With the changing of the seasons from fall to winter our habits tend to change along with the falling of leaves. Some of us choose to stay in and cozy up by the fire, while others opt for the more adventurous route of hitting the mountains. Snow-shoeing, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, broom hockey, ice-skating……
The list goes on and on and on, and with each activity, your toes are always a number one concern.
There’s nothing worse than cold feet except for cold toes, they’re the worst. Cold toes will make the best day in the snow a nightmare with the quickness. Keeping your toes warm during the winter means having the best pair of winter socks that you can find.
What Makes a Great Winter Sock?
A great winter sock first and foremost should not be itchy! Socks that itch, or that you need a second pair underneath to tolerate are not what you want. Look for material that has thermal properties that keep your feet and toes warm in the coolest conditions without making you want to scratch your feet off.
The material needs to be high quality and proven to retain heat while not making your feet sweat all day.
Wet socks, even from sweat will lead to cold feet and toes, and that sucks. High quality wool or a blend of synthetic materials are popular options today because of their abilities to fight the good fight against cold feet.
First and foremost, the single most important aspect of any decent winter sock is going to be the stuff the socks are made of. A winter sock is only as strong, comfortable, and warm as the material used to make it.
Most of the time they are going to be a mixture of synthetic materials and Merino Wool. You’ll often find the synthetic blend to contain nylon and elastic for the stretchy qualities that make the sock fit comfortably. The wool and nylon material gives the socks their insulating properties.
Merino Wool comes from Merino Sheep and is considered to be the finest and softest wool around. Merino Wool has built up a cult-like following and people swear by it. For good reason too, it is basically the perfect cold weather material.
It has superior breath-ability and most importantly has sweat-wicking abilities. Meaning it pulls the moisture away from your skin and brings it to the surface. Another important aspect of Merino Wool is that it doesn’t itch like Ragg Wool.
Merino wool is also thermostatic, which is a fancy word meaning it’s good at regulating temperature. It’s good in the winter and theoretically can handle the summer, why you would wear wool in the summer is beyond me.
Merino Wool by itself is not a strong enough material to handle the friction that day to day intense use brings with it. So it is mixed with synthetic materials for durability and increased performance.
Synthetic materials are going to vary depending on the manufacturer, the most commonly used in winter socks are…
Synthetic materials such as Nylon and Polyester are blended with Elastane and Spandex to give you better padding and support, as well as, a snugger fitting sock.
Cotton is the enemy of winter, period. It absorbs an enormous amount of moisture, which is the exact opposite of what you want in cold weather. It also stays wet for a longer period of time, leading to frostbite and hypothermia.
Padding and Cushioning
It’s common for winter socks to have added padding on the feet, shins, ankles, and on the top of the sock. This adds to comfort and durability as winter socks are often used for high-impact activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding.
There are some socks that offer a tight weave where the arch of your foot rests for added arch support. This is good for people with high arches, but not always enough. If high arches are a constant issue, consider looking into insulated inserts designed specifically for high arches.
Height is something that is easy to overlook, however, the last thing you want is a sock that is so short it doesn’t go above your boot. Winter socks come in all sizes, from knee high to just above the ankle. It’s important to take this into consideration when purchasing a new pair of winter socks.
Comfort and Fit
This is another big one, the worst thing about warm socks of the past was how itchy and tight they would be. Sock sizes are not always 100% consistent like shoe sizes are, and they are made to cover more than one size.
When looking at winter socks it’s important to try them on with the actual boot that you are going to be wearing. This will ensure that they fit, fit comfortably, and are not too tight or loose.
7 Tips to Keep Your Feet Warm in Winter
Warm socks are a great start to keeping your feet warm, they’re the first line of defense from the cold weather. Before you just throw on any old pair of thick wool socks, there are a few things to keep in mind.
These tips and tricks along with a good pair of cold weather socks will keep your feet nice and toasty.
1. Use sock liners
It’s always a good idea to wear a thin layer underneath your thicker and warmer socks. Especially if your feet always feel cold, adding an extra layer will give you more insulation.
What you want to avoid is a tight fitting boot. If you are using two layers and your feet barely squeeze in the boot, ditch one of the layers for one winter sock.
2. Avoid cotton altogether
Cotton and winter are not meant to be together. Cotton garments absorb 27 times their weight in water (source), which is why most bath towels are 100% cotton.
In the summer, cotton is good for recreational activities because of the absorption of water. In winter, however, it means they are going to take forever to dry and cool your body.
3. Use a winter foot bed
The best pair of boots can always use a little bit of help. They make insulated pads specifically for winter months that you can place inside your boot. Use them the same way you put in any other padded sole and they will add another layer of protection to your feet.
4. Only wear winter socks in winter
You probably read that and said, “yea, no shit.”
Winter socks are meant to keep your feet warm in cold weather, in other words, much colder than room temperature.
If you are heading to the mountains for a cold weather hike or camping trip, put your socks on when you arrive. Wearing them on the way to wherever you’re going, you’re feet will sweat. Wet socks equal cold feet.
5. Thicker isn’t always better
A big mistake people make is going for the biggest and thickest socks you can find. It seems like a good idea, because bigger is always better, right?
If the socks are too thick they can cut off the circulation to your feet and toes. This is both uncomfortable and a bad situation. Best practice is to try them on with the boots you plan on wearing them in.
6. Wool is awesome
Wool has a whole list of reasons why you should use it, especially in winter. Wool does a lot of things well, like…
- Excellent at moisture management
- Regulates temperature
- Odor control (stinky feet suck)
- Easy to maintain
- Stain resistant
Wool is the go-to fabric for winter clothes in general, and it is no different with socks, wool rocks.
7. Use toe warmers
You know those cool little packets that you open, shake up, and they stay warm for hours? They are a perfect cold weather solution to cold feet, just toss a couple in your boots and you’re ready to go.
The Best Winter Sock Reviews
Cold feet are the worst! Check out our picks for the 7 best winter socks that will keep your feet nice and toasty.
J.B Icelandic – 30 Below XLR
- Please note that ONLY the Large size are plain and DO NOT have any writing (ICELANDIC OR LINE ACROSS TOE) on them!
- THE -30 BELOW XLR SOCKS ARE IDENTICAL TO THESE BUT THEY HAVE A BETTER CUFF (WON'T SLOUCH) & ARE NOT SOLID COLOR (MIXED WITH BLACK)
- Pre-Shrunk Merino Wool - Merino Wool is the finest quality of easy care wool for exceptional warmth and softness. Wool features inherent qualities such as wrinkle resistance, colorfastness, shape recovery (resiliency), and is very breathable
- X-Hi Cushion - XHi full terry cushion for added comfort, extra warmth, and protection
Nobody does winter like Canada does winter and if warm socks had the ideal location to be made it would be Canada. The Icelandic winter socks are designed to withstand 30 below temperatures while remaining comfortable.
The socks are made with a blend of 70 percent pre-shrunk Merino Wool, and 30 percent Nylon fabric. They have cushioned heels and arches for added comfort.
The top of the socks maintain the loose fit and won’t be too tight on your legs. They are comfortable around the house in winter and outdoors in cold weather.
If you are planning on hitting the mountains for some snow sports, then check out the J.B. Field’s Ski. Otherwise, your feet will end up a sweaty mess.
Darn Tough Over the Calf
Darn Tough socks are made in Virginia and they offer a no questions asked lifetime guarantee. The over the calf sock is 100 percent Merino Wool which has both anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.
The socks are high fitting as the name suggests, they cover the calf and could almost be considered knee socks. They are a lightweight sock and are great for outdoor sports like skiing and snowboarding.
The fine gauge knitting of these socks makes them breathable, comfortable, and quick drying. The material design makes the socks able to balance comfort and warmth with a nice and stretchy fit.
The best part about Darn Tough socks is that they are guaranteed for life, so if something goes off the rails, just replace them with a new pair. With the high warmth-to-weight ration they make a perfect addition to any winter sports collection.
SmartWool PhD Ski Medium
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Anything SmartWool is generally a good winter sock and the PhD Ski Medium is a perfect example. This sock blends comfort, durability, and warmth in a way that makes you want 10 pairs.
It’s made of Merino Wool and Nylon, with Elastane to give it more of a stretchy fit. With such a cozy fit and well-placed padding, the Ski Medium is able to handle most conditions, from a wet spring day to a weekend in the mountains.
Merino Wool is known for bringing the moisture to the surface and aiding in evaporation before it turns to sweat.
The sock does have padding, so if you wear an extremely tight-fitting boot they have the potential to be uncomfortable.
Fox River Wilmot Lightweight
- These lightweight socks give you a cushioned fit in the heel and Shin, Plus the warmth of Merino wool
- Enjoy great fit and support from our urfit system
- Our WICK Dry Technology means your feet are Dry and comfortable
- Plus, Merino wool adds soft comfort and natural thermoregulation to these cold weather socks
When you’re looking for a good cold-weather sock comfort and durability are two important factors to consider. The Fox River Wilmot Lightweight is both comfortable and durable, it makes a good fit on a snow-shoeing trip to a snowy day at home.
With the cushioned heel and shin, they have a supportive and snug feel. Even though this sock has a smaller amount of Merino Wool than other winter socks, they keep your feet nice and toasty as long as you don’t get them wet.
With more synthetic materials they are known to retain a funky smell quicker, just means you have to wash them. Which you should be doing with all your socks at the end of the day anyway.
Wigwam Snow Scirocco
The Wigwam Snow Scirocco is made with a balance of wool and synthetic materials which gives it durability and warmth. Because it doesn’t have a high wool content the sweat-wicking action is somewhat lacking when compared to high merino wool socks.
It has padding on the shin and foot, which give the sock a comfortable reinforced feel. There have been issues with the sock bunching up and causing blisters after intense use.
These socks can take a beating, after a couple months of use and abuse they stay standing. The socks are great as long as they stay dry throughout the day.
Carhartt Extreme Cold Weather Socks
- Acrylic/Wool/Polyester/Nylon/Spandex Blend
- FastDry® technology wicks away sweat and fights odors
- Fully cushioned for warmth and protection against the elements
- Reinforcement throughout the sole extends the life of the sock and adds protection in the highest abrasion areas
The name Carharrt is synonymous with hard work, they bill themselves as the worker’s brand and have a loyal following. The socks are billed as a cold weather working sock, however, it holds up well on any winter excursion.
The Extreme Cold Weather socks are made of high quality synthetic materials. Even though the Wool content is low, they have Fast Dry technology which will wick away sweat similar to wool.
They are cushioned on the foot and on the top of the sock, and one of the unique features is the shin vent. It helps stop the sock from bunching up and getting stinky too fast.
These socks are going to work great for a cold day of work outside in the middle of winter, to a fun day with the family on the slopes.
SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks
The SmartWool Trekking socks are made up of a majority of Merino Wool and are a thicker sock. The bulkiness is a feature that won’t work for everybody, but being as they’re billed as trekking socks, the thicker the better.
In dry conditions, these socks tend to lean towards the warm side and since they are 70% Merino Wool they will stay relatively dry.
They have full cushioning all around the foot area for added comfort and warmth. The added arch brace will hold the sock in place while adding additional support.
The Smartwool Trekking sock is a versatile sock that can be used for everything from a winter hike to a day outside the winter lodge tearing up the slopes.