Hiking is one of the most physically demanding activities and sports in the world, and it puts a lot of stress on your body, particularly your feet.
This is made even worse in cold weather when your feet are not only being beaten into the hard frozen ground repeatedly or getting soaked in puddles but having to face the sheer cold that all our extremities face when heading out into the tough terrain hikes tend to navigate.
Keeping your feet warm in these kinds of situations and conditions can be incredibly difficult. After all, our feet are one of the most remote parts of our body, further away from our heart and core where we are warmest, making it difficult to stay warm even during slightly chilly weather.
If you don’t prepare correctly, you can find yourself in a world of pain and discomfort, and many people often underestimate just how crucial it is to look after your feet while hiking even modest distances and terrain.
In this guide, we’re going to look at the best ways to keep your feet warm, regardless of your budget, conditions, or the distance you’re hiking, to ensure you can make the trip as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to preserve your feet and keep them as comfortable as possible, so let’s take a look at some of them!
Use The Right Footwear
Using the right footwear is absolutely essential for hiking. However, this doesn’t just mean you should wear hiking boots! There is a range of great choices, from quality hiking boots to hiking shoes and even trail shoes, and picking the right pair is essential for keeping your feet warm and comfortable.
Hiking boots are ideal for most walking, especially over rough terrain, but they may actually make your feet too hot and sweaty or cut off circulation if used incorrectly, which can actually make your feet cold in temperate climates.
Using the right footwear, and using it right too is very important to keep your feet warm.
Sizing up may sound like a sure way to ruin your feet, but hear us out. Sizing up actually allows you to wear more comfortable, thicker hiking socks and even layer socks up or use toe heaters. You need additional space to use these strategies, so sizing up your boots to allow for their use is key to keeping your feet as warm as possible.
As mentioned above, using layers is a great way to keep warm, and this can work for your feet as well as for your core.
Using a pair of thin sweat-wicking socks which offer comfort, and a thicker pair of insulated socks over them is a great way to trap air and keep your feet warm while also allowing moisture to be removed from your feet, which actually assists in keeping them warm also!
Warm-Up Before You Start
Keeping your feet warm is very difficult if they start out cold.
Making sure you’re warm before you start any trip will give your body a head start and allow it to hold onto the heat it already has without needing to try and generate warmth in more difficult conditions.
Get dressed somewhere warm and ensure your boots are on before you head out, as feet are the first place to lose heat, especially when they’re in contact with the cold floor!
Keep Your Core Warm
Another way to keep your feet warm that a lot of people forget is to keep your core warm, as this is where your overall body temperature draws most of its warmth. If your core is allowed to chill it will be even harder to keep your extremities and feet warm, so ensure your body is well insulated with proper layers and clothing to ensure that you have the heat to deliver to your feet, keeping them warm too.
If you’re struggling to keep your feet warm, move around, or move around more! Alternate your movements too and work in some movements specific to your feet, wiggling toes and moving the ankles to draw blood and heat down into your feet.
Moving around has the benefit of raising your core body temperature, which has all the benefits mentioned above, while also drawing blood to your extremities and increasing blood flow which will also help warm up your feet.
Ensure A Proper Fit
Fit is everything when it comes to hiking boots, however, one thing people often forget is that boots can be too tight, and this is a key cause of cold feet!
Boots that are too tight, or laced too tight will cut off circulation meaning that no matter how warm your core is or how much you move your toes, you won’t be able to keep your feet warm.
Ensure that you do your boots up so that they are secure, but not so tight that they cut off circulation, as this can make your feet cold and cause other more serious issues too!
Avoiding moisture is critical when trying to keep warm, and gaiters are one of the best ways to keep moisture out of your boots and away from your feet, particularly when hiking in cold or wet environments.
Gaiters will protect your boots and the vulnerable entrance to your boot from water and are easy to use so should be taken advantage of as much as possible to keep feet dry and warm.
Use Sweat Wicking Socks
As mentioned before, moisture can cause your feet to lose heat very quickly, and sweat can make this process even more difficult to manage. Sweat-wicking socks help remove sweat from your feet and will help keep them warm and dry. This is important in extremely cold temperatures in particular as sweat can freeze which can make your feet even colder.
Keep Your Feet Dry/Stay Out of the Water
Staying dry is key, as you may have noticed. Avoid puddles and moisture as much as possible! Use gaiters to minimize the dangers of moisture, and if you do need to wade through water, remove your socks beforehand so you can help keep your feet dry after wading! Consider using plastic wrap over your socks afterward too to help prevent your wet boots from soaking your socks!
Use Toe Warmers
Finally, in the most extreme conditions and climates, a good option for keeping your feet warm can be toe warmers, which are small heat pads designed especially for use in shoes and can help keep your feet warm in the most dangerous and challenging environments. Most of these are disposable, so make sure you pack plenty and have space in your boots to take advantage of them!