Please help.

I am training to do a one-day 28.3 mile hike in support of children's cancer research -- and I plan to do the entire hike BAREFOOT! Please SPONSOR ME in the Ultimate Hike and help support this great cause. Thanks!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Barefoot Limits

The end of a rainy 6 mile hike.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is whether I go barefoot in the cold and snow.  You'd already know the answer to this if I had posted that Barefooting FAQ I promised. --  It's coming soon.  Really.

The answer is, "It depends."  Not a very satisfying answer, I know, but an honest one.  If it's snowy or icy outside and I just have to walk a short distance, such as from the parking lot to a building, I'm fine going barefoot.  If the air temperature is at or near freezing but there is a strong sun and I'm on pavement I find, surprisingly, that it's actually warmer to be barefoot than to be shod!  The pavement holds the heat from the sun and warms my feet. 

Waterproof SealSkinz Socks
However, if it is in the 40s (°F), rainy, wet and I'm on the trail, I find that the earth will suck the heat right out of my feet.  If the ground isn't too saturated, the rain is light, it's still daylight and I'm moving quickly on a vigorous hike or trail run I can do OK barefoot.  If, on the other hand, I'm hiking in cold, rainy conditions and have to wade through sections of trail under water as I did today, that's when I pull out my trusty waterproof SealSkinz (aka Hanz) socks.  They feel like a normal thick pair of socks and provide a hiking experience closer to barefoot than any "barefoot" shoe can offer.  To be clear, I'm talking about wearing JUST the socks, no shoes.  Of course, the socks aren't designed for this type of use and they have some limitations.

Hiking in waterproof socks today.
My first pair bit the dust after a very cold night hike that included a lot of jagged gravel.  It wore several holes in the soles.  The socks don't have much traction so it's important to be extra careful on slippery, muddy trail conditions.  And, of course, they aren't going to last hundreds of miles.  But the winters in NC tend to be fairly mild and with some fair weather planning for hikes I can avoid having to use them often so they last long enough to make them worth the cost for me.

Steps along the trail during a break in the rain.
But training for the Ultimate Hike means following the training plan regardless of weather.  Today, that meant meeting the team on a cool, rainy Saturday morning for a 6 mile hike on a section of the NC Mountain to Sea Trail.  Despite the rain and temps in the 40s I was doing OK barefoot for most of the first mile.  Then we hit a section of the trail where there were so many unavoidable large puddles that the trail might as well have been submerged.  At that point I hit my barefoot limit.  I finished the rest of the hike wearing my waterproof socks.  They held up well and my feet were toasty warm and dry after 5 more miles of mud and deep puddles. 

View of the Eno River during today's hike.


Thanks to our wonderful Ultimate Hike leader, Joe Miller, for the pictures of today's hike!


1 comment:

  1. The jagged gravel wore holes in your super-duper waterproof socks! What if you'd been going barefoot there !