, they felt cold almost instantly. As soon as I took my flip flops off and placed my bare feet back in the snow, they felt much happier.
Easing your way into Snowfooting
If you’ve trained yourself to walk barefoot in fall weather, the transition to cold weather barefooting will come easy. As the temperature gradually drops, your brain will anticipate this and acclimate your feet to the cold surfaces. I personally enjoy cold weather barefooting more than going barefoot in warm weather. I love the feel of cold surfaces under my bare soles and also the thrill of being one barefoot person in the crowd of people bundled up in shoes and socks. The thrill gets even more exciting when it snows!
Now if you have been cold weather barefooting without snow on the ground, snowfooting may still be something new to you and must be approached with care. Chances are you may be ready to take the plunge into the snow drift bare feet first or you need to take it little at a time.
Your First Steps to Winter Barefooting
The first thing to do is to clear your mind and tell yourself that this is just another surface, albeit a colder, wetter one! However, to be safe, do this near your home where you can take breaks from the snow if your feet feel too cold or start to get numb – oh and make sure that when you close your door, you don’t get locked out of your house.
The first day you try this, do it for about 30 seconds to a minute or however you feel your feet can take. Repeat this for the next few days while gradually increasing the time outdoors and the distance between you and your home. Whatever you do, do not put on shoes or boots outdoors after your feet have been in the snow. Your feet will feel even colder as the material of the shoe will actually trap the cold in with them. And you will wet the insides of your shoes and will have to dry them out before wearing them again!
Walking in the Snow
After about a week, your feet will begin to acclimate to the snow. As long as the snow isn’t too high where it is covering your entire foot, start walking short distances around your neighborhood. You will want to roll up your pants as well, since having wet hems on your pants will cause your ankles to freeze. Neighbors and bystanders will give you glances. Ignore them. As in the first week, increase your walking distances. Your feet will feel numb at first, however, you will find that as your feet are in continuous motion, they will go from the initial numbness to their natural dexterity.
Remember that if you are wearing flip flops, your feet will be numb longer due to not having the chance to make contact with the actual ground. Also, if you are walking in the snow with flip flops, the snow will linger between your foot and the rubber sole where it will become icier causing more coldness for your foot.
On a practical level, it is quite easy to lose your flip flops in the snow since your feet will become so numb that they will not even feel the shoe slide off!
One of my favorite activities to do in the snow is shoveling. This is also a prime example of how the brain tells the brain the amount of blood to pump to your body, arms, legs and feet. In my experience with barefoot snow shoveling, after ten minutes, I’ll look down to find that the snow actually melts from being under my feet. This will not happen if you are wearing boots.
Another great advantage of snowfooting is that it requires less cleaning for your home. While the thick soles of snowboots leave tracks of snow throughout your home, bare feet do not leave tracks and dry up relatively quickly.
Cold Weather Barefooting in Public
Although I’ve mentioned barefooting in public on other parts of this site, it’s worth a mention in relation to cold weather barefooting.
One, because since it is a time when most people around you will not even have their ankles exposed, it there is an additional psychological barrier since now you are REALLY standing out.
Now for most of you cold weather barefooting in public for the first time, this will at first feel weird for you. Especially when everyone around you has their feet encased in boots and socks. Normally when the weather is fairly moderate, I’ll get a discreet look from passersbyer. However, past mid-October, those double-takes morph into obvious stares. Now before you start to feel self conscious about it, these stares will mainly come from a minority of people. For the most part people generally do not care.
In my experience, even in the coldest of days, whether it’s coffee shops, in line at the bank or even just outside in general, I’ll carry on a normal conversation with a group of people, whose legs, ankles and feet are completely covered while not batting an eyelash at my exteremely noticable bare feet, not to mention legs as I am often in shorts as well in cold weather. Sometimes at the end of the conversation someone will ask out of curiosity why I go barefoot and that carries over into the next conversation.
Aren’t You Freezing Like That?
I’ve read the accounts of fellow barefooters who get somewhat annoyed at these type of questions, as one would feel like responding “Would I walk around like that if I were freezing???” Personally I find sarcastic or hostile responses self-defeating. People are generally curious about your choice of going barefoot and being receptive in a positive and friendly manner will in turn generate a positive response from the person inquiring.
Yes, at times my feet do get cold, but so do my hands and I know many shoddies that don’t even wear gloves in the cold!
The ironic thing is that bare hands are more suceptible to the cold than bare feet. The skin on your hand is thinner than the sole of your foot, and as I mentioned earlier, while the foot is grounded on the surface, thereby sending messages to the brain to pump more blood from the heart to the feet, the hands are suspended in the air for the most part. And by the way, I do wear gloves in the freezing cold while leaving my feet bare.
Are You Going to the Beach???
This is another question I get asked quite often. In the workplace or some other public indoor venue I can spotted quite easily – minimally clad in only a tank top and cut-off shorts with my legs and bare feet in plain view. People around me are meanwhile freezing as their multiple layers, including the coats and scarves which they have left on, and especially their double layers of socks, stockings and boots actually trap in the cold from outside while I’m feeling warm and toasty in only two articles of clothing! When it is time to go back out again, people again are puzzled as I throw on only two more articles – mainly a sweater and a hat while leaving my legs and feet entirely bare. People ask me how I do it and here are some of my answers, which I will share as I think these are important tips to going barefoot in the cold
- Covering Your Head – this is perhaps one of the primary steps. There is a belief by some that the key to keeping warm in the winter time is to keep your feet hybernated, however, experts will tell you that 90 percent of your body heat escapes from your head. This is why I wear a hat at all times in the winter. As long as the heat is prevented from escaping through your head, your body and feet have a better chance of staying happy and warm. On a side note, it is also advisable to cover your head in the summertime to protect it from the sun.
- Keeping Your Neck and Upper Body Warm – This is the next place you want to protect. It makes sense if you think about it as this is where your organs primarily reside, including your throat, heart and lungs. When your throat is left exposed, this can impair your ability to swallow and breath properly. Lungs left exposed to the cold can result in a chest cold or worse – bronchitis or a pneumonia. In addition, since your heart is left unprotected, this can cause it to pump blood faster in order to keep the rest of your body warm (including your bare feet). This can lead to exhaustion and and increased appetite. As I like movement, a thick sweater works best for me.
- Protecting the area around your Vital Organs – Logically speaking – and especially for men – this is one set of organs that reside almost entirely on the outside. My preference is denim as it has a thick quality, but if you are wearing a thinner fabric, thermals or layers might be needed.
- Baring Your Feet – Now that your organs are protected and you have your head covered to help prevent the feet from escaping, you can for the most part go barefoot happily in weather that others may find cold.
By following these guidelines, you will actually be looking forward to the snowy winters and will want to get out as often as possible to dip your bare feet in the snow. And if you live shovel snow, give it a try barefoot. Since your body exerts much energy through this activity, it generates much heat. with upper body and head covered, the only place for the heat to escape is through the feet causing the snow to melt under your soles. For me this has transformed snow shoveling from a tiring experience to an exhilirating one.
A final word about winter barefooting and snowfooting, keep in mind that this should be a fun experience so do what feels most comfortable for you and give it some thought if you feel it will be too cold for your feet. While I have gone cold weather barefooting while the weather was in the teens, I know some other dedicated barefooters who below 35F have had trouble adapting to the cold. Remember you are the best judge of your own body. The main thing is just to enjoy yourself!