Filed under: Foot Care Products, Footwear Products, Health, Sports, Travel
Many athletes suffer from cold feet.
Athletes have several options to deal with cold feet. The first, most commonly tried, is different socks. Some simply try thicker socks or two pair. Others go straight to thermal type socks made with wool or some other blend of yarns.
Footwear is often a contributing factor to cold feet. Today’s running shoes typically have a part-mesh upper, which lets cold air inside the shoes. And since the mesh is over the forefoot and toes, they get cold first. Secondly, footwear that is too tight, because the wearer has thicker than normal or two pairs of socks, causes constriction and impedes circulation.
Something else often tried is disposable chemical warming packets. These seem inexpensive at first, but because they are single time use, the costs add up quickly. Packs of 10, using two at a time, go fast. And they often don’t generate enough heat to provide overall warmth.
Another option for cold feet is one of the new lines of heated insoles. One major heated insole companies is Thermacell. While not cheap, if you suffer from cold feet long enough, you’ll likely be willing to spend the money for warm feet. Their insoles are water resistant, and durable. Once they reach the desired temperature, they turn off and then turn back on when needed. The insole’s top is molded and cushioning while underneath the inner components, is an insulated layer to keep heat from escaping. The insoles can be trimmed to fit shoes or boots.
Thermacell has two types of insoles:
Heater Insole Foot Warmers with embedded batteries that can be recharged 500+ times. Operated by a wireless remote control, they operate with lithium-ion polymer batteries embedded in the insoles. The three options are no heat, medium (100 degrees F), and high (111 degrees F). Each charge will last up to five hours with a medium heat setting. The batteries can be recharged at least 500 times and recharges in four hours or less. Their website currently offers a free car charger with every pair purchased while supplies last. These Heated Insoles retail are selling for $129.99 and come in full and half sizes. Click here for Thermacell Insole Foot Warmers.
ProFLEX Heated Insoles with removable batteries for extended use. They have the same features as the above insoles, same heating options, same wireless remote control, and the same rechargeable batteries. The first main difference is that the batteries are removable and replacement batteries are available. The second difference is that these are charged with a USB port or the customary wall charger. These insoles retail for $184.99. Click here for Thermacell ProFLEX Heated Insoles.
Thermacell’s insoles have been tested by SATRA, the worldwide leader in footwear research development and testing. SATRA found the insoles resistant to moisture, verified the five hour run time, and that the insoles maintain foot comfort with their heating.
If you feet are always cold, I’d look at these Thermacell insoles to help keep them warm. These could work in running shoes, cycling shoes, and hiking boots, as well as your normal everyday shoes. Make sure to check the insole thickness inside your shoes to see if you need to wear a less bulky sock.
Athletes who are out in cold and wet conditions need to be watchful for frostbite.
Frostbite occurs when tissue actually freezes. Toes are particularly susceptible to this serious condition. Factors that contribute to frostbite include exposure to wind, wet skin (even from sweat), and tight socks and shoes that constrict blood flow.
Early signs of frostbite include numbness, a waxy or pale discoloration of the skin, the tissue becoming firm to the touch, and pain in the area. As the frostbite progresses, the skin gets paler and the pain ceases. Often frostbite will thaw on its own as the person keeps moving or gets into a warm environment and out of the wind, wet, and cold. As the tissue warms, there can be redness, itching, and swelling.
In severe cases of frostbite, the skin becomes immobile as it freezes with underlying tissue. Blisters can form with clear or milky fluid. Blisters filled with blood indicate deeper damage. While the skin may change color, or even darken, do not assume you will lose the toes. It may take weeks or months to know if amputation is necessary. Check with your physician as soon as possible to determine what care is necessary.
Be aware of moisture inside your shoes and socks in extreme cold conditions. Sweat and outside moisture can change to ice inside your socks, leading to frostbite.
Tips for Managing Frostbite
- Do not rub your toes to warm them—that causes even more tissue damage.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area.
- Unless absolutely necessary, don’t walk on frostbitten feet or toes.
- Get into a warm environment as soon as possible.
- Immerse the affected area in lukewarm—not hot—water, or warm the affected area with the body heat from another person.
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming.
- Do not rewarm or thaw frostbite unless you are sure you can keep the area warm. It is important to remember that thawing the tissue and then allowing it to refreeze can be devastating. Get professional medical help if possible.
- Dehydration will make you more susceptible to frostbite.
This past weekend I had the
opportunity to help at the Gold Rush Adventure Race in Northern California. While
the weather was great to start, over the day and evening, and into the night,
rain and cold came in. Everyone was wet and certainly the racers were cold in
addition to being fully soaked.
is easy to think when we are cold to simply add layers, or thicker materials.
In many cases, this works. But we have to be careful when this thought is
applied to our feet.
need to understand that when we have our feet in socks and then inside shoes,
there has to be some space. Call it air space, extra space, wiggle room,
whatever you want – it’s necessary for good circulation.
another layer of sock, or going to a thicker sock, may make the fit of the foot
in the shoe too tight. Socks that are too tight in your shoes can cause vascular
constriction. The circulation of your blood is compromised. This can lead to
even colder feet, and in extreme conditions or for extended periods of time,
can cause cellular damage.
yourself a favor. As winter's cold draws closer, be careful not to compromise
the circulation of your feet with the wrong socks. Your feet will thank you.
As your skin becomes wet it softens and is more susceptible to blisters. If a blister forms, it is more likely to rupture. The skin then separates further. Maceration happens when skin becomes soft and wet for long periods of time. This is what has happened when you take off your socks and find your feet look like prunes. The skin is tender, and can fold over on itself, separating, and creating problems. As layers of skin separate, blisters spread and the skin can split open and bleed, and the skin becomes whitish in color It is very hard to patch feet when this happened. Feet become so tender that every step is painful.
Consider the following pointers when planning any event where moisture and cold can be an issue.
• Wear socks that are have moisture-wicking capabilities. Socks made of 100% cotton should be avoided. Choose synthetic fabrics like Coolmax or Olefin or a blend of materials. Smartwool socks, make from wool, are good in wet conditions. Whatever socks you wear, change them frequently and dry the old socks.
• Foot powders that absorb moisture can help keep your feet dry. Put small containers of powder into your drop bags and in your pack. Reapply powder when you change your socks. Zeasorb or Odor-Eaters both make a good moisture-absorbing powder that does not cake up into clumps. Wipe off the old powder and grit before applying new.
• Wearing shoes that do not have adequate draining capabilities will subject your feet to extended periods of moisture. Use a heated nail to make a few small holes where your upper attaches to the lower part of your shoe or boot. Make one on each side of the heel and one on each side of the forefoot.
• Consider wearing waterproof socks. SealSkinz Waterproof MVT socks from Dupont are made without irritating seams and have a vapor-permeable membrane sandwiched between an outer layer of nylon and an inner layer of Coolmax. Their weak point is their Lycra cuff that can let in water. Another option is the Seirus Neo-Sock or Stormsock made from four-way stretch neoprene with breathable macro-porous technology to prevent moisture buildup while sealing in body heat.
• When resting or sleeping, take off your wet shoes and socks to allow your feet to breathe.
Many times in the winter we go outside for a walk or run and end up with cold feet. Is it our shoes, socks, or something else? Let’s look at several causes and solutions.
Our shoes can easily be the culprit, or at least a contributing factor. If the shoes are made with mesh in the uppers, the top of the shoe surrounding the foot, cold air can easily go right through to your feet. Consider wearing other shoes in the winter or even choosing a pair with a Gore-Tex liner.
Socks are a huge factor in keeping your feet warm. Simply changing to a thicker sock will not necessarily make your feet warmer. The types of yarns are important. Wool is a good insulator. Many socks are made with a combination of components: wool, Lycra, spandex, Coolmax, to name a few. Be sure you don’t increase the thickness of your socks too much and make your feet too tight in your shoes, which inhibits circulation. This in turn makes your feet colder.
Remember what you may have learned as a child. When your head is cold, the rest of you will also be cold. So… warm your head with a hat or cap, knit cap, or some form of headgear. Keeping your head warm will help warm your feet.