As the temperature outside drops, the risk of cold-related injury to your feet increases. Prolonged exposure to cold weather can result in frostbite or–in the case of very humid or damp conditions—trench foot or pernio.
You face a greater risk of frostbite and other cold-related injuries if you have poor circulation or nerve damage, have been consuming alcohol (increases body heat loss), or use products that contain nicotine. Here are some tips to protect your feet from the cold:
1. Stay nourished and hydrated. Dehydration, lack of nutrients, and low blood sugar can all have a negative effect on your body’s temperature regulation.
2. Stay warm. Layer your clothing. Your base layer should be an insulating material that wicks away sweat and moisture, such as wool or synthetic material. Wear socks in materials designed for cold weather, such as Smartwool and Darn Tough socks. Longer socks offer more protection than ankle socks.
3. Stay dry. Remember that drier feet are warmer feet. Clothing should be waterproof if possible. Avoid Cotton because it retains moisture, choose synthetic or wool instead. Carry an extra pair of socks in case your first pair gets wet from sweat or the elements. You can help prevent your feet from sweating with antiperspirant products, foot powders, and special insoles.
4. Pick the right shoe–in the right size! Waterproof shoes are preferable in wet, cold weather. Be sure that the shoes are a good fit, and that you try them on with the pair of socks you intend to wear with them. (For info on how to try on shoes properly, watch the video below.) Shoes that are too tight can interfere with blood flow. Shoes that are too loose will allow exposure to wind and cold.
5. Rotate your shoes. Your feet need time to breathe in order to stay healthy—and so do your shoes. Rotating between two or more winter shoes is ideal so that each pair has time to air out and dry, creating a better environment for your feet.