Cold Weather

The body is engineered for the British weather, and it works very well. As the summer turns to winter, your body acclimatises so that you hardly notice the change. There is also something called "Cold-induced vasodilation". When initially exposed to cold, vasoconstriction occurs to reduce heat loss, but five or ten minutes later the blood vessels suddenly vasodilate, supplying warm blood to your feet. Your body regulates the temperature of your feet automatically. When a barefooter tells you that their feet are not too cold, it´s true.

One cold morning in February, a member of a Facebook group did an interesting experiment. He wrote:

I just found an old thermal imaging camera while I was tidying up, and since we were in the middle of a storm this morning I didn’t really have any choice other than to go out splashing in the rain for a while to see what it did to my body temperature.

Temperatures are represented by colours: Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, White from cold to hot. The top row was about 2 minutes after I got out of the car and the bottom row after 30 minutes of rain, mud and puddle splashing.

Clearly his feet were warmer after 30 minutes of cold, wet British weather.

Dressing for cold weather

The secret to staying warm in cold weather is to keep your body warm. A nice warm jumper, a hat and a scarf and your feet are just fine. It just takes a few minutes for them to acclimatise.

If the ground is very cold, keep walking, and keep the tops of your feet dry if you can. Using the muscles in your feet generates heat, and keeps the blood flowing. It's harder to keep them warm in bed!

Snow

While a little ice is fine, prolonged exposure to snow can be dangerous in theory. Frost-bite can occur if your foot is in constant contact with anything below freezing that can remove the heat faster than your body can put it back.

A dusting of snow is no problem, and even a few inches of fine powdery snow can be quite managable. But deep snow that is in constant contact with your foot cause damage. If in doubt play it safe: It is said that a numb toe is a dumb toe; there is no shame in using footwear for protection when necessary.

Thankfully snow is quite rare in the UK, at least here in the south, and when it does snow it's often not really more than an annoyance. (Some people even like it!)

Further reading: A blog post called "You can go barefoot in cold weather" by Kriss Sands.

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