Why are our feet always cold in winter?

Roger Sole Weathered Spain 4 minutes
Hiking in winter
When we walk in the snow, our feet get even colder.

Winter has come slowly, but it has had a very strong influence on our country, with temperatures even below the “usual” average. Jackets, scarves, anoraks and pullovers characterize streetwear in many regions of Spain.

Have you ever wondered why your feet can be freezing cold (despite sneakers and thick socks) but your hands are warm? The answer is simple and depends mainly on the temperature at the surface of the earth. The calorific value at ground level, directly on the road asphalt, can be 8°C below the “official” thermometers, which are 1.5 meters above the ground.

The colder air, being denser and heavier, tends to descend and settle in the lower regions.

You could say that in winter a thermal inversion occurs in our body, where the soles of our shoes are colder than the upper body and face.

The same happens on days of anticyclonic stagnation between the valleys and the mountains: On clear nights, the cold air concentrates and accumulates in the low pressure areas, while slightly warmer air masses form in the middle and high mountain layers.

On the human level, something similar would happen between the relationship between our body and the air around us: The moist and cold air is on the ground and brushes the surface through our shoes, while the upper body and face are in a certain layer of “thermal inversion”, slightly less cold. Nevertheless, we often feel that our noses are extremely cold: our body “gives” heat to the air.

Everything changes with the wind

The wind stirs up the air masses and breaks the “thermal inversion”, so that the cold concentrated on the feet is “generated” to the whole body. So-called “wind chill” is the heat sensation we perceive when the actual temperature is combined with the wind speed. The more wind, the colder it gets. This is due to the heat loss in the human body.

The paradox is that although the wind prevents the thermometer from falling, it compensates for this with an increased feeling of cold. In other words, it may be warmer, but feels five times colder.

The cold air is heavier and settles on the ground.

The surface: essential for more or less cold feet

Walking on a street, snow or city asphalt does not have the same effect on our feet and on the feeling of warmth or comfort that we have in the body. It goes without saying that an icy or snowy surface means a greater transfer of cold to the feet, which results in greater discomfort. Our feet get colder, yes, but we get browner because of the albedo effect.

It is precisely this surface’s ability to reflect radiation that is decisive about the comfort of hikers or walkers. Shady mountain terrain is cooler than city asphalt on a sunny day. Because the urban fabric is darker, it absorbs more solar radiation and thus heats up more.

Albedo effect: important for the absorption of body heat

The color of our clothes is also important to keep the heat from the sun’s rays out. At Meteored, we therefore recommend that you wear darker clothes to avoid freezing on cold days. However, this formula only works on sunny days. A cloudy day means there is no albedo effect between our clothes and the sun’s rays.

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