It was time to get new socks. Mine had been worn for a week, and had reached their pull date. Groping in the bag of socks, I pulled out a pair of women’s (small) ankle socks by mistake. Not wanting to fold them up and put them back, I decided to just try them on – maybe they would stretch. They covered my toes, but only reached just past the ball of my foot. I quickly concluded, “This will not work.”
But that was based on my experience on Earth. It occurred to me that up here, you use your feet differently. In zero-g, you hook your feet under “handrails,” thus shifting the load from the bottom to the top of the foot, just behind the toe knuckle. After about two months in orbit your feet molt, and like some reptilian creature the callused skin on the bottom of your foot sheds, leaving soft pink flesh in its place. In the weightless environment, calluses apparently have no use, at least on the bottoms of your feet. However, the tops of your feet become red-rubbed raw and gnarly. And the bottom calluses shed faster than the top calluses can grow. Perpetually raw and hypersensitive, your foot tops can use a bit of padding to ease the pain.
Serendipitously, I discovered that these short socks provide the necessary protection for toes and toe tops while leaving your heels out where they can breathe. They are the zero-gravity equivalent to flip-flops. The more that I wore them, the more I liked them. I have dubbed this new space fashion “toe koozies” – they are perfect for lounging around in a Node or the Cupola.
Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.