The leaves are changing. There have been a couple of cold fronts that have passed through with attendant rain. We even had frost one night. But the temperatures are still getting up into the 50s (10C).
I hear of barefooters in warmer climes for whom 50° is too cold. OK. But for around here (central Ohio), it’s nothing. Or at least, it can be nothing if you acclimate yourself.
[This is a partial repost with a bit of new material, mostly at the beginning and end.]
If you go barefoot, now is not the time to stop. Now is the time to start acclimating your feet and your body to the cooler temperatures. If you do so, you will stay more comfortable all winter long, and you will also be able to remain barefooted for much, much longer.
I just happen to right now be reading 98.6 Degrees — The art of keeping your ass alive! by Cody Lundin of Dual Survival (and barefooting) fame. In it he talks quite a bit about hypothermia, but he also talks about conditioning himself and how he acclimatizes to the weather.
From page 89 (paperback edition, 2003):
Most of us “modern” folks have robbed ourselves of the experience of acclimatization for whatever reason. Instead, we put on extra clothing early in the season and take it off late when the season’s passed. We saunter from climate-controlled shelters to climate-controlled vehicles to climate-controlled work areas to climate-controlled shopping centers, worshiping the almighty god called “room temperature.” The body never has a chance to acclimate to temperature variation because it never needs to. But to each his or her own. There’s nothing wrong with living a climate-controlled life; I’m simply explaining how and why I do what I do. I choose to acclimate as much as possible to the heat and cold for several reasons. I use myself as a human guinea pig to push the envelope of my own personal limits. There is a big difference between being uncomfortable and being dangerous when it comes to training in temperature extremes. Acclimation is like weight training; you either use it or lose it. Unfortunately, the “losing it” part can happen fast.
He also talks about the wonders of wool, and cold feet. He says pretty much what I’ve been saying a long time: it is shoes that can often make your feet cold by cutting off circulation and by reducing the nature motion of the foot that helps pump in warm blood.
I found it interesting that he talked about using wool socks in the cold for a long time. From an early Dual Survival episode (in Montana), I thought that was a new experiment. But it wasn’t — he’s been doing that for a long time:
While I’ll never write a book about footwear, I do have a fair amount of experience with socks. I have worn two to three pairs of “new” (holey socks don’t cut it) wool socks, sans shoes or boots, for years in cold, dry snowy conditions with great results.
* * *
Donning loose and layered new wool socks allows for excess foot perspiration to freely evaporate while minimally compressing insulation and impeding circulation. Wool socks work best in cold, dry conditions (dry snow actually sucks the moisture from a water-logged sock) but I’ve worn them in slush as well.
On a side note, he’s also had difficult Wal-Mart situations, mentioning them twice (when discussing where to get some of his survival gear):
It [tincture of iodine] can be purchased at most discount pharmacies except Wal-Mart; the “Greeting Gestapo” will kick you out if you are barefoot.
Magnesium tools are cheap and compact. They’re available at most camping and discount stores except Wal-Mart (you’ll never get past the “greeters” with bare feet).
(Actually, while I don’t go to Wal-Mart a lot, when I have gone, I’ve never been kicked out.)
Anyways, back to acclimatization, as the weather cools, don’t automatically start bundling up (or worse yet, putting on footwear). Experiment to see what you can tolerate. Even a little chilliness will not hurt you.
If you have yardwork to do to prepare your yard for winter (hint: leaves), try doing it barefoot. Just the fact that you are working means that you are helping to push plenty of warm blood down to your feet to keep them warm.
You might find that they get just a little bit pink. That’s the extra warm blood. That’s good, and you are training your body to do that.
Over the weekend I started blowing some of the leaves that were accumulating in our front yard. It was 50° with a bit of sun. It was perfect for going barefoot (though of course that would totally shock usually shod people).
Start acclimating now and you’ll find that you can survive, yes, actually be comfortable in much cooler temperatures than you ever imagined.
[Note: if you live in Texas, now it not the time to acclimate. It is still too hot. Reread this entry in a couple months. 🙂 ]