Photo: © SmartWool. What makes the difference between a good day in the mountains and a bad day? No, it doesn’t have to be the weather or even the snow conditions. They’re important, of course, but for me – and countless other cold feet sufferers – it’s how warm you are. I once sat on a broken booster seat for an hour in high winds and sub-zero temperatures on the Tignes Glacier in early December. After a while, all the feeling went from my feet. and when I got back to the hotel and gingerly took off my ski boots, I discovered the early stages of frostbite. When my toes started to defrost, I was in so much pain that I thought I might pass out. Since then, my feet have remained extremely sensitive to the cold, which I’m sure sounds familiar to a lot of skiers and snowboarders. “If your boots fit properly, your feet won’t get cold” is what the skiers tell you. Yes, true for many people. Not for me or for people who have experienced frostbite or poor circulation. It’s a constant battle to keep the feeling in our toes as the temperature drops. Here are a few tips that might help:
Get some nice socks
Ski socks are cushioned in various places – including the shin and Achilles tendon areas – and will protect your feet from pressure points and rubbing inside the boot. You will need socks that are specially made for skiing or snowboarding and nothing else. Normal socks and even sports socks are not okay. Socks need to be able to quickly transport moisture away from your skin, so they must be made of wool, bamboo, or mixed with man-made fibers (see below). Breathable feet won’t get wet and will therefore be much warmer. Thick socks make you warmer: True or false? Wrong. Thin socks allow a micro-cushion of warm air to be trapped between your foot and the lining. Thick socks also seriously interfere with your skiing. When you ask your foot to spin, you don’t want the energy transfer to be paused while your sock compresses the shoe! Racers wear the thinnest socks – or no socks. Always try on new or rented ski boots with your own ski socks to make sure they fit comfortably. Make sure your socks aren’t too tight around the top as that can reduce circulation in the upper. Trim your toenails before your skiing trip! And never wear two pairs of socks, this will definitely restrict circulation. As Henrik Enarsson of Skistar at Are in the Arctic Circle says: “Too many layers of socks lead to tighter boots, which in turn leads to cold toes. But this is not the whole truth; Cold feet can also mean your boots are too big.” “If your boots are too big, you’ll continue to squeeze your toes and constrict your feet and thus impede blood circulation,” he adds. It is essential to find boots that fit…”
Know your yarn
Merino is a smooth, non-itchy wool that allows for good insulation and is soft. Manufacturers like Falke, Bridgedale and Smartwool combine it with technical yarn in their ski socks.
Bamboo is a natural, sustainable fiber that neutralizes odors and is highly breathable. Le Bent bamboo socks are available from Snow Inn.
Silver Can be used in combination with other materials. It keeps the heat in and the smell out. X-Socks are made from a fabric consisting of thousands of pure silver rings; We’ve tested them ourselves and they’re sure to keep your feet warm and odor-free.
Man-made / engineering fibers Quickly transport moisture away from the skin. Polyamide and polypropylene are commonly used and they absorb moisture to keep your feet dry. Remember, cotton is hygroscopic so it doesn’t wick well. The ultra-thin socks are designed for skiers who want high performance. Thin yarn and mesh and semi-synthetic materials provide comfort, and combined with a top-of-the-line boot system (sole and insoles), these socks will make you feel like you’re skiing barefoot. .
Cashmere is the creme-de-la-creme of any sock, and certainly ski socks. The Falke SK2 knee high socks (seen above) are actually 37% cashmere mixed with other fabrics, but that makes them exceptionally soft to the touch and well insulated.
Compression socks Increase circulation and support veins to bring blood from the legs back to the heart. They give you more energy, reduce fatigue and muscle soreness, and reduce swelling, helping you recover faster. Sockwell’s Ski Medium is made from merino wool, alpaca and bamboo.
Splashing on the Starter Heater…
Ever since I discovered boot heaters, I can’t imagine skiing without them. They used to cost a small fortune but today they are much more affordable. They are also more reliable than before. The three main brands are Therm-ic, Sidas, and Hotronics, and all come with rechargeable batteries that you clip to the outside of your snowshoes. The battery will last all day unless you set it to the hottest setting. If you remember to turn them off at lunchtime, you will save electricity. Have a specialist fitter to insert them into your boots – they go somewhere between the lining and the shell, or if you have insoles, they can thread through them. The Conform’able Volcano Thermic, pictured here, is a commercially available Sidas support base that has Thermic heating elements pre-wired into it and requires no casting. Available at Snow + Rock and other good ski retailers.
… Or Should You Try a Disposable Warmer?
Have you seen and may have used those throwaway portable kettles that look a bit like tea bags? You squeeze them to get rid of the heat and they can get really hot. They work well inside gloves and mittens and it’s easy to pack a few pairs in your luggage. Well, a boot warmer is also an idea – but bigger. Personally, I don’t see how to fit the snowshoes and still be comfortable, but I was told by someone that they put them on top of the sock, behind the toe where there seems to be a gap…
Use a Dryer Starter or a Heat Pack
It’s extremely important to dry your boots at the end of the ski day. If they feel wet, remove the pads and place them next to or under (but never on) the radiator. You can store your boots overnight in a boot dryer – if your chalet, hotel or apartment has them. The first thing that will make a big difference is wearing warm boots in the morning. Just make sure to have a boot dryer on hand, you can even buy your own and plug it into an outlet in your hotel room. Hotronic Snapdry dries and pre-warms footwear and gloves in 60 minutes – and reduces bacteria. Remember that you can’t put ski boots with moldable linings in the “high” boot heater – or they’ll mold again overnight! Also, the Hotdryer Starter Bag, pictured here, is a lightweight starter warmer that comes with a hot dryer you can use in your car or in a chalet. To use, you plug in a hot dryer and two blowers automatically blow hot air into the bottom of your boot. Details from Sidas Sport.
What about an eco dryer?
The Drysure Extreme is an eco-friendly boot dryer and is said to dry footwear 12 times faster than traditional air-drying (we haven’t tried it ourselves). No batteries or electricity are needed and they can be reused over and over, so it’s also great for the environment. There is a second design for running shoes, cycling shoes, golf shoes and walking shoes.
Try hot socks
Therm-ic Powersocks Heat Uni+ has a lightweight rechargeable battery that you can remove to wash your socks. There is a choice of standard battery or Bluetooth. Make sure your socks are pulled up as high as possible so the battery doesn’t get inside the boot (uncomfortable!). If you have any other ideas to keep your feet warm, feel free to share them with us! Plus, check out our features on how to buy the perfect ski jacket (women), features for every ski jacket need (men and women), and ski sole classes.
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