Cold toes are a common problem in ski boots, and a most unpleasant way to spend your day on the mountain. There are many causes of cold and numb toes in ski boots. Luckily most of the time it’s a problem that can be fixed.
FIT ISSUES IN YOUR SKI BOOTS
Doing your boots up too tight can squash arteries and capillaries in your feet, which stops the blood getting to your toes. The most common site is across the top of your foot (the dorsalis pedis artery). Another area that can block blood flow is behind the inside ankle bone (the tibial artery). This is a more complicated cause and is usually because there is too much padding in that area.
Blood flow problems to the feet can range from something minor like you “just feel the cold”, to Reynaud's disease, and peripheral vascular disease (PVD), in which case issues can be quite serious and lead to nasty complications.
If you have a history of PVD or diabetic foot ulcerations, then putting your precious feet into ski boots all day may be a serious risk that you should discuss with your health professional.
People with Reynaud's disease should make sure they have a well-fitted boot and ski orthotic to ensure the best blood flow to the foot. Once this is done, you should also consider a boot heater.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Wear a thin, woollen or synthetic-blend sock designed for ski boots. A thick sock's fabric will just get squished in your boot and hold your perspiration against your skin, making the sock wet and your skin cold.
Make sure your boots are dried out overnight and at room temperature when you put them on. Putting your foot into a cold boot in the morning is just asking for a painful day. Beware of boot dryers - they can be too hot and can flatten out and deform your ski orthotics or shell modifications.
Get a ski orthotic for your boots. Until your foot is supported in the optimal position and stabilised in the boot by a ski orthotic, no other boot changes will be very beneficial. Holding your foot in its best alignment will improve blood flow and reduced localised pressure.
Find a good bootfitter that understands all of the issues above and can help make sure your boot is working for you.
IT'S JUST DAM COLD!
If you've checked and addressed all the above issues, then it's likely that you're just skiing somewhere amazing and it is incredibly cold. For these instances I recommend considering a boot heater, or a neoprene boot cover. Neoprene boot covers are mostly beneficial when your boot is below the snow (when you’re skiing in powder!). Heated socks are improving and worth a look at now too.
But the true secret to any cold foot issues is to not let your feet get cold in the first place. So, warm socks and shoes around the house before you go skiing is a must.