Keeping your toes warm in the dead of winter

Cold toes in the winter are terrible. Every time you take a step, sharp pain shoots through your body because of your icy cold toes. Here are a few suggestions that you can help prevent your toes from getting too cold.

Let’s first discuss how the body keeps the feet warm. It does this by having warm blood circulating to your toes – by forcing warm blood to the extremities. A big mistake a lot of people do when their feet get cold is they try to add more socks. This makes sense intuitively – more socks equals more warmth – but is actually the worst thing you can do. As you add more socks, you compress your foot more and more, and restricts blood flow to your toes. This makes your feet extremely cold and is very much against what you're trying to do.

The first thing you need to do to prevent your feet from getting cold is to purchase insulated shoes or boots. Ideally, it’ll be an insulated boot with a removable liner. The size of the boot or shoe also matters. If it's too tight, it'll compress your foot and further restricts the blood flow to the toes. What you're looking for is a slightly looser fitting boot. The extra air inside the boot is what's going to keep you warm. You also want to make sure that's not so loosely fitting that you're going to sprain an ankle, or develop a blister.

Once you have your boots, you need to purchase a really good pair of socks. Do not buy cotton socks. Cotton sucks. Cotton will simply absorb all the moisture from your foot, and retain it. The sock will freeze, and your foot will freeze. Ideally, you’ll wear two socks. The one against your skin will be a liner sock. These are typically made of something like polypropelene, which is exceptionally good at moving moisture from your foot to the next outer layer of sock. On top of that, you’ll ideally have a good warm sock that stays warm even when wet. A good sock is one with a high wool or merino wool content.

Once you have that system (liner sock, thicker sock, insulated boot with removable liner), you’re ahead of the game for keeping your feet comfy. Eventually, as you walk and are active, your feet will sweat. That sweat will move away from your skin to your boot liner. It’s through this wicking action that your feet will stay dry, and the extra room in your boot will keep your feet warm. If you ever feel like your feet are getting cold, first check to see if your sock or your boot liner is wet. If so, change your socks and/or dry your boot liner (if possible). If they’re both dry, or you can’t dry them, I recommend swinging your cold foot back and forth as quickly and vigorously as you can (consider holding onto something for stability). This will force blood down to your toes and warm them up. 

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