When the snow starts to fall, many people choose to huddle up by the fire with a warm cup of coffee. But for many of us, chilly weather offers an opportunity. Whether you’re snowshoeing up a mountain or heading out for a day of downhill skiing, winter sports are one of the most exciting ways to get a little fresh air on a cold day.
No matter how much you’re looking forward to your winter outing, nothing can wreck your day quicker than chilly feet. Your body can lose a lot of heat through your feet, and keeping them warm is essential. In extremely cold environments, a pair of proper thermal winter socks is essential. At first glance, they might just look like your regular, everyday socks. But these puppies are specially designed for even the coldest weather.
Not all socks are created equally, so we’ve gone through and hand-selected (foot-selected?) the 5 warmest options on the market. First, we’ll take you through the different options. After, we’ll help you decide which one is right for you.
JB Field’s 50 Below Icelandic
Wool is commonly accepted as being one of the warmest materials that money can buy, and the JB Field’s 50 Below Socks will keep your feet toasty with 85% wool. Pure wool has some durability issues, and 50% wool and nylon mixes aren’t quite as insulated. With an 85% wool 15% nylon mix, you get improved durability without any loss of heat.
They are made in Canada, and loved in the rural northern communities. They’re available in grey or black, and you get them with or without a cuff. Although they’re sold at a premium price, there is nothing warmer on the market.
Carhartt Men’s Extreme Cold Wool
Just ask any tradesman, Carhartt products are the first choice for those who need extreme durability. Wool socks are typically much thicker than their standard varieties. If you’re going to be wearing work boots, this means that there can become comfort issues as your boots fit a lot tighter. The Carharrt Extreme Wools are specially designed with a custom fiber made from 83% wool, with added Nylon, Polyester, and Lycra Spandex. The end result is something that is much thinner than your typical wool sock, but still just as warm.
They’re also reinforced in the toes, heel, and leg. Whether you’re wearing ski boots or work boots, you’ll find that these socks fit much better than competing options.
Carhartt Men’s Arctic Weather Wool
Although the Carhartt Arctic Socks share many similar qualities as the last options, there are a few key differences. Instead of fit, these socks are designed to be as durable as possible. They are reinforced in the same way, but the material is much thicker. For tight fitting boots, you’ll want to go about half a size up. In exchange, you’ll get something that lasts much longer than competing options.
Generally, we wouldn’t always recommend thicker socks. Consumers often find that there are problems with odor and moisture. But these are different. Carhartt has embedded moisture-wicking threads throughout, which help to pull sweat away from your feet. This keeps your boots fresh, even after a long day on the mountain.
Heat Holders Thermal Socks
Generally speaking, women’s shoes are much more form-fitting than men’s. This presents a unique challenge in the winter. You’ll need a sock that is warmer than your standard cotton one, but not much thicker. The answer is the Heat Holders Thermal Socks. Made from a combination of Acrylic, Nylon, Polyester, and Elastane, these babies are seven times warmer than the cotton variety without any additional thickness.
Although there are other options with this material on the market, there are a few things that stand out about the Heat Holders. The inside of the sock is carefully brushed, which makes them incredibly smooth and soft. The unique stitching design helps them to hold warm air close to the skin, helping your toes to stay toasty for longer. If thickness is a concern, these socks are a fantastic option.
Carhartt Womens Extreme Cold All-Season
Although they look similar, there are many differences between the women’s Carhartt Boot Socks and the men’s version. Many women have poor circulation in the feet, and this means that wools isn’t always the best option. They are made from Acrylic thread, although the structural threading is made from merino wool. The end result is something that is still very well insulated, but is capable of withstanding many years of use and abuse.
The advantage of this design is improved breathability, without sacrificing any of the insulation. Unlike many Acrylic socks which are not machine washable, there is no special treatment for these ones. Just chuck them in with the rest of your laundry.
How to Choose the Best Winter Socks for You
Having a hard time deciding? Although all of these options will perform significantly better than the standard cotton variety, there are a few key differences that make some options better is certain conditions. To decide, you just need to answer a few simple questions.
What temperatures will I be exposed to?
The colder it is, the more insulated you need your feet to be. In the most extreme cold climates, JB Field’s 50 Below will perform the best. Down to -20F, any of the other options will be fine.
Am I going to be rough on these socks?
Any pair can survive a simple winter stroll. But if you’re going to be hard on them, you’ll want something a little more durable. Wearing tight fitting boots such as steel-toed boots, or even ski boots can cause a lot of wear on winter socks. Repetitive motion common with physical activity can quickly put holes in your heels and toes. The Carhartt Men’s Arctic Wool Heavy Boot Sock and the Carhartt Women’s are specially designed for tough environments, and are much more durable than competing models.
Will My New Pair Fit in Perfectly in My Boots?
Many people who spend time outdoors in the winter buy their boots half a size larger to compensate for thick socks. But if you’re already purchased your boots, you’ll want something a little thinner. The Carhartt Men’s Wool Arctic Boot Sock and the Heat Holders Thermals are the perfect solutions for a tight fitting boot. Ps. This will be necessary only for tight fitting boots – your fur lined winter stompers will be fine with any sock.
Do I Suffer From Poor Circulation?
If you find that you have cold hands and feet in the winter, it’s possible that you suffer from poor circulation. This is very common in women, as the nerves that control blood flow are more sensitive than in men. For this reason, women’s winter socks are generally made from Acrylic, which isn’t quite as tight as wool. However, not all women suffer from poor circulation, and this condition is common among men as well.
A Last Word on Cold Feet
If you are a woman who finds that her toes and fingers are never all that chilly, you will be fine to purchase a pair of Men’s socks if you find they are more suitable. Wool tends to be a little more insulated. Alternately, if you’re a man who finds that wool options make your toes numb, it might be worth trying a pair of Acrylic women’s socks such as the Carhartt Extremes All-Season.
No matter what kind of conditions you’re going to be exposed to this winter, a good pair of socks is always going to be a worthwhile buy. By keeping your toes toasty, your overall body temperature will stay warm. This isn’t just an investment in your feet – you’ll be shocked at how much your overall comfort improves in cold weather!
Related article: Best Hiking & Cold Weather Gloves