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Keeping toes warm when winter hiking

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  • Keeping toes warm when winter hiking

    Hi everyone. I'm looking for some opinions and advice on winter hiking and gear, specifically on keeping your toes warm. I developed a circulation problem with my toes a couple of years ago which is primarily activated by cold, and I haven't done any winter hiking since then; but I'd like to have a go at trying it again and see how my toes react. I already own and know how to use all the regular day-hiking winter gear - wool outer socks, poly inner sock liners, gaitors. I researched this topic online and I've seen some sites recommend using chemical toe warmers. One hesitation I have in using them is how the wear-and-tear of hiking, over the course of several miles, will impact them. I've also thought of adding a third sock layer specifically to cover my toes, but at that point all those layers might be too thick for my boots. Does anyone have any practical advice on this topic?

  • #2
    The chemical warmers work for me skiing or winter hiking when really cold. I put them on top of my socks (sticky tape) rather than under as the package suggests. When under socks, they bunch up under my toes.

    I have found that thin wool or poly liners under a mid-weight wool sock works best for me.

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    • #3
      I have used the chemical toe warmers (and had warmers) while hiking and they work pretty well. I've never had them break open or anything like that. The will feel kinda funny under your toes while hiking and can be uncomfortable sometimes. A good compromise is to stick them to your sock (or shoe) on top of your toes instead of underneath.

      I'd also recommend making sure your socks and shoes are roomy enough. I buy the next sock size up for my ski/snowboard/winter hiking socks than my warm weather hiking socks. This way my toes aren't restricted and there's some extra room for them to move around. I had snowboard boots for a few years that were too small (my feet fit, but there wasn't any extra room) and my toes were always freezing since there was no extra air space to hold the warmth.
      CL50 #506
      ADK 11/46

      I Should Go Hiking...

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      • #4
        Ok, my wife used to use plastic bags from bread as a kid. I thought this odd until I learned the fancy scientific name "vapor barrier". More info here.

        Also, regarding hand warmers. Oddly enough if you put them in your armpits or inner thighs they are supposed to warm the blood up a bit and your heart will get this warm blood pushed out to extremities - although sounds like that may be an issue. I was never sure trying this if it was working or if it was a placebo effect. But it got me around the concern of grinding the hand-warmer up in my boots.

        lastly, people swear by Wiggy's sleeping bags. Seems to be a guru for insulation. He has stuff for feet too. Santa is supposed to bring me Lamilite socks.
        Last edited by tenderfoot; 12-21-2017, 11:42 AM. Reason: added Wiggy
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees

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        • #5
          Keep moving (hiking) with decent boots, and your feet will always be warm.

          Regarding hand warmers. In my (much) younger days when deer hunting with my dad, he would put me on watch to sit perfectly still for hours at favored locations. My feet always got cold, until he gave me a Jon-e handwarmer. It uses lighter fluid and a catalytic burner. I found that if I put it in a shirt breast pocket over my heart, it kept my whole body toasty warm, including my hands and feet. Works great in a sleeping bag for winter camping too.
          Last edited by Wldrns; 12-21-2017, 12:17 PM.
          "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

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          • #6
            Has anyone ever tried taking some mild aspirin to see if that helps with circulation?

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            • #7
              proper sock/boot fit is important,
              if your adding thicker socks to your 3 season boots then will be too tight
              dedicated cold weather boots should be sized while wearing thick wool socks,
              also learn proper lacing technique so your not over tightening certain parts of the foot
              think someone here posted a good pic of lacing
              http://protips.dickssportinggoods.co...QUES_DICKS.jpg

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              • #8
                I was just researching this very topic for my wife. I've seen a lot of these get decent reviews, but I've no first-hand knowledge of how well they work.

                Hot Sockee!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by montcalm View Post
                  Has anyone ever tried taking some mild aspirin to see if that helps with circulation?
                  I take 81m every morning to stave off migraines, and I've not noticed a difference in my feet warmth. Maybe a higher dosage would make a difference?

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                  • #10
                    A pair of galoshes (tall or short) over boots makes a huge difference in foot warmth but really adds weight for much hiking. Neil has posted wearing tingley?? boots mainly for keeping footwear dry, I think, but I imagine there would also be a significant warmth factor.

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                    • #11
                      Thank you everyone for the replies! I never thought of aspirin -- that might be worth checking out as well. Thanks!

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                      • #12
                        I, for one, will always avoid any and all drugs that are not absolutely medically necessary and recommended or prescribed by my physician.
                        "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wldrns View Post
                          I, for one, will always avoid any and all drugs that are not absolutely medically necessary and recommended or prescribed by my physician.

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                          • #14
                            Has anyone tried VBL socks or bread bags as suggested? My feet run warm (not hot by anymeans) but even then they tend to sweat and even with wool socks and a warm boot my toes are cold. I have heard they work really well, but have not put them to the test. Wondering if anyone here has.

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                            • #15
                              If your boots are large enough, you can find a full size innersole liner meant to accept toe warmers in a small compartment under the ball of your foot. Mine have foam pads in the compartment to remove when the warmers are inserted. You need either the foam or warmers packets in there to be comfortable. You may be able to remove the innersole that comes with the boot to make room.

                              I buy the hand & toe warmers in bulk on line and the cost is well below retail. Check expiration dates as they do have limited shelf life.

                              As others have said, good circulation is key so make sure to have adequate room for toes to flex.

                              Have used hand warmers several days recently but not toe as outings no more than 2 hours and active skiing.

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