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How to Keep Feet Warm in Winter - Tips From an Arctic Sled Dog Musher

Working as a sled dog musher above the Arctic Circle has taught me many things and one of them is how to keep my feet warm when having to work outdoors the entire day, in up to -40°C. If you are a skier, hiker, mountaineer, or simply a person who adores winter walks and adventures, then here are my tips that will help you keep your feet warm in winter, and enjoy the colder weather a bit longer.


Sled dog musher standing with her dogs in snow landscape.
It takes some knowledge to keep your toes toasty in these extreme winter conditions! Photo by Piotr Bilder

BOOTS

The first step for keeping your feet warm is finding good-quality winter boots.

  • When choosing the perfect pair, buy ones that are two or even three (yes!) sizes up from your regular shoe size. This way, there will be enough space for extra pair of socks and the air to get trapped, circle around your feet, and keep them warm.

  • Some winter boots come with additional inner boots, and that is great – the more layers, the better and warmer.


INNER SOLES

Replace the inner soles in your boots. Inner soles are an additional layer in your boots that will keep the cold from the ground away from your feet. Insoles manufactured from natural fibers (such as natural lamb wool) are the top choice. Whether you will choose 100% pure wool felted shoe insoles, or softer ones, make sure that they’re comfortable and have the capacity to add extra warmth in your boots.


SOCKS

Now, since you have larger boots, you can combine different socks. Socks I use to combine with each other:

  • thick (hand) knitted wool socks

  • thick Merino wools socks (with a soft terry wool inner layer)

  • lighter Merino wool socks.

The combination of socks depends on the temperature and your level of activity, of course. For just standing or sitting you need more layers, but when you are hiking or doing camp chores you need less.


In my case, when I'm doing short bursts of activity followed by longer time standing on a sled, then if the temperature is -5°C then I put on the lighter Merino wool socks; if it’s -10°C outside, I combine the lighter Merino wool socks with the thick Merino wool socks; and finally, when the temperature is -15°C I wear both the thicker Merino wool socks and the thick (hand) knitted wool socks.


Don’t forget to wiggle your toes once you put the boots on, so that you make sure there is enough space for the air to circulate and keep your feet warm.


REMEBER THIS:

  • Avoid useless polyester nonsense; wool is the only way to go!

  • If you sweat, change the socks frequently. Keep your feet dry in order to keep them warm;

  • Don’t jam your shoes full; make sure your toes have room to wiggle.

  • If you get cold feet, start exercising so that warm blood gets to your toes – walk in deep snow, do 10 jumping jacks or deep lunges, this will make your body to push the warm blood into your toes!

  • Eat high-quality fat before heading out (such as butter, bacon, and peanut butter). This will help your body produce more heat.


Now get out there and enjoy that magnificent winter!