Baby, it’s cold outside. Very cold. And you have no choice but to be outside working. You’ve already got a nice pair of boots but your feet are still freezing… How can you keep your feet warm and dry, and what are the best warm winter socks to help keep those hard-working feet happy?
I recently turned to my Alaskan farmers group to ask for advice on keeping feet warm while working outside during our frigid winter days – and in particular, what brand or type of socks they recommend. Some of these farmers also work on Alaska’s North Slope where temperatures drop into the -30s (sometimes lower!) during the winter. Farmers and Slopers who have to be outside year-’round are people with experience in the cold, and they know a lot about the best warm winter socks.
Here are their tips for keeping your feet warm:
- Wool socks will keep your feet warmer than cotton or synthetic socks.
- If your feet are getting cold because they are sweaty, try wearing a lighter-weight sock inside your boots. If your feet get too hot, they sweat, and the damp sweat then causes your feet to be cold.
- Wear two pairs of socks. Layers are important! Wear a wicking sock next to your skin, and a heavier sock over the wicking sock. Dress your feet the way you dress your body for the cold: in layers.
- If you will be spending several hours outside, bring a second pair of socks to change into midday. Swap out the damp socks you’ve had on all morning for a dry pair for the afternoon. Change those socks when you stop for lunch!
- Use a felt insole. If your boots have removable liners, put the felt insole between the boot shell and the liner. If not, having the felt insole inside the liner is still helpful.
- Loosen your boots. If your boots are tied too tightly, circulation is restricted. And the sweat on your feet can’t escape – damp feet are cold feet!
- Buy a bigger size of boots. If your boots are tight on your feet, there is no room for the all-important air space that traps the warmth from your body. If you need to buy a size up so you have plenty of room to avoid compressing your socks, do it.
- Buy two pairs of boots. Really. Wear one pair one day, and the second pair the next. Damp sweaty boots will cause your feet to get cold faster.
- If your boots have removable liners, take them out every day and let them dry completely. Which brings me to the next point:
- Use a boot dryer! Buy one that has both heat and a fan. One pair of boots should be on the boot dryer drying out all the sweat, while you wear the other pair of boots. Alternate. Use the boot dryer with removable liners or with the entire boot if the liners don’t come out.
- If you have to wear safety-toe boots, look for composite toes, which don’t stay as cold as steel toes.
- One more thing to consider – are you dehydrated? When you exhale in the cold and the cloud of vapor forms, that’s moisture leaving your body. If you haven’t been keeping up with your fluid intake, your body will prioritize your core, sacrificing your extremities (fingers, toes, ears, nose). It’s easy to forget to drink water when it’s cold. Remember to stay hydrated.
Now that we’ve learned all these tips, let’s consider what type and brand of socks to wear. Of the 52 outdoor workers who responded to my query, 20 of them (almost 40%) said they use and recommend Darn Tough socks.
The other respondents either had no stated preference for sock brand but had good advice (see above); stated that they recommended merino wool socks (which Darn Tough socks are made from); or had a favorite brand but that particular brand didn’t have enough votes to warrant writing an article on them. These onesie-twosie voted sock brands include Pacas, Buffalo Wool Company, and Smart Wool.
But back to those Darn Tough socks…. Are they really darn tough?
Well, as it turns out, yes they are.
Darn Tough socks are made in Northfield, Vermont in a mill owned for three generations by the Cabot family. Every step of the sock manufacturing process happens in that one mill. Darn Tough socks are knit using only three fibers per sock – merino wool, polyester or nylon (which includes spandex). Merino provides the warmth, Lycra spandex adds stretch, and nylon reinforces the high-wear areas. These soft, comfortable, machine-washable socks are made to last.
Merino wool is an exceptional fiber for many reasons. In fact, it’s so awesome, we should take a minute to appreciate it fully. Merino is easy for nearly everyone to wear. Some people with wool allergies can happily wear Merino – oftentimes, it’s not as much an allergy to wool in general, but an allergy to the type of wool you’re wearing. Give Merino a try. Merino is moisture-wicking, absorbing sweat and keeping it away from your skin. Other types of fiber such as cotton can absorb the sweat and keep it against your skin, like wearing sponges on your feet. The thermoregulating properties of Merino wool trap or release heat depending on what your body is doing. Merino’s natural crimp provides the air pockets that are essential to staying warm in cold weather, but will also help keep your feet cool in hot weather. Synthetic fibers can mimic that crimp but can’t quite match the performance that is natural to Merino. Merino is also naturally odor resistant. Sure, you can get it stinky if you try, but it will repel those yucky foot odors far better than cotton socks ever dreamed of. And last but certainly not least, Merino fibers are smoother than other types of wool, giving it a silky, comfortable touch that isn’t itchy.
Most of their wool comes from New Zealand, where the very best Merino wool comes from. However, Darn Tough Tactical socks are Berry Amendment compliant – which means that they are sourced and made entirely in the United States.
No matter what your passion is – hiking, adventuring, walking, cycling, lounging – there’s a Darn Tough sock style for you. Men’s styles? Here you go. Women’s styles? Check these out. Socks for kiddos? Yep. Like your socks way up over the calf? They got you covered. Want no-show socks? No problem. Need summer socks or bulky warm winter socks? Easy peasy. Full cushion? You got it. Compression socks, padded-shin socks, extra big size socks? Look no further. With plenty of styles, purposes, fits, and sizes up to men’s 17, anyone can find a Darn Tough sock to meet their needs.
But here’s the real clincher – – Darn Tough socks are guaranteed. For life.
Here’s how the Darn Tough warranty works: Wear your socks. Live your life in them. Hike, adventure, work, relax, repeat. If you discover a problem with your socks, wash the socks, fill out the online warranty claim form, mail your clean pair of socks back to Darn Tough, and receive a new pair. That’s it. The warranty does not cover fire damage, loss or pet damage, socks that have been altered by dying or other means, nor does it cover lonely single socks. You need to return the pair, even if only one sock is damaged. But that’s it. With a guarantee like that, what do you have to lose?
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