Depending on where you live, winter may be just around the corner. If you're like me up here in Michigan, it's already upon you. Aside from a good, thick coat, a pair of gloves, and a warm hat, your winter boots might be the most crucial element to your winter ensemble.
Keeping your feet warm, dry, and comfortable all winter long is an important part of maintaining proper foot health. So before you head out to shovel the driveway in those decades-old boots you probably should have replaced last year, check out this list to see if your boots are up to snuff. The list will also give you a few things to look out for when you inevitably head to the shoe store to purchase a new pair.
A high-quality pair of winter boots should be waterproof, lined with synthetic material, and properly fitted to your feet. Additionally, winter boots should have adequate treads on the soles to eliminate the risk of slipping and falling on wet snow or ice. Finally, you should invest in inserts for your winter boots so your feet stay comfortable and properly supported.
Wear Waterproof Winter Boots
First, you need to make sure your winter boots are waterproof. If you're still hanging on to an old pair of boots, check for tears or holes that water can seep into. I know boots can be expensive, so if buying a new pair isn't in the budget right now, you can try patching the holes.
When purchasing a new pair of boots, the tags should specify whether or not they are waterproof. Did you find a pair of boots that are too much of a bargain or too stylish to pass up, only to realize they aren't waterproof? Luckily, you can use a product like this Bickmore boot-waterproofing spray (available on Amazon) to do the job for you.
Weatherproofing your shoewear is especially important if you plan on doing some winter hiking, hunting, or snowmobiling. You don't want to be stuck in the middle of the field, woods, or trail with cold, soggy feet. Prolonged exposure to moisture can lead to athlete's foot, and extended periods of damp, cold conditions may lead to frostbite in severe cases.
Wear Boots Lined with Synthetic Material
The next important aspect that makes a great pair of winter boots is the liner. The liner is meant to insulate and protect your feet from the cold. The problem is when your feet get too warm and start sweating. A natural cotton or wool liner will only exacerbate the sweat and create the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus. To avoid athlete's foot and other fungal infections of your feet, look for synthetic liners or wear socks made from acrylic rather than cotton.
In my article about the best socks for athlete's foot, I talked about how synthetic fibers are best suited for wicking away moisture and inhibiting the growth of fungus and odor-causing bacteria.
Wear Boots According to the Fit, Rather Than the Size
If you've tried on a pair of boots in your usual shoe size only to find out that they don't fit, don't worry. I promise you didn't forget what size you need, and your feet did not magically shrink overnight. Boot sizes run about a half-size bigger than your usual sneaker size, so plan accordingly, especially if you're ordering your boots online. Wearing boots that are too big can cause your feet to slide around, which makes you less steady on your feet and more prone to blisters or abrasions from the rubbing.
When buying any kind of shoewear, it's important to purchase a size that feels good, and know that this may not always be the same size. It's normal for brands to differ in their sizing. That's why I always preach to buy for the fit as opposed to the size. And never hesitate to return your boots if they don't fit.
Winter Boots Must be Non-Slip
Non-slip shoes aren't just necessary for working in kitchens or on factory floors; in fact, wearing non-slip boots in the winter is crucial to preventing falls. Slipping and falling on the ice can be extremely dangerous, and may lead to a twisted ankle or worse. So plan ahead and buy boots with good treads on the soles. And just like a set of car tires, always replace your boots when the treads are worn out.
When Do You Need Ice Cleats?
If you're an avid outdoor recreation lover, you might already have a pair of ice cleats (also called spikes) in your closet. Ice cleats are designed to fit universally over any pair of boots. The metal or hard plastic spikes give you added traction when walking across the ice. You should invest in a pair of ice cleats if you enjoy:
- Hiking in the winter
- Ice fishing
- Hunting in the winter
- Snowmobiling (you may have to dismount your sled to make repairs or stretch your legs)
- Working outside
Ice cleats can also be helpful for anyone prone to falls!
Shoe Inserts and Orthotics for Your Winter Boots
Shoe inserts come prefabricated or custom-molded to your feet. I see a ton of patients wear their orthotics religiously throughout the warmer months, but for some reason, this goes down in the winter. It may be due to the fact that some boots can't accommodate a full-length shoe insert. It may be difficult or impossible to slip the rigid insole into place because of the height of the boot.
That's where three-quarter length inserts come in.
Three-quarter length orthotics are just as effective in treating and preventing heel pain but can be switched between practically any style of shoe wear (including boots). We carry Pure Stride insoles in full length and three-quarter length, and custom orthotics can be made in this shorter style as well. Some patients also like to order multiple pairs of inserts to avoid moving them from shoe to shoe.
Foot Health Starts Here
If your heel pain, athlete's foot, ingrown toenails, or other foot problems are cramping your style, I can help. Freeland Foot and Ankle Clinic is open rain or shine (or snow), and ready to get you back on your feet and back to your life. New patient appointments are available now, so give us a call today at 989-695-6788.