The winter weather conditions where you live and are active dictate the choice of footwear you wear. If possible, a set of footwear for different types of snow and ice conditions keeps you be prepared and safe for whatever weather situation happens.

The best footwear for any of your winter activities brings together fit, function, reliability and durability to hold up in extreme cold and wet conditions. Ensure the footwear has a stiff heel counter. Squeeze the sides of the heel and push on the very back. Make sure it doesn’t collapse. Next, twist the bottom of the footwear. Hold the bottom of the heel of the footwear with one hand with the other hold the bottom front.  Twist the whole bottom, it should be stiff and have little to no twisting action. These hands-on physical tests help prevent common foot related injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

For a comfortable fit and support, have room for your toes in the length and width. If your footwear is too long, your heels may slip in the back. Too short, and your toes hit the front. Try the footwear on with your most comfortable and warmest non-cotton (wool, silk content) socks. To improve the fit, tightly laced up footwear will help best to anchor your heel into the back of shoes or boots. When it is deep snow and extremely cold out there, this helps avoid the need to tighten your laces with bare hands. If the laces are too big in diameter and smooth, causing the laces to slip apart, then try a smaller diameter lace with a rougher surface to ensure your knots remain tight and secure.

What do you do when the first overhand knot you do comes undone or always comes loose? Try a double overhand knot as your first knot. The lace is wrapped over two times and pulled tight before you do the bows. This is called a surgeon’s knot. No matter the type of lace up winter footwear, the first knot is the most important to secure and hold your heel and foot in place to avoid heel slippage and improve stability as you move.

If you’re a runner or brisk walker, the heel cup on footwear is usually lower around the ankle as it would be for spring and summer use. This type of footwear has less insulation because you are more active and generate your own heat for warmth.  When the boot goes higher up the leg (below the knee) and has more eyelets, the more insulation they generally have.  These are used for snowshoeing, winter situations with deep snow and forest areas, etc. To stay dry and warm with support in more wet and snowy, slushy conditions like ice fishing, pull on insulated waterproof boots could be worn. The physical tests mentioned above for footwear help you select the best models for support and durability.

For grip and traction check the bottom outsole. There may be different colours or rough textured materials embedded into the outsole material to improve grip on icy surfaces. It may have a two-tone look to it for the same reason for improved grip and traction. To know which model meets your needs buy a few and try them on around your home, as long as they can be returned to where you purchased them.

For the best support inside any winter footwear, consider a custom-made foot orthotic made by your Canadian Certified Pedorthist. The orthotic supports the bottom and sides of the foot for improved alignment of the lower limbs and feet. It replaces the existing insole inside your footwear. For a winter foot orthotic, more insulated materials could be used to improve warmth and comfort for your feet.

Your winter footwear is only in as good a condition as the last time it was worn.  It is exposed to harsh conditions and regular maintenance, like you do for your valued sports equipment, is essential. Check for wear and tear on the inside lining to help prevent blisters, the condition of the lace eyelets and outsole delamination. If caught soon enough a minor repair saves you time and money and maintains your footwear investment.

Written by Richard May, C. Ped (C)