As with gloves and mittens, no one sock or toe product will work for every person, but we hope the options listed below will offer sufferers a good mix of potential choices available.
There are several categories of products to consider:
- Shoes and Boots – the outer layer.
- Socks – the next level of insulation.
- Topical Creams and Accessories – that can offer short-term and long-term warmth and protection.
Shoes and Boots
In colder months, many Raynaud’s sufferers prefer to abandon shoes for the extra coverage of boots. My ankles don’t see the light of day from October through March – or longer, pending the results of Groundhog Day and the timing of spring weather.
As with gloves, it’s best to have a portfolio of boot options available for different weather conditions, daily activities, time exposure outdoors, and the need to look business-like or fashionable. The warmest boots I own are fur with good insulated lining. Some were expensive (Technica brand – they also make ski equipment). But I’ve also had success with less expensive fur boots from Bearpaw®. Shearling-lined boots, like those from Bearpaw® and UGG® also offer excellent warmth and comfort.
One feature worth noting is the soft inner lining of fur and shearling boots. Raynaud’s attacks can leave the toes sore and sensitive to the touch. Before I was formally diagnosed with Raynaud’s, I went to the emergency room with my swollen, sore feet – they hurt so bad I couldn’t put shoes or boots on. The doctor on duty didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me (thought I must be a chain smoker…), but he gave me one excellent piece of advice: Get some soft, fuzzy-lined boots that are a little larger than your regular size. The soft lining won’t create friction against the skin, and buying them a half or full size larger will allow for the swelling along with thicker sock protection. This advice has served me well for many years!
While office dress has relaxed quite a bit over the years, we can’t easily wear a pair of fluffy boots with a business suit to client meetings and dinners, so other options are needed for these occasions. Well-made thick leather boots (including fun cowboy boots!) can provide sufficient warmth on less brisk days, or pair them with thicker socks (but buy them large enough!), along with some of the extras discussed below.
As with gloves and boots, I keep a full portfolio of socks of various weights, thickness and fabrics for different conditions and boot/shoe pairings. When I pack for a trip, I make sure to carry a good variety across the portfolio just to be safe, and when fully packed I’m always amazed to count more socks in my bag than undies! Because some boots are larger and roomier than others, they have to be matched up with the right socks, but there are certain fabrics you’ll want to plan to include in the mix.
Alpaca fiber is warmer than wool, but as soft as cashmere, and not itchy or bulky like some wool fabrics. It wicks moisture naturally to keep feet warm if they perspire (not too likely for Frosties, but good to know!). Alpaca socks come in a wide variety of styles and thickness levels, so you might want several options in your drawer. Cashmere is also a soft, warm comfy option. And for those who aren’t bothered by the itch of natural wool, it’s a great insulator, particularly super-soft merino wool, which is known for its temperature-regulating features and moisture management. For more info on the benefits of wool socks, see our post on Foot Warming Tips from Lumberjacks.
The warmest socks we’ve tested to date are Heat Holders® Thermal Socks. They offer three levels of insulation proven seven-times warmer than cotton socks, and claim to be three times more effective at keeping feet warmer than standard thermal socks. Fellow Frosties have given us very positive feedback on Heat Holders®, using words like “soothing, plushy, and fluffy”, with some telling us they are the warmest socks they’ve ever worn. But there’s always a catch – these socks are really toasty, but really thick. So you’ll need enough room in shoes or boots to accommodate them. (Click here for our full product review.)
Another sock we’ve tested that rates well with our members are Foothugger socks. This product is made of Polartec®, but it’s a thinner version than you may be used to. FootHugger socks do a great job of keeping your feet warm with a soft, cushiony feel, but are thin enough to fit into many shoes or boots that would be too snug with thick, woolly alternatives. The company went dark for a couple of years, and we had several requests from Frosties upset that they couldn’t find the socks, but good news – they are back! Here’s a link to their current web site. They come in anklets, crew and boot sock lengths: http://store.hugeveryday.com/
Another option for consideration are socks with silver content. Silver is highly conductive, and the silver content helps to reflect body heat and regulate temperature. So while the socks don’t create external heat, they do help to keep heat in and to even out the temperature across the feet and toes. Plus they are thin enough to fit comfortably inside regular and dress shoes, great for days when you need a thinner option for work, special events or travel. We haven’t located a good resource for silver socks in the U.S., but if you’re willing to pay for international shipping, A&E Orthopaedic Ltd in the UK offers them in several sizes.
The standard external heat source Frosties depend on in the colder months are HotHands® and Grabber Warmers®. While many of us are well acquainted with their hand warmers (disposable warmer packs that heat up when exposed to air and keep hands yummy warm for hours), you may not be aware that they also make a full array of warmers in a variety of sizes, including toe warmers. These are thin enough to fit in your shoes, are rounded at the toe to follow the shape of your foot, and have adhesive on the back to stay comfortably in place between your sock and shoe. They are so thin you won’t even know they are there – except for the toasty heat!
Years ago we tried a product called Toasty Feet (love the name!). These are shoe insoles made of Aerogel, the same advanced thermal insulation used by NASA to protect astronauts from extreme conditions. They are light and hand washable, and really cushiony, but again – make sure your shoes and boots are roomy enough to accommodate them. Recently we found a similar product called Astec Self-heating Insoles made by Astec International and sold by the Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association in the UK. The product is designed to use the body’s natural energy to generate and reflect heat. The insoles are made of a patented DISCRHEAT fleece material which claims to absorb electromagnetic field energy and warms the feet without using an external power source. More info on the product is available on the RSA’s site.
There’s a heated insole product that’s been on the market for a number of years called Thermosoles made by the same company that manufactures the heated glove liners we tested and reviewed sold by Verseo. We haven’t tried the insoles, but they are worth a look. You can order them from Verseo and use our member discount. Here’s the link to Verseo’s site offering Thermosoles: http://www.verseo.com/thermosoles-rechargeable-heated-insoles.html.
In the future, we’re hoping a product called Digisoles will be readily available for sale. It’s a heated insole that’s in the trendy category of smart wearables. That’s because you regulate the insoles through an app on your cell phone, which is handy considering it’s awkward to disrobe our feet in public to turn a heated insole on/off or up/down. We’re very excited about this new product and can’t wait to try it. But for now, only initial contributors on Kickstarter received samples, and the company is in production creating more inventory. So let’s hope they enter the market soon!
Several reputable manufacturers make heated socks, and they’ve come a long way from the clunky ones of yesteryear that required heavy alkaline batteries that stuck out of our legs in a big pouch! But we haven’t tested current ones with rechargeable batteries on the market today, as none of the manufacturers have offered them to us for testing, so if you do try any of them, please share your feedback with us.
There are two types of creams to consider: One offers a protective layer from the cold. The other offers the potential for improved circulation and healing of sore skin over time. We included these products in our post on foot-warming products but they apply just as well to fingers and other extremities. Please note: Neither product group offers immediate warmth – just wanted to go on record with this caveat.
Warm Skin falls into the first category. This is a cream that helps insulate the skin and provides a protective barrier from the cold. You put it on before going outside and being exposed to frigid weather. It’s used by NFL players, postal workers, and Antarctic explorers – pretty good credentials! Here’s more info on our Product Review page.
In the second category of products are ProNeema™ and Nutrasal creams. Both contain L’arginine, an amino acid that can work as a vasodilator to help blood flow and circulation. The increase in blood flow can help skin to heal, warm hands and feet, and can even potentially improve nerve function.
Nutrasal’s cream also includes magnesium which, while not clinically endorsed, is a mineral that when taken orally can work similarly to calcium channel blockers – the most commonly prescribed drugs for Raynaud’s sufferers. It helps block calcium which can constrict the blood vessels, and also can help dilate blood vessels.
We hope the above information will help fellow Frosties make informed choices about the product options available for warmer, more comfortable toes and feet. Please share your discoveries with us!