How to Prevent Frostbite on your Feet

As you know I live in a pretty cold place up here in the mountains of Japan that gets quite a bit of snow.
I would like to stress the importance on taking care of yourself by having the right gear and a bit of common sense in avoiding frostbite.  Frostbite is cell damage due to prolonged exposure to cold causing lack of circulation usually in your extremities.  Last year I skimped on the right gear and paid the price with frostbite all over my feet that might never go away!  I would like to talk specifically about the bottom half of your body because that is usually the part of the body with the most exposure besides your hands!
Again I can’t tell you how important it is to have the right boots!  Last year I tried to tough the winter out in a pair of non-insulated plastic boots I used to use for the garden!  As the Japanese like to say “toughing it out makes you stronger,” but in this case it was just the opposite.  I got frostbite for toughing it out and let me tell you that frostbite hurts and the worst part is I still have it a year later.  Most frostbite cases come from having not enough or wrong size gear!  As boots are the main defense for your feet against the cold…..having the correct boots is crucial!  If you plan on being in the snow for a prolonged amount of time snow boots, NOT winter boots are needed.  These boots are waterproof and come with proper insulation.  But for me even the best boots sometimes are lacking.  Your feet are mostly bones with not much fat or muscle on them so they are naturallycold.   And as the bottom of your feet are the closest point to the snow I like to upgrade my boots by putting in better insoles which provide an extra comfy layer.  The correct size is also important as well so that the insulation can do its job in keeping you warm.  If you choose too big of a size it’s not only dangerous to walk but very loose letting air go in and out decreasing temperatures inside the boot.  If you have to small of a boot it cuts of circulation and can be very painful.  A snug fit ensures safety and that the insulation is working effectively.  Do your research, talk to store staff and friends for recommendations, and lastly make sure you try on the boots before buying them!
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I just bought these for 25 bucks! Really warm and a major upgrade from last years boots!
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These are the kids boots at one of my schools!
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Some of the teachers boots at one of my schools.
Going past your boots the next layer of defense is your socks!  This is also very important in keeping the warmness locked around your foot.   If you plan on being in the snow usually you are going to be semi active which causes sweating.  Sweating can be a big problem for keeping your feet warm.  You need to either have the right material for your socks or layer. I find that wool and neoprene socks are very good when layered together!  Wool and neoprene are naturally absorbent and are great to whisk the sweat away keeping your toasty!  There are also waterproof socks but I prefer using neoprene socks with wool on the outside if especially cold better.  A third option and kind of accessory is heated pads that you can insert in your boot as well.  These are very common and inexpensive here in Japan.  Really nice for your hands too!
Finally, if snow finds its way inside your boots even the best socks and boots won’t keep your feet warm so it is necessary especially in deep powder to use gaiters!  Gaiters provide protection in the gap in between your boots and pants.  Gaiters are great ideas for children as they have much smaller boots and are usually very active and quite careless!
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Gaiters on the boots.
Carelessness leads to frostbite which leads to missing toes.  Missing toes is not too sexy and can put a big damper on your future activities.  So put the right gear on and you use common sense when out in the cold.  If you feel you are getting to cold go inside for 5 minutes to warm up!  Learn from me because 65% of frostbite cases suffer long term effects and it doesn’t feel good!  Cover up, stay warm, be careful, and have fun out there this winter!!

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