Winter Hiking: What to wear to prep your feet for exploring in cold weather

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The temperatures are dropping, but that doesn’t mean that your activity level has to. The winter months can be a winter wonderland; beautiful, calm, and peaceful. Or they can be one of adventure. With the proper equipment and preparation, you can still enjoy the great outdoors in comfort and warmth.

Wear The Right Boots

While it’s important to make sure you’re keeping your toes toasty, all that additional insulation and the heavy socks can wreak havoc on your posture. Snow can make everything more pleasant to look at, but it will also hide obstacles such as loose rocks, tree roots, or small depressions. If you’re in the market for a new pair of boots, consider picking up a pair built with orthotics in mind.

If you already own a pair of boots that you simply love, you can purchase orthotic inserts to give you the extra arch support you’ll need to make your walk enjoyable. Be sure that you try the boots on with the inserts in place before setting out to make sure that the fit isn’t too tight. 

Snowman

“Snowman”, Morguefile.com

As you prepare to head out, assess the terrain. If you are going out into slush (that is, the temperature is only just above freezing), you will want waterproof boots, as well as socks that will wick moisture away from your feet. A damp foot is a cold foot! 

If the temperature is well below freezing, and the ground is covered in a hard, firm coat of snow, then waterproof boots may not be necessary. Instead, try and find something that is insulated, with a higher heel to keep the snow drifts out. If you are going to be out for a prolonged period of time, consider packing a few extra pairs of socks to change into if the ones you’re wearing get wet.

The dampness is due to the perspiration that accumulates throughout your hike. It is recommended to find a breathable pair of boots that go over the ankle, and to purchase these boots a size larger to accommodate an extra pair of socks.  

You will want to wear a thin wicking sock made of polypropylene or wool beneath a thicker wool sock. Once again, do not tie laces too tightly. If you find that your toes still cannot warm up, there are chemical warmers that can be placed under a sock for a couple of hours. These warmers activate immediately upon contact.

Don’t Get Cold Feet!

The most essential component of proper winter preparation is footwear. In the cold weather, our bodies are designed to preserve the temperature of our vital organs, like the heart and lungs. This means that when the temperature drops, your body will limit the amount of blood flow to your extremities, such as your arms and feet. 

Kreischberg panorama - 3

“Kreischberg panorama”, Morguefile.com

This means that, even indoors, your feet can be 10-20 degrees colder than the rest of your body. Tight shoes and laces can also further constrict the limited blood flow, dropping their temperature further.   

Since your feet will often be separated from the snow and ice by the thin insulation of your shoes, keeping them warm is an important part of making sure that your winter adventures are enjoyable instead of the reason you get a cold. You can always check out reviews of best outdoor shoes for every condition. 

Keep Your Core Temperature Up!

Before you start searching for the perfect winter footwear, keep in mind that staying warm from head to toe will keep the blood flowing to those fingers and toes. The warmer your chest and head are, the less likely your body is to restrict blood flow to your limbs. Maintain a good amount of insulation to prevent the loss of body heat by bundling up with a good quality winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves

A good idea is to layer your clothing. Start with a good set of thermals and then add your favorite shirt and sweater before donning your jacket.  Layers help to regulate your temperature by reducing the body heat you’ll lose heading up air pockets between your shirt and jacket.

snow

“Snow”, Morguefile.com

Also, be sure to stay well hydrated – not only will this help keep you alert and active, but also helps your body regulate temperature better. This doesn’t mean you have to carry around a tall thermos of hot chocolate—water will do just fine, but why not make the journey as memorable as possible?

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Once you’re bundled up, it’s time to set out and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re going on a trek nearby or headed to a park for some winter hiking, you’ll find that even familiar sights look totally different in the snow.

Just like fall made your favorite trail into a riot of color, winter will transform it into something you’ll swear you saw on a postcard.  Don’t let the snow keep you locked up inside. With a little planning, you might find yourself enjoying your winter hike just as much as the one you look last season.

How about you – what are your top “secrets” for proper equipment for winter hiking?

horses

“Horses”, Morguefile.com

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