And ice climbers, mountain guides, and winter campers.
Because if these tips are good enough for snow-sleeping, ice-jumping, freeze-faring folk…then they should be good enough for you and me.
1. Thicker doesn’t necessarily mean warmer.
“The biggest mistake I see is that people wear socks that are too thick for their shoes,” climber and Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School owner Cristin Julian tells BuzzFeed Life. “If a thick sock causes enough pressure on the foot, it could cut off circulation to your toes.” Ideally, if you’re serious about a pair of socks, try them on with the shoes you’re most likely to wear them with. You should be able to wiggle your toes freely with the sock on your foot and inside the shoe.
2. Avoid cotton. Seriously.
“Not only does cotton get wet with sweat very quickly, but it will won’t keep its warmth when wet, which means it’ll freeze and you’ll have a bad day,” Vancouver-based lumberjack and snowboarder Mark Hamilton tells BuzzFeed Life.
3. Always go for merino wool.
“Merino wool is the best fiber on the market to keep your toes warm,” snowshoer, winter hiker, and REI retail sales manager Sam Mackey tells BuzzFeed Life. “Unlike raggwool—a tougher fiber used in more ‘rugged’ items—merino is itch-free, thermostatic (temperature-regulating) and inherently offers superior moisture management.”
4. Why? Because wool both repels and absorbs water, which means that it’s a magical material.
“Socks that are able to help manage foot moisture pull water vapor away from the skin before it is able to become sweat and, as a result, that vapor is able to evaporate into the air,” Mackey says. “To get a little technical, wool fibers are hydrophobic and hygroscopic, which means that wool socks both repel and absorb water at the same time.”
5. Get toe warmers.
They are great if you’re going to be outside on a cold day and are more prone to getting cold feet, according to Mackey.
6. If your feet are always cold, try liner socks.
“Liner socks will add an additional layer of warmth,” says Mackey. But if your shoes feel too tight when you add the liner socks, just ditch them and opt for a thicker sock.
7. Use winter footbeds to keep cold from creeping in through the soles of your shoes.
Hamilton swears by them: “Footbeds really prevent the cold from getting up under you.”
8. For a winter boot, wear thinner socks. For a sneaker, go for something heavyweight.
“When purchasing socks specifically for warmth, the most important factor to look at is what shoes you plan on wearing with them,” Mackey says. “If you have a thick boot, you won’t need a very thick sock, and on the flip side, if you are wearing sneakers in the snow, you will want a heartier sock.”
9. Try Darn Tough socks if you’re a winter runner.
“My favorite winter running sock is the Bermuda Stripe 1/4 Sock Light Cushion,” says BuzzFeed fitness editor Sally Tamarkin. “They’re seamless, so I never get blisters. Even if I am running through slush and my sneakers get soaked, my feet will stay warm.” Plus, Darn Tough socks have the industry’s only unconditional lifetime guarantee.
10. If you’re wearing dressier shoes in cold weather, try thin hiking socks.
“I would recommend the REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks,” Mackey says. “They carry all the benefits of wool socks (warmth, moisture management, and cushion), but aren’t too bulky so they fit with almost any shoes.”
11. Try a pair of supportive Ibex socks.
“All of our mountain guides wear Ibex because they’re really warm and they’re made in America,” Julian says.
12. For wet weather, go waterproof.
“I recommend the Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks,” says Mackey. “They’re breathable and have an anti-bacterial lining to reduce smell. Great for biking or even walking to work—the waterproof exterior repels water to keep your feet dry.”
13. To dry soaked socks, pin then to your backpack or put them under a hand dryer.
“If you’re hiking in the backcountry, strap wet socks to the outside of your pack so they can dry as you hike,” says Mackey. “If you had a soggy commute to work, use the hand dryer in the bathroom to help absorb some moisture.”
14. Don’t drink caffeine!
“If you’re cold, stay away from caffeinated beverages (like coffee and tea) and nicotine,” certified climbing guide and Alpine Endeavors director Marty Molitoris tells BuzzFeed Life. “They cause your vessels to constrict, which limits blood flow.”
15. For a tall, well-insulated sock, go for Smart Wool.
“I’ve been loving SmartWool’s new Women’s PhD Ski Ultra Light,” national champion ski mountaineer and Nordic ski coach Sari Anderson tells BuzzFeed Life. “With a narrow heel, the fit is just right—no slippage or bunching at all.”
16. And always carry an extra pair of socks with you (because your feet sweat even when you’re cold).
“First off, your feet sweat a good amount during the day,” Molitoris says. “When I am travelling to an area to climb for the day, I wear a street sock and shoe until I get to the trailhead. Then I change into a fresh pair of outdoor socks and my needed footwear for the objective.”