Nothing can ruin a perfect skiing experience faster than cold and achy feet — with the possible exception of a hard fall. Frozen toes are a common problem that almost every skier has experienced at some point in their ski history. Imagine that it is a perfect powder day and you are trying to make the best out of your skiing vacation but you cannot feel your toes. After ensuring you have a good base layer to heat your core, keeping your feet and hands warm is the next most important thing involved in staying comfortable in cold temps.
It is a common problem, and one that a little advance planning can help. Heading back to the lodge with an intention of defrosting the feet is an option, but not an ideal one because it involves leaving the rest of their family and friends having fun at the slopes. It doesn’t matter how long you have skied, one thing that can no doubt send you running back to the lodge is cold feet. But there is absolutely no reason why your feet cannot remain warm during your ski vacations. Below are some of the best ways to maintain warm feet while skiing.
Wear Thin Ski Socks
It might seem that you should wear thicker socks when it is cold. Our experience is that thinner layers are the way to go.
The secret to keeping your feet warm lies behind the kind of socks that you wear. In the past, skiing boots were commonly made from leather that would lap up moisture which is the reason why most skiers opted to wear several pairs of heavy socks. Currently, ski experts and professionals will advise you to buy thinner pairs of socks specifically made for skiing. These socks are made from a blend of nylon, wool and elastic. The blend of different materials used to make the ski socks have the socks acting like a second skin. It is recommended that you choose a pair that is a little above the calf so that you do not have to worry about the socks slipping down while you are skiing.
Winter sports experts are in general agreement that there is a common misconception that thicker socks can help someone stay warm while on a ski vacation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A thinner pair of socks will allow your feet to breathe. While skiing, putting on a pair of cotton socks is one of the worst ideas you can come up with. The reason for this is that cotton traps moisture that inevitably causes cold feet.
Additionally, a tight, cramped foot will get cold faster. A foot that can move around and breathe will stay warmer. The key is that your foot will warm the thin layer of air around it and that is actually what keeps you warm. Plus, a cramped foot that is jammed in to a boot will not have great circulation and will get cold faster.
If you need more mass on your feet, we would rather see you go with a second pair of thin socks (right on top of the base socks) rather than going for one pair of thicker ones. We think the performance level will be a major step higher.
It’s all counter-intuitive, I know. It seems like you want to load up your feet with warmth, but it is all about a combination of warmth and airflow.
Not sure which sock to go with? Burton makes a good all-around midweight ski sock that we really like. Find it here on Amazon.
Open Your Ski Boots When Resting
If you grew up skiing, you may have heard this tip from your mother or a ski instructor — because it works. If you take a short break — for coffee, lunch, restroom, etc — unbuckle your boots and open them up to allow warmer air to circulate in. This will allow your feet to get exposed to room temperature air while also changing the circulation in your lower leg. You don’t even have to take the boot off, simply open it up a bit. Doing this for even 10 minutes will warm your foot up enough so you are starting in a better place when you head back out to the slopes. If you are able to completely remove the boot for a few minutes, even better…. but beware of a wet floor beneath you. You don’t want to trade cold toes for wet socks — that is not a good swap.
Wear the Right Ski Boots
Another common way of keeping your feet warm is wearing the right size ski boots. Finding the right sized ski boots is a common problem particularly for people who rent their ski equipment. Sports equipment shops will have rental boots that are almost twice the size of your shoe size making them very uncomfortable. When it comes to ski boots, it is not just the size that counts. It is important that you tighten your boots so that your heels do not lift while skiing. Lifting of the heels will cuts proper circulation of air while at the same time creating an awkward arc on your foot. Poor circulation of blood and air ultimately causes cold feet. You will want to make sure that whenever you rent a pair of ski boots, do not second guess the size but rather check if they fit before you walk out of the shop.
If you are skiing with kids, be sure that you have their boots fitting well, too. They might be less-likely to speak up if the boot fit is not just right.
Finally, race ski boots generally are not built for comfort or warmth. Unless you are competitively skiing, go with the all-mountain boots.
Try Disposable Boot Warmers
Using disposable warmers (such as the one sold under the brand Grabber Warmers) is one of the least expensive ways of keeping tour feet warm during ski vacations. Grabber Warmers offer a wide variety of winter sports products meant to keep people warm and comfortable under extreme cold temperature. Feet warmers operate in a similar manner as hand warmers. The feet warmers are uniquely designed air-activated insoles that are placed underneath your feet specifically between the socks and the insoles of your ski boots. The feet warmers come in a variety of sizes and are not expensive. If you don’t buy them in advance, they are usually abundant at the ski base area shops. Find here.
Install Ski Boot Heaters
If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of your own boots, then installing ski boot heaters are an option. We would not recommend them for everyone, but if your normal day of skiing tends to be in ultra-cold conditions, this is probably the best move you can make in the attempt to keep your feet warm. Ski boot heaters work in a similar manner that miniature blankets would. The heaters are placed at the bottom of your insoles with a cord running from the back of the ski boot and attached to a rechargeable battery. A popular brand of ski boot heaters is one made by Hotronics and is sold in packages that come with NiMH batteries, a battery recharger with an American and European plug adapters, a free pair of ski boots insoles and a three year warranty. The ski boot heaters from Hotronics have a three year warranty and costs less than $200.
There are various cost-effective solutions to keeping your feet warm. Top on the list of the budget-friendly ways of keeping your feet warm is by wearing BootGloves. BootGloves are neoprene covers that are slipped over the outside of ski boots. If the statement from the manufacturer of BootGloves is anything to go by, this product can add up to 53 degrees of warmth to your feet. For BootGloves to stay in place during motion, they are fastened to the ski boots using Velcro enclosures. Despite their growing popularity, BootGloves are not easy to purchase on retail. It is highly recommended that you purchase the BootGloves online on selected platforms and on the manufacturer’s website. This product only retails for only $29.95 making it very affordable for average skiers. After skiing, ensure that you do not leave your ski boots outside but rather, keep them indoors so that they can acquire some extra warmth before you go skiing the next day. If possible, keep the ski boots next to some kind of heater for extra warmth overnight. The liners of your ski boots also need to be dry. You can remove the liners and hang them someplace overnight to dry or simply stuff newspapers into them so that the dry newspapers can absorb excess moisture.
Use Thermostat Heat Reflectors
Thermostats are a great option for skiers who are on a budget. Thermostats are essentially heat reflectors that are placed inside the ski boots to reflect the warmth from your feet upwards. This means that instead of warmth being absorbed from your feet into the ground, the warmth is reflected back into the boots and up your feet. This method has the ability of keeping your feet between 10-20 degrees warmer. A great feature about the ThermoFeet heat reflectors is that they have almost the same thickness as a dollar bill which implies that they do not compromise the fit of your ski boots. The heat reflectors retail at just $19.95 a pair and their affordability is what makes them a popular ski product.
Keep the Rest of Your Body Warm
Feet have a tendency to do their own thing, but if you work to keep your body core warm, you will get a little more mileage from your extremities — your hands, face, and feet. This means layering up in a way that makes sense in the conditions, starting with an effective base layer that will keep you dry. Don’t forget about a good pair of gloves and something like a gaiter to keep your neck warm. A warm core and body will translate to your feet staying comfortable just a little longer, but it won’t entirely solve the problem.
The question about what to wear under snowpants can make a big difference on how your feet feel. If your legs get cold, there is a better chance that your feet are going to share in the shivering. If you have a good, continuous system of keeping your quads, shins, calves, ankles, and feet all warm, you are going to last longer on a cold ski day than if you are letting some areas get too cold.
Regardless of whichever method you use to keep your feet warm during a ski vacation, ensure that you apply winter sports best practices. For example, make sure that you never leave your ski boots in your trunk overnight. You can imagine the amount of time it takes for your feet to warm after sliding into a pair of frosty boots. Since there are so many gadgets and ways to keep not just your feet but your entire body when skiing, make sure that you utilize the methods suggested by experts and ski professionals. If you are the person who perspires a lot when skiing, consider acquiring a portable ski boot dryer. Boots that are not able to completely dry overnight will easily grab cold air in the morning and skiing with cold feet will not be so much fun as you would have expected. During your next ski vacation, keep your feet dry by purchasing the available products on retail or from ski resorts for the best skiing experience.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.