I’m not talking about being too afraid to do something, as in “I was going to huck the cornice but I got cold feet.” I’m being a bit more literal here. As in “My feet feel like they’re encased in ice; I have to go inside right now to warm up.”
A real wet blanket on a great ski day. And no, not an actual wet blanket.
Cold toes can be a bummer, but there are things you can do to keep them warm. (I’ll fill you in on my super-effective-OMG, it’s minus 20 and my feet are still warm-combo later.)
So let’s start from the top.
Make sure your boots fit: Believe it or not, cold feet can be caused by ill-fitting boots. Something could be cutting off your circulation, and determining if that’s the cause is a worthwhile endeavor. A good boot fitter can help.
Wear proper socks: I know it seems counter-intutive, but thicker socks will not make you warmer. All they’ll do is 1) make your feet sweat, which will make your feet colder, or 2) bunch up in your boots and either give you blisters or interfere with your boot fit, thereby cutting off your circulation and making your feet colder (see above). You really want a thin ski sock. Trust me on this. And be sure to avoid cotton. Cotton stays damp. You want socks made out of merino wool.
Keep your boots dry and warm: This is pretty obvious, but if you store your boots in the car overnight, they’re going to be plenty cold when you put them on in the morning. So keep them inside. Also, dry your boots out from one use to the next. Sweat can make the liners damp, and once again, a damp boot is a cold boot. Use either a boot drier or remove the liners to dry. But let’s say you do leave your boots in the car overnight (hey, everyone makes mistakes). Here’s a tip: stick a couple hand warmers in each toe for a quick warm up. And an extra boost, put them next to a heater for a few minutes.
Keep your feet dry, too: Dry feet are warmer feet. I spray mine with anti-perspirant before I head out to ski. Not only are they drier, but they don’t stink, either. I also wear different socks over to the mountain, and put on my ski socks right before I put on my boots. Some folks even change their socks at lunch, to keep their feet extra dry.
Heat your feet: Heaters can do a lot to keep your toes toasty. You use use either disposable heaters that stick to your socks or the interior of your boot (some people swear these work better when they’re stuck to the underside of a boot glove; I’ll talk about these next). Or you can use a battery-operated heater, like Hotronics. The former are very cheap, the latter, not very. The way you go is up to you. I prefer the latter.
Wear Boot Gloves: If you thought gloves were just for your hands, think again. Boot Gloves are neoprene covers that fit over the outside of your boots. Added bonus: they keep your boots drier and prevent snow from invading any cracks, too.
Replace the liners: Some boot liners just aren’t that warm. You can replace yours with a custom moldable liner, such as those made by Intuition. Not only do they keep your feet warmer, but they feel great, too.
Keep your core warm: The warmer your core, the less blood flow you’ll need to keep it warm. Which means more blood flow to your extremities — your hands and feet. So wear those extra layers and that warm jacket. It’ll help your feet.
Any one of these things may work for you. Or more than one. Which leads me to my extra-special-heavy-duty-works-like-a-charm method for warm feet. I’ve had success with this even in temperatures down to -20°F: I dry my boots each night, keep my boots indoors, and even spray my feet with anti-perspirant. On top of that, I use the triple threat: battery-operated heaters, Intuition Liners, and Boot Gloves. Okay, maybe it seems like overkill. But if my feet don’t get cold in those conditions, they ain’t never going to be cold.
Remember, dry feet are happy feet. And happy feet love to ski.