If you spend time outdoors, serve in the military, public service, or have ever neglected your feet, you know how bad things can potentially get. We’ve all see the pictures of destroyed and frostbitten feet from climbers in the Himalaya. Those images of foot injuries are at their worst with lost toes and even amputations up to the knees. If you’ve never seen it, Google “trench foot” and you’ll know it is something you never want to endure.

For the men in the trenches of “No man’s land” or the jungles of the South Pacific, keeping their feet dry and warm was almost an impossibility. Today, we have all manner of luxury and new high-tech gear to keep our feet healthy. These benefits sometimes cause laziness and disregard for certain measures we can take to ensure a trip to the mountains doesn’t turn into a trip to the hospital. Even if it never gets that bad, no one, and I repeat no one likes the “screaming barfies.”

Hands and feet are the first to lose heat do to the body’s physiological response in cold weather. The human body is constantly working to keep a level of homeostasis, but it does have an order of precedence for which organs are of most and least concern. The skin is the body’s largest organ and the one that gets the brunt of blood shunting to keep the rest of your body alive. To keep the core of your body warm, the autonomic nervous system will cause capillary beds in the skin to constrict and thus shunt more blood to the core of the body. Boom, cold hands and feet.

First, let’s cover some common problems/injuries caused by cold and wet weather. Then we will discuss some solutions and gear choices to keep your feet health and happy.

Common Cold Injuries are exacerbated by wet and moist conditions – water cools more effectively than air at the same temperature. Think of water and sweat as a heat sink.


This is when things go numb. This is also that time when you will most likely endure the “screaming barfies.” Frostnip comes before frostbite and will not produce any longterm damage to the tissue or nerves. Once this kicks in, it is important to rewarm the area.  Although it may be painful, doing nothing can lead to frostbite and possible permanent tissue damage. Above all, it is just down right uncomfortable. In combination, I’ve felt this extremity affliction more times than I can count and it was usually do to being unprepared.