Ah, winter in Michigan!

Hey, it’s not all bad. Sure, most of us get a little sick of the cold after a while. But going out and having fun—rocking, if you will—in a winter wonderland can be a lot of fun, especially if you’ve got a trusty pair of winter boots to keep your feet warm and safe.

If, however, your boots aren’t so great, it can lead to a lot of problems, and then winter really will be no fun. The wrong pair of boots—or even a good pair worn without regard to good hygiene habits—can lead to heel pain, foul odor, and even fungal infections.

Want to avoid a painful, smelly, or embarrassing fate this winter? Follow this handy guide:

What to Look For in a Good Pair of Winter Boots

Probably the most critical thing when it comes to preventing heel pain is finding boots that have good arch support and cushioning. Those flat sheepskin boots may look stylish, but if all they have is a flimsy insole and no support, you’re going to be saying “Ugg …” (get it?) in no time while wearing them.

Look specifically for boots with slightly raised heels and footbeds that are contoured to the shape of your feet, and made from a material that offers great cushioning—for example, memory foam or cork.

If your boots don’t come with particularly great insoles or arch support, custom orthotics or appropriate prefabricated insoles may be a reasonable alternative. (Of course, if you were already prescribed orthotics for your regular shoes, there’s a good chance you’ll want them for your boots as well.) In this case, you’ll want a boot with a removable insole and nice deep space to accommodate your own orthotics.

The good news here is that we’re happy to offer our assistance. Bring in your boots so we can take a look at them, and then recommend what kind of orthotic insert would be most appropriate.

How to Shop for Winter Boots

Measure your feet before you buy. Just because you’ve been a size 7 for the last 25 years doesn’t mean you still are today! Feet gradually change shape and get a little longer and wider over a lifetime. So always measure to be safe.

Then, of course, try before you buy. Boots need to fit properly in both length and width—not too loose, not too tight.

There should be about half an inch of “wiggle room” for the toes at the front of the boot, but your foot (and especially your heels) should not slide around if you gently bounce or rock up and down. The boots should be comfortable to wear from the moment you put them on.

(Obviously, this is a lot easier if you do your boot shopping in person. If you buy online, make sure there’s a great return policy!)

Another solid shopping recommendation? Shop late in the day, and wear the same type of socks you’d normally expect to wear with the boots during fitting.

Not only do feet change shape over time, but they also swell at the end of a long day. When you shop when your feet are likely to be at or near their largest, with the correct sock width, you can be more confident that the boots are going to fit correctly under almost any normal circumstances. 

A Quick Word About Socks

Finally, let’s have a quick word about socks. For many people, they’re an afterthought, but in some cases, they can be almost important as the boots themselves!

For starters, absolutely avoid cotton if you’re planning to be outside for a while. They get waterlogged very quickly, and then they get cold. That’s two big problems in one.

A much better choice would be merino wool. In addition to being comfy, warm, and low on the itchiness spectrum, merino wool is awesome at keeping your feet dry. Not only does it repel water from the outside, but it also pulls water vapor and wicks moisture away from your feet before it has a chance to become super sweaty.

If you still need a little extra warmth or friction protection, consider thin liner socks made from a moisture-wicking synthetic fabric, like polyester or nylon.

How to Wear and Care for Your Winter Boots

Lastly, a few words about how to wear your boots. The thing is, even a good pair that fits you properly could still lead to some uncomfortable foot issues if you aren’t careful.

Good winter boots need to be able to shut out the cold and the wet snow, but this also means that they can be just as good at trapping your own sweat inside. And feet sweat a lot—you have no oil glands on your soles, so half a million sweat glands must pick up the slack in order to keep your skin lubricated.

Unfortunately, all kinds of bacteria (including the type that cause foot odor) and fungi (including the kind that enjoy infecting you with fungal toenails and athlete’s foot) love the kinds of warm, dark, damp spaces that the insides of boots so willingly provide.

So, you’ll definitely want to try to keep the risk of these germs congregating and bothering your feet to an absolute minimum.

  • Wash your feet every day. Mild soap, warm water. (Not strictly boot-related, but trust us, it helps.)
  • Ideally, it’s best to have at least two pairs of winter boots—especially if you’re going to be outside for a good chunk of the day. This allows you to rotate them every other day, so they each get 24+ hours of uninterrupted drying time before you put them on again.
  • If you’re going to be doing a mix of indoor and outdoor activity before coming back home, bring along a pair of regular shoes you can change into when you head in from the cold. If you can avoid trapping your feet in winter boots all day, they’ll thank you for it.
  • If your feet are starting to get damp, change your socks and boots! Don’t give the bacteria or fungi a chance to take hold.
  • Consider using a roll-on or spray-on antiperspirant for your feet, and antifungal powders or sprays for the inside of your boots. (This is especially important if you have any past history with athlete’s foot or fungal nails.)

And of course, if you follow all these tips and you still wind up with foot pain, or smelly or infected feet, please give our team a call as soon as possible.

The earlier you seek assistance for your foot or ankle problem, the easier and quicker we can help you treat it—and the more focused and personalized advice we can give you to ensure it doesn’t happen again!

To schedule an appointment at our office in Freeland, MI, please call (989) 695-6788 today.

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