10 Ways to Keep Your Feet Warm on a Cold Weather Walk

Woman pulls her training gear out of the trunk to exercise in the open on the snow

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Don't let cold feet keep you indoors during the winter. There is more to winter walking than just the treadmill. But your toes can get painfully cold, and you may even risk frostbite in bitter weather. While you want to keep your feet warm, you also want to avoid getting wet or sweaty feet, as that puts you at risk of developing a blister. You can protect your feet in cold weather with these tips.

How to Keep Feet Warm

Below, you will learn about the following ways to keep your feet warm:

  1. Wear leather or mesh shoes
  2. Use paper to insulate
  3. Wrap with plastic to keep out cold air
  4. Try disposable shower caps
  5. Wrap shoes in duct tape
  6. Wear two pairs of socks
  7. Wear waterproof shoes or use waterproofing spray
  8. Use toe warming inserts
  9. Keep moving to increase blood flow

Wear Less-Breathable Shoes

Many athletic shoes have mesh uppers for better airflow, but that isn't ideal for cold and wet winter conditions. Switch to a shoe with more leather and less mesh or use the following tips to block some of the airflow in your current pair.

Insulate With Paper

Take a tip from Tour de France cyclists—paper makes a great disposable insulator. As they crest the Alps, they grab a newspaper from a fan and tuck it under their shirts to give them insulation on the cold mountain descent. On cold days, grab a paper towel or napkin and fold it over the top of your foot, toes, and under the toes. Then put on your shoe.

This provides a thin layer of insulation that is usually just enough for comfort. You can wear your usual mesh athletic shoes, even if you didn't think ahead to wear better socks. The caveat is that the paper can get wet from water seeping into the shoe. But on dry, cold days it is an easy, free solution.

Plastic Wrap to Keep Cold Air Out

Tuck ​some plastic wrap or a plastic sandwich bag between the shoe upper and your upper foot and toes. This prevents cold air from reaching your toes, while sweat isn't trapped at the bottom of my foot. It's thin enough to fit in your shoe without switching the kind of socks you wear. If you don't need it once you're out on the walk, it's easy to remove and dispose of it.

Disposable Shower Caps to the Rescue

Those single-use hotel shower caps are worth collecting. You can use them as shoe gaiters to keep rain and snow out of your shoes. You can do this for cold weather races, but they are odd-looking for wearing on your fitness walk unless you don't mind the stares.

You can be more discreet and slip them over your sock, then put on your shoe and now you have a waterproof layer inside your shoe that will also keep out the wind. However, it can result in sweaty feet and wet socks, so you need to experiment with it.

Duct Tape

If you don't mind the fashion statement and the glue residue on your shoes, you can quickly add a windshield to your shoes by putting duct tape over the uppers of your shoes. The advantage is that it is quick, easy, and it's free if you already have a roll of duct tape.

Tape a full circle, including the sole since duct tape sticks to itself strongly and won't come off throughout a long, rainy walk. If you only tape to the shoe fabric, it may come off in wet weather. If you use the shower cap gaiter, it's best to add a final circle of duct tape to keep it all in place.

Wear a Double Layer of Socks

The classic combo for hiking is a sweat-wicking polypropylene thin sock with an outer wool sock. This works well for keeping your toes warmer for winter walking. But don't choose a combo that ends up too thick to wear with your shoes. SmartWool socks are a good choice for the wool layer as they are less scratchy and are machine-washable.

They come in a wide variety of thicknesses. But you can just switch to a single, thicker hiking sock made of sweat-wicking fabric. Another trick is to wear a pair of knee-high nylons as your inner layer. They add no thickness at all but provide the little extras that can keep your feet warmer.

Keep Your Feet Dry With Sweat-Wicking Socks

Your toes are going to get cold if they get wet. Your feet will sweat even though it is cold outside, so you need to wear socks that will wick the sweat away from the skin. Don't wear cotton socks or socks with cotton padding, as cotton soaks up the sweat and holds it. You want to choose wool, polypropylene, CoolMax, or other technical fabric walking socks.

Keep Out the Rain and Snow

Don't let the wet in. You can invest in a pair of waterproof shoes, such as those with a Gore-tex liner. This usually adds $20 or more to the price of the shoe. Waterproof shoes, however, won't keep out ​the rain that drips down your pant leg or splashes up over your shoe and into your socks. You can battle this by wearing rain pants or shoe gaiters.

You still want to choose shoes that are flexible enough for getting a good walking heel-to-toe roll, rather than rigid boots built for carrying a backpack. Otherwise, you may find yourself with shin splints and foot pain. Luckily, more and more designs of trail running shoes provide both protection and flexibility.

Toe Warmers

Toe warmers are single-use inserts that provide gentle heat for up to six hours. You put them in your shoes above or below your toes. Just opening up the plastic packet activates them.

They are thin, like insoles, but if you have a tight fit on your shoe you may have to wear a thinner sock. You can wear them above your toes with mesh performance walking shoes and block cold air while keeping your toes warm.

Pick Up Your Pace

You should always start at an easy pace for the first couple of minutes. After that, on cold days you may want to pick up the pace with some fast-walking intervals or choose a route that has hills or stairs near the beginning to get your blood moving. The extra blood flow from a faster heart rate will help keep your feet warm. It will also get the rest of you back inside sooner.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fudge J. Preventing and managing hypothermia and frostbite injurySports Health. 2016;8(2):133-139. doi:10.1177/1941738116630542

  2. Sun X, Lam W-K, Zhang X, Wang J, Fu W. Systematic review of the role of footwear constructions in running biomechanics: implications for running-related injury and performanceJ Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):20-37.

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. The wonders of winter workouts. December 1, 2018.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.