How to Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather

There is nothing worse than cold feet for adults OR kids to make a winter outdoor adventure go really bad, really fast. While we truly believe investing in great gear for your feet is worth it, there are also some easy tips keep feet warm in cold weather.

Curious how cold is TOO cold? We’ve helped answer that in this post. Want more tips on helping dress your kids from head to toe for cold weather? Check this post out.

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It’s all about the Base (layers, that is) to Keep Feet Warm

The socks you wear in your boots really does make ALL the difference. You can be wearing the best boots there are, but the warmth factor is compromised without well-fitting wool or wool-blend socks. Thicker does NOT mean warmer necessarily.

Merino wool in particular wicks sweat away and is temperature regulating.

Just a gentle reminder if you heaven’t heard it in a while – cotton is a big no-no, especially for avoiding cold feet. If you sweat or your feet get wet at all, cotton can literally be deadly as it holds that moisture in. At the very least you’ll end up with really cold feet.

Properly Fitting Socks Matter for Keeping Feet Warm

Wool socks are great, but not all socks are made the same, just like not all feet are the same. Look for socks that fit snuggly, contour to your foot and are padded, but not too bulky.

Bulky, ill-fitting socks tend to bunch and actually inhibit circulation to feet, which is key. A liner + wool sock is great, but doubling up on thick socks or layering cotton + wool actually can make your feet colder.

How to Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather

Choose the Right Boots

Choosing the right boots is obviously really important for making sure your feet are warm in cold weather. We’ve gathered our favorites for kids here.

The best boots for keeping warm are not too tight (which inhibits circulation and therefore warmth), have a good sole for keeping the cold out from the bottom up and keep feet dry.

Start with Warm Gear to Maintain Warm Feet

For this one, I literally mean gear that is actually warmed up to a good temperature. If your feet don’t have to work hard to warm up the gear you put on them, you are already winning.

On really cold days, we throw our boots on a boot warmer before we put them on. And we avoid letting gear sit in a cold car before we go out if we can at all avoid it.

Encourage Circulation

This one is a bit of a given, but keeping kids moving to avoid getting cold is WAY easier than getting them moving when they are already cold and hurting.

For our family, we find this particularly tough for our toddlers. Make time outside as fun as you can, avoid heavy boots that make walking hard for them and have a back up plan for getting them inside and/or warmed up.

Special Note: Kids who are dangling in packs are especially susceptible to poor circulation and therefore cold feet. This is just one of the reasons why we especially love Deuter packs, which, in our opinion, do a great job giving a good seat for kids. Take time for breaks where they can walk around, use stirrups so their feet aren’t dangling, and be smart about layers.

Keeping Sedentary Baby and Toddlers’ Feet Warm

As outdoor families, we are often toting small kids with us in trailers or on our backs in the winter. And, as parents, we worry especially about keeping them warm when they can’t necessarily communicate to us what is wrong if they were to get cold.

For babies, it is easier to layer under buntings with wool socks and fleece. As they get older (but before walking) we like to do wool socks plus soft booties. On super cold days, we buy ourselves a little more guarantee with a foot warmer tucked between the layers (but never directly on skin).

Since it is hard to simply add layers under a toddler’s boot (example: a 2 year old sitting in a backpack while you’re skiing), we pay particular attention to this age. If you know they won’t be walking much, using slightly larger boots and tucking in those foot warmers on longer days makes a world of difference.

Keep Feet Dry

Keeping feet dry is key. As mentioned before, use wool or wool blend socks. Also know the conditions you will be out in and plan accordingly.

It’s always a good idea to have boots you are certain will keep your feet dry. Here are ones we recommend for kids. For adults, we have been very impressed with this year’s Bogs and Mucks.

Bring a Back Up Pair of Socks

Many adventures could have been saved simply by having a pair of back up dry socks when we needed them. Keep a stash in your car for desperate measures, or, on super long days, bring them along.

If anything, having dry socks to drive home in help warm up your body much faster.

Bring Down Blankets or Sleeping Bags

A down blanket or a sleeping bag tucked around feet helps a ton to keep feet warm in cold weather. We haul ours with us for kids layered in sleds or strollers or for lunch breaks on the ski trail.

Team member, Kristin, keeps her kids’ feet warm on the coldest Alaskan days with old sleeping bags.

How to Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather

Drink Hot Drinks to Warm All the Way Down to your Toes

Don’t underestimate the power of a hot drink. Hot chocolate/cider is reserved for the coldest adventures for our family and is a special treat. We like to pre-make ours and bring along in a thermos with cups (and lids) for everyone.

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  • Kristin grew up in Western Massachusetts but moved north to Alaska in 2008 in search of more snow and bigger mountains. She homeschools her three children and tries to spend as much time as possible learning outside. Kristin loves hiking, camping, puddle stomping, laughing, igloo building, reading, science, baking, photography, and watching the sun go down from on top of a mountain; and is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for the natural world and her knowledge of the gear that can get you out there in every kind of weather. She works part-time from home as an Environmental Scientist and technical editor.

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4 thoughts on “How to Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather”

  1. By “foot warmers” in baby boots, do you mean like the Hot Hands toe warmers? Or something else? My baby is 10 months and I am just struggling to keep these toes warm in Maine winter. :/


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