How to have happy winter feet

Winter is approaching (well, approaching last week, and receding today, but it will be back!), and it’s time to pull out the winter footwear. In the fall, it’s fun to pull on the boots, but when the white stuff comes, we realise that, just like we need winter tires, we also need winter footwear.

If you are shopping for boots, consider the following:

  • If you will be walking outside on snow, you need slip-resistant treads made of softer rubber (just like snow tires). If you walk mainly on icy terrain, consider an “overboot” device like “yaktrax“, which will give you much, much better traction. I’ve worn them for outdoor running for years and they are amazing.
  • Winter boots should be insulated. On a vacation in Costa Rica last year, I was shocked to see women wearing “fashion” boots when it was really hot and humid! Clearly, not all boots are made for Canadian winter. Manufacturers often suggest a “cold rating” but these ratings typically assume that you’ll be active while you’re outside. If you plan to sit or stand outside (for example, watching your son play his championship football game in 5″ of snow), you’ll need a warmer boot.
  • Always try before you buy. Sizing can be different across brands. (Online shoe shoppers are often disappointed!)
  • To ensure that your shoes fit properly, shop near the end of the day so your feet are at their largest. If you plan to wear heavy socks, wear them for shopping. Adding extra socks to boots that fit nicely without them can make your feet colder!
  • Use the “finger test”. With any pair of shoes, you should be able to fit your index finger between the heel of your foot and the heel of the shoe, as well as the top of your foot and the tongue of the shoe. This test ensures that you have proper “wiggle room” to comfortably move throughout your work day.
  • Wear new boots/shoes for shorter time periods (1-2 hours/day) to break them in.
  • Use a protective coating for water-resistance. Some boots are “waterproof”, but even with spray, most boots can’t keep slush out. If you know you’ll be sloshing through the slush, look for “waterproof” boots that don’t have laces or zippers that might allow water to seep in.
  • If you are wearing a waterproof boot, keep in mind that it will keep moisture (sweat) IN, and your foot will feel cold once it’s wet. Wear a wicking sock that will draw moisture away from you skin, and take extra dry socks to change into after any strenuous activity.
  • Replace the shoes’ original insoles with cushioned gel insoles if you walk or stand all day.

Can boots be “ergonomic”? I haven’t yet seen boots advertised as “ergonomically designed”. What would “ergonomic” footwear look like? It would allow the foot to maintain its natural shape, and it would support the natural arch of the foot. If it was to be used on slippery surfaces, it would have a high-traction sole. If it was to be worn on hard surfaces, it would have good cushioning. If it was to be worn in cold environments, it would be insulated. If the risk of dropping something on the foot was high, it would have a protective steel toe. So really, many shoes are quite well designed for their purpose! If only we CHOSE them instead of those adorable heels or smooth-soled fashion boots!

So go shop for some winter footwear, and then do a little jig, in celebration of the technology that allows us to enjoy Canadian winters in comfort!

“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.” Martha Graham

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