Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Dressed For The Occasion Part 4: Feet June 09 2007

You can travel to the Pole in large Alfa boots with huge quantities of insulation and really restrict your chances of getting frostbitten toes. However, they are heavy and are inefficient for cross-country skiing, which is how we will be travelling. Given the enormous distance we need to travel, we have therefore decided against Alfa boots. Instead, we'll be using dedicated back country ski touring boots made by Alpina.

Fit is critical and the boots are a size or two larger than our normal shoe size in order to accommodate lots of socks and our feet swelling during the expedition. Mine are size 48! Tom Jones of Euroski kindly supplied the boots.

Inside the boots we will wear thin inner socks, thick outer socks, made largely of merino wool so they retain warmth when wet. When it gets really cold, we will wear vapour barrier liners between layers of sock, to stop our sweat freezing in the boot's insulation. RBH Designs make an insulated vapour barrier sock using the same "vaprthrm" technology as their gloves, which I found warm and very comfortable when training in Norway.

The Alpina boots do not have a huge amount of insulation, so we have glued and screwed some insulated gaiters to the grey plastic strip running along the sole. The gaiters were a nightmare to source because almost all insulated gaiters are for mountaineering use rather than cross-country skiing. In the end we had to import them from Canada via the great Mountain Equipment Co-Op ( We are constantly experimenting with different insoles for both warmth and support.

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