1. Wear the right footwear
It might sound obvious, but it makes such a difference. Wearing trainers on high-alpine trips can led to frostbite, even during the summer months. Choose the right footwear for the season, terrain and weather conditions. Your boots need to fit perfectly and should not be too narrow or they’ll restrict your circulation. If it’s going to be really cold, then it’s best to wear specialist winter footwear with insulated uppers and additional insulation underfoot. And don’t forget to look after them and proof them regularly. Wet boots mean cold feet.
2. Layer your socks
Ideally, you want socks with a Merino and nylon mix. If you’re planning a multi-day trip (maybe even with a tent) then VBL (Vapour Barrier Liner) socks are indispensable. You wear them between your thin inner socks and thicker outer socks. A VBL sock is a non-breathable, waterproof sock that stops sweat compromising your warm outer socks and your boots.
3. Keep ‘em warm
You lose most heat through your head, your throat and your wrists. If you keep these parts warm, then your body has more heat left over for your feet. For example, wear a hat, a neck scarf and wrist warmers (or gloves that cover your wrists).
4. Keep moving
It might be easier said than done, but keep moving as much as you can. Should you have to take a longer break, keep your toes moving, do some exercises or jump up and down on the spot. Don’t give your body and feet a chance get cold in the first place.
5. Massage your feet
Massaging your feet helps to get the circulation going again – it’s a good thing to do before you get into your sleeping bag on a cold night. Rub the soles of your feet in the direction of the toes and lightly massage the top of your foot (instep).
6. In the bag
Make sure that you are wearing enough warm clothes in relation to the temperature (for example, it might make sense to wear thermal tights). Sleeping with a hat on is often a good idea. You can also pull a jacket over the footbox of your sleeping bag – to provide additional warmth for your feet. A drinks bottle filled with hot water can also help. If you wake up in the middle of the night feeling cold or with cold feet, try eating an energy bar. Eating stimulates your metabolism and warms the body.
7. Change your socks
Change your socks regularly. If they are saturated with sweat or salts, even the finest functional fibres won’t provide much insulation. The same goes for wet socks. Always make sure that you have at least one spare pair of socks stored in a waterproof bag.
8. Food & drink
Hot drinks and meals work wonders. Hot soups are particularly good. They’re quick and easy to prepare and will warm you up no end.
9. No alcohol
Alcoholic drinks (in large measures) are not a good idea. They impair your body’s natural heat management. That initial warm glow you get from a cup of hot punch is not to be trusted. It won’t keep you warm for long. Why? Because alcohol dilates the blood vessels. Warm blood is moved closer to the surface of your skin, which only makes you feel warmer temporarily.
10. Did you know?
You can also get your feet warm again by putting them in cold water or snow and then drying them and putting your warm socks back on. Anyone who has walked barefoot across an icy glacial stream knows just how warm your feet feel in your boots afterwards. Although this won’t work if your whole body is already undercooled.