Monday, December 6, 2010

Feet like blocks of ice?

Each winter I experiment with something else to try to keep my feet warm in ski boots. It's not easy. Lots of people also complain of poor circulation and they can suffer a lot. Is there anything that can be done to stop from having cold feet.

Vapour Barrier
Last season I tried Goretex socks next to the skin and that helped a little. The socks were quite thin despite slightly fleecy inners so proper ski socks could also go over them. The idea here was to stop sweat from the feet getting through to the boot's insulation. By the end of even a very cold day the boots are normally soaked from sweat condensing inside the insulation - so it seems logical to prevent the sweat from getting into the insulation where it will break down the insulation properties. It definitely kept the boots dry all day and must have kept the feet warmer by a few degrees. The feet might get a bit wet - but the moisture is only next to the skin and not hurting the insulation. One advantage is that the boots probably stink less over time.

Nasal Breathing
I kind of covered that one a couple of days ago... but a major one! "Reduced breathing" has a vasodilatory effect - improving circulation to the extremities. Nasal breathing increases this even more due to Nitric Oxide (NO) produced in the nasal passages. "NO" has a direct effect in improving circulation - that's why it's supplied in the form of nitroglycerine pills to stop angina and heart attacks!

Sports Compression Socks or Leggings
More and more in endurance sports athletes are using leggings over the calves to enhance circulation. This is supposed to significantly improve recovery from training and also to prevent injury. Lots of skiers get damaged calves so that might be interesting in this area too. I guess the improved circulation would have an effect all the way down to the toes so it's definitely worth a shot.

I don't like this one because neoprene overboots look really terrible. Vanity aside they are probably quite practical and might help gain a degree or two. The worst days are when there has been a blue sky overnight and your feet are submerged in power off-piste! Most people don't realise it but a phenomenon of radiation causes the snow to lose heat overnight to the clear sky by as much as 14°C lower than the ambient air temperature. So if  the air is already -26°C the snow can be -40°C. In that case overboots are definitely a very good idea just to keep the freezing snow away from the hard plastic which conducts heat very easily.

Merino Wool Socks
This is definitely a good one - and would be good combined with compression leggings. The merino has a special capacity to absorb loads of moisture without getting "wet". Eventually it does but it probably helps at least for a while. Merino wool is quite magical too because it just doesn't smell - even after weeks of wearing next to the skin. I know I tried it! I stink if I even miss a shower but merino wool just doesn't carry it at all.

Battery Powered Heaters
Last time I tried those was about 15 years ago and they fell apart immediately. It looks like all aspects of the technology has greatly improved now. Batteries are leagues better and from what I've seen the general construction of the electric filaments looks much more robust on the insoles. Might give it a try. I have 10 million other gadgets permanently plugged in at home so why not add another.

Chemical Sachets
Little packets of either hand or foot warmers can be purchased in most shops. They do last for several hours which is quite impressive. Don't know if it's chemical or a nuclear reaction taking place - but if your feet start glowing green then it's probably the second. The trouble with this is that it feels weird to have them under your feet and you have to take boots off to replace them or remove the heating. You can only use each sachet once and then it's a throw away job - definitely not "durable" or politically correct. You will almost certainly end up accused of pedophilia - ped... feet isn't it? …as well as getting strung up for causing Global Warming and for personally removing all the glaciers - by some raging green blooded self riteous totally fradulent conservationist. Not that I have anything against them, really. I only need to think of "Al Gore" and my feet end up warmer as my blood boils. That's another trick I forgot to mention.

Caffeine has a vasodilatory effect that helps circulation to the extremities. This might not be great for longterm survival in the wild - but we are not really intrested in that here. The aim is to avoid suffering from cold hands and feet unnecissarily during relatively short periods of time outdoors. I think that alcohol has a similar effect. I can certainly recommend alcohol in moderation for this purpose - but not if there is a risk of a prolonged stay outdoors. Recommendation or not - personally for the past 6 or 7 years I've abstained 100% from any alcohol consumption and feel that the fitness and mental clarity gained from that far outweigh any benefits of alcohol.

Do More Turns
That's definitely the best solution. Make more turns per metre of descent. Most people count in metres per turn - but this needs to flip over and become turns per metre.

Ultimate Hot Feet
Basically if you do all of the above at the same time and you still have cold feet then you are either a liar or somewhere well north of the Arctic Circle in winter.

1 comment:

  1. i have red this vital subject for my feet with interest. definitly have to try the compression socks or leggings.