Keep Your Feet & Toes Warm
For both winter sports enthusiasts and hikers alike, foot protection and insulation can mean the difference between calling it an early day or a truly memorable day. In fact, just about everyone who likes to spend some time outdoors during the winter season would benefit from some simple changes to the way they protect their feet from the cold.
So what are the best ways to keep your feet comfortable and warm over the winter months? Well, there are a number of things you can do…
1. Winter Specific Footwear
Summer sports shoes and lightweight walking boots are designed with comfort and ventilation in mind, not insulation. So when you think about it –not ideal for snow, freezing slush and all that other stuff our great winter days tend to throw at us. So, what type of footwear do you need to keep your feet and toes nice and toasty? Well, that’s easy – a good quality pair of winter specific shoes or winter boots. The only downside with winter-specific footwear is they are less breathable and a tad heavier than their fair season counterparts. Well worth it though to avoid the horrible experience of having cold feet.
2. Warm Socks
If you enjoy outdoor activities during the winter months, you really should invest in some high-end thermal socks. These outer layer socks are your second line of defense from the elements after your winter specific footwear – so as you may guess, this makes them an incredibly important part of your thermal footwear kit. There are loads of socks to choose from, ranging from high-tech polyesters and standard sheep’s wool to the ultimate in most people’s opinion, the incredibly warm and breathable Merino wool. Like most things thermal, the more you invest, the better the results you will get – so don’t skimp on your socks if you want to avoid cold feet over the winter season.
3. Wicking Inner Socks
Wicking inner layer socks will work well for your average winter activity temperatures: let’s say just under freezing to around 5 degrees Celsius. By wearing a pair of wicking inner socks, you will add another layer of insulation and keep your feet nice and dry. Wicking socks work by drawing away moisture from your feet and transferring it to your outer sock layer. Wicking inner socks are generally made from synthetic polyesters or Merino wool.
4. Winter Insoles
Another top bit of kit to help keep your feet nice and warm during winter activities is the winter boot insole. These incredibly cost-effective additions to your thermal arsenal offer yet another layer of insulation – adding to the protection you have already gained from your thermal socks, inner socks, and winter specific footwear. Most winter insoles are made from compressed wool but there are synthetic versions available. They work by insulating the soles of your feet, an area where cold is easily transferred from freezing ground or concrete. Decent quality winter innersoles should be high on the list of everyone who spends a lot of time outdoors during the colder seasons.
5. Toe Warmer Pads
Toe warmers are definitely the way forward when it comes to keeping off the chill from your toes. Toe warmers are essentially chemically warmed pads with adhesive patches that cover the front sections of your feet. To activate toe warmers, all you need to do is open the packet, give the pads a quick shake and then stick them to either the underside or topside of your socks. The gentle chemically activated heat given off by these pads will last for up to six hours, giving you that extra bit of comfort on those bitterly cold days out.
Properly waterproofing your footwear will also help to keep your feet warm and dry during those cold and damp days out. Winter shoes and boots are generally made from three types of leather: full grain leather, nubuck leather or suede. But take note, different types of winter boot materials require different types of waterproofing products. It’s always a good idea to check which waterproofing product is best for your boots by visiting the manufacturer’s website. Different products also have different levels of protection, so make sure you buy the product best suited to your winter needs.
7. Non- Breathable Inner Liner
If you are thinking about taking things to sub-zero extremes, you may well have to sacrifice dry feet and use a non-breathable inner liner. Yes, doesn’t sound too comfortable, but undeniably better than frostbite. These types of liners are aimed at extreme temperature activities and offer an insulated though slightly damp microclimate for your feet.
8. Keep Moving
A piece of thermal advice from experienced winter hikers and sports people alike is to keep moving. By staying active you will increase your overall body temperature, which will help to transfer warmth to your extremities. If you do have to stand around for a while, a small piece of insulated matting will help to retain heat in your feet. A standing size section of matting can be easily stashed in your daypack and weighs next to nothing.
9. Dry Your Boots
Damp boots will quickly undo the best foot insulation planning. So, remember to always thoroughly dry your winter boots after every day out. One of the best ways to do this is to stuff some old newspaper into your boots and place near to a heat source. This will ensure that all of the moisture is removed from your boots before you venture out on your next cold weather excursion.
10. In The Bag
To cover all of your comfort based on a really long day out, it’s a good idea to pack an extra pair of socks, a few high-energy snacks, and some isotonic fluids. And if you have some space left in your daypack, a thermos flask full of warming, high-calorie hot chocolate will most definitely help to keep the chill at bay.