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Do you have cold feet?

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For years I have been writing about the lack of knowledge that companies selling sleeping bags have shown. They—everyone that you can name—have never bothered to study human physiology or the difference between the temperature at sea level versus 10,000 feet with respect to the lack of oxygen in the air. In addition to this lack of knowledge, they have never learned about insulations and which would be best for what application or how the insulations are affected by moisture. The same holds true for the boot industry. It is their lack of knowledge about what it takes for feet to be warm that has led to winter boots that for the most part do not work well, or at all, for that matter.

Historically, the boot industry got involved with two products that have become major components in boots. They are Gore-Tex and Thinsulate. Prior to these products coming on the market, boot manufacturers weren’t doing very well with cold weather boots. Therefore, in my opinion they all latched onto these two products to correct that failing. Gore-Tex was supposed to keep water out of the boot—and from many demonstrations that I have seen, I believe that it does. However, the same Gore-Tex film also does an equally good job of keeping the moisture inside the boot, negating what the company claims: that the moisture does get out of the boot. I have never made a boot, but I did have the opportunity to tour the Danner Boot facility in Portland Oregon and saw how they make their boots with Gore-Tex, and their testing procedure, and the film is glued into the boot clogging the holes that exist in the PTFE film. So much for its “vapor permeability” (they like to say “breathability”).

Now for Thinsulate! When 3-M originally came out with Thinsulate it was 100% melt blown polypropylene, which did not have any resilience; when pressure was applied to it, it simply collapsed. They then replaced, if memory serves correct, 35% of the polypropylene with polyester fiber to bulk it up and give the material some resilience. For a while they made lots of headway in the skiwear industry but that eventually died away. But, they did make headway in the footwear industry—specifically with boot makers. They went back to a 100% polypropylene product, as far as I know, and it was made board-like similar to fiber board. This product has been made in weights ranging from 200 grams to 2000 grams, and of course the heavier the weight, the greater the insulation capability, or so they believed. The performance of this product as an insulator in boots, like all other products that Thinsulate has been used for, leaves a great deal to be desired.

What has saved these products has been the military. Whenever a boot solicitation comes out, both products are named, so any boot maker had no choice but to bid with the components specified. Many of these companies also produce boots for sportsman and construction workers or farmers etc. they received advertising dollars from each of these companies so they had an incentive to continue to include these components in the civilian boots. It should also be noted that the boots made for the consumer market are made in China. Through it all, not one of these companies actually did research into human physiology to better understand how to make a boot that will actually keep the wearers’ feet warm. For a number of years, if you looked at a Cabelas catalog, the boots would have a temperature rating attached to them. When I read that some off the boots were rated to an astonishing -100 degrees I would call the company and inquire where the boots were tested and, as I expected, I never did get an answer. Recently I looked at the Cabela’s web site and found that not one boot had a temperature rating associated with it. But they do say the weight of the Thinsulate and, as I noted above, they go to 2000 grams. If I made a 2000 gram Lamilite it couldn’t fit in a boot.

There is a simple explanation why people have cold feet; retention of moisture is the major contributor, but not the only one. To begin with, the foot is generating more moisture than any other part of the human body. The reason is simple: it is confined in a sock first, and then the shoe. When you place the Gore-Tex in the shoe, none of the moisture can migrate through the fabric the shoe is made of—even leather. Here I can speak quite factually of my own experience with a Rocky shoe I bought many years ago. I worked on a concrete floor in my first factory in S.C. and it was hot and humid. I liked the style and the thick sole. However, when I took them off at home after the first day my feet were soaked and had a very strong odor. I knew it was the Gore-Tex film that kept everything in the shoes, water which caused the odor. I wore them for a while and ultimately threw them away. Just like the fishnet underwear letting all of the moisture migrate away from your body—so you stay dry, and therefore warm—the same has to happen with footwear. Dry feet are warm feet. A second consideration is how the insulation in the footwear performs, and the Thinsulate doesn’t perform very well. It is so dense that the moisture as a vapor does not migrate through the material; it is absorbed by the material. Once the moisture in the boot is absorbed by anything, the Thinsulate or the socks you are wearing, will chill and absorb the heat your foot is producing. Hence you now have cold feet. In reality, the use of the Gore-Tex is probably not even necessary due to the Thinsulate absorbing the moisture. So the retention of water is the major problem. Even if you are well insulated over the rest of your body your feet will still not be warm. Once the cold sets in, the body automatically cuts off circulation to the extremities to preserve blood flow to the internal organs. This is a natural action that we have no control over. So the answer is to have footwear that actually keeps your feet warm.

Some 12 or so years ago I had boots made for me by Herman’s Survivor Company using Lamilite insulation. They worked very well and I had good reports from customers, but alas they went out of business. A few years later I had Wellco make boots for me again with the Lamilite and again they worked very well but they didn’t want to continue so I walked away. This past winter had been quite cold here in Grand Junction and I have a standard poodle that needs lots of exercise and having 8 acres, she has plenty of room to run, but in the morning and evening she wants me with her. So I started wearing either of these boots with temperatures as low as -15 degrees with 10 - 12 inches of snow. In each case I never wore socks and after half an hour out there my feet never did get cold. This being the case, I made some Lamilite socks and wore them in the boots all day long working around the house or in the office. My feet were always dry when I took the boots and Lamilite socks off. Just so you know, neither of these boots was made with Gore-Tex. The end result was that the moisture from my feet was migrating through the leather.

Now I am working with a very well respected manufacturer of boots for the military making a Lamilite insulated boot for Wiggy’s. The boots are made with top grain cowhide that is suede in the tan color. The sole is a Vibram and the insulation is Lamilite.

If these boots were to be sold in any retail store the retail price would be about $260.00. As an introductory price I am making them available—offering these boots for $200.00 plus either the short (8”) or tall (13”) Lamilite socks as a special at no charge: a bonus $60.00 value. And in addition to the Lamilite socks you can get the Overboots which normally sell for $136.00 for an additional $90.00. This combination of footwear products will give you a weather working capability from the 90 degree range to -25 degrees or lower if you are truly dressed for the conditions.

These boots will not be available for shipping until about the first of July 2014. The first production run will be 252 pairs in sizes ranging from 7 regular width and wide to a 14 regular width. All of the sizes will be posted on the web site.

The manufacture is Belleville Boot Company and they give a standard Belleville Commercial Warranty.
Here is a picture of the boots.

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