Does Wearing Two Pairs of Socks Really Keep Your Feet Warm?

wool socks
Featured Post Foot Care

Cold weather equals cold extremities. As the weather dips low, even away from the blistering winds and inside a house, toes feel uncomfortable. The easiest thing to do is simply add another pair of socks. The question is: does wearing two pairs of socks really keep your feet warm, though?

According to sockaddict.com, there are five main reasons to wear socks. “Manage moisture, reduce stress on feet, protect shoes from germs and stains, and protect feet from germs and blister.” The very top of their list: keeping the feet warm. Knowing there’s not much question that socks keep feet warm, the debate comes to if wearing two pairs makes a difference in the overall level of warmth.

So let’s find out who is right: double-socks or one pair. To break down the debate, we first examine both sides of the argument. Then, we will tell you other ways to keep your feet warm in the cold winter and chilly spring months.    

Will two pairs of socks make your feet colder

Mel Magazine starts off the nay-sayers by quoting a Joshua Kaye. Dr. Kaye is a podiatrist in LA. He brings up the point that shoes and boots are designed for your foot and a single pair of socks. Anything more than this and your foot has additional pressure.

The thought pattern is the first pair of socks would be enough to stay warm. When a second sock is introduced, the foot is squeezed. This compression cuts off circulation to the foot. In turn, the foot is colder than before. Without the necessary and typical blood flow to your feet, you are putting your tootsies at risk of frostbite.

Does the science add up?

In 2013, Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM, published an article examining the role of circulation in the foot. According to Dr. McClanahan, restricting the blood flow by squeezing the foot into shoes that are too tight can cause even more issues than cold feet.

In the feet, when healthy circulation is constricted too often or for too long, it can lead to tissue death. In severe cases, it could even lead to amputation. Typically a person would not be wearing two pairs of socks for that long. Still, an extreme situation with constricted blood flow can cause the circulatory paths to jam up and not deliver needed blood and oxygen to the feet.

If I am not wearing two pairs of socks, what socks do I wear?

Let’s start by saying, do not wear cotton socks. Sure, they feel good but they do not insulate the feet. When your feet sweat or if they get wet at all, the cotton will hold that moisture in. These conditions, in turn, make you colder.

Your socks must be breathable and able to wick moisture. Ideally, they are thin or medium, as to not cause so much bulk you are simulating wearing equal to two pairs worth of thickness. Today’s wool socks are warm and not so thick to not fit in most shoes. Bonus: the material keeps your feet dry.

socks drying outside

Will two pairs of socks make your feet warmer

The biggest and most talked-about reasons for not wearing two socks are the constricting nature of wearing two socks, as well as the chance of the foot sweating and retaining moisture. But what if we could do away with those factors? What if we could find a way to double up on socks, keeping the thickness down, and likewise keep the feet from sweating?

Gearjunkie.com has a two-to-three-layer-system for cold temperatures to keep your feet warm. They start with a thin wicking sock. Next, they layer on a lightweight wool sock. Finally, they top off the combo with a medium to a heavy wool sock. This last sock, depending on your destination, can be scaled or left off entirely.

Similar to the nay-sayers, the yes-side agrees that cotton socks are not ideal for keeping warm. They simply let the moisture stay and, in turn, cool you down. Also, if you are going for the two sock approach, your shoes must be wide enough to handle the potential bulk.

Layer one: sock liners

Sock liners are a sound first layer. They are thin and typically designed to pull moisture away from the foot. As the intention is to wear liners under the second pair of socks, they are ideal for not compressing the toes. Look for liners made of silk, nylon, polyester, or wool. The fit should be snug. In a pinch, men’s dress socks would suffice.

Layer two: wool

Lightweight wool is an exceptional top layer. This will allow the warmth and moisture protection. Heavy wool socks are available for purchase but will add thickness to shoes, whereas lightweight wool will still maintain the warmth without the bulk.

Option: doubled-layered socks

hiking shoes and socks

Want the option of doubling up your socks without the inconvenience? Doubled-layer socks are your answer. These socks have built-in liners focused on pulling the moisture away from your feet.

Click here for a great article on moisture wicking socks

Other ways to keep your feet warm

Aside from merely doubling up your socks, or not doubling your socks and wearing quality non-cotton socks, is there anything you can do? Yes! There are still a handful of things you can implement to keep your feet warm.

Check your shoes

Make sure your shoes are appropriate for winter weather. Often shoes have breathable mesh uppers, primarily for athletic purposes. For winter days, trail shoes or boots are a better choice. Leather will provide more warmth and protection.

Insulate your shoes

No boots? Paper towels can help to wrap around your toe before putting on your shoe. This trick provides a layer between the mesh and the sock. The hint was derived from cyclists who place newspaper under their shirts before hitting downhill, blustery descends.

Not into a foot wrap? Grab some toe-warmers instead. With six-hours of heat, these toe warmers will protect against some wind if you have mesh shoes. Remember, they add bulk. Don’t compromise your circulation for the toe warmers.

hiking boots and socks drying out

Walk or run

Warm-up your extremities by exercise. Get up and move. Walking or running will allow the blood to flow to your fingers and toes, warming them up naturally. Hills and stairs will warm you up faster by working your body harder. Your toes, and your heart, will thank you.

Warm-up your core

It sounds strange to worry about warming up your middle to warm up your toes, but it’s true. For example, putting a heating pad on your lower back allows your blood vessels to open and more blood to reach your legs and feet. When your body’s core temperature drops, naturally, your body pulls blood from the extremities to warm the vital organs such as your heart, lungs, etc. By warming your core, you are sending the message to your body to send blood back to your fingers and toes.

Check for underlying health conditions

If cold feet seem to be a common concern, you can check with your medical doctor to check on potential underlying medical conditions. People with diabetes may have peripheral neuropathy. Those with heart disease may have a peripheral arterial disease which lowers circulation. A nerve disorder called tarsal tunnel syndrome compresses nerves by the ankle. Raynaud’s Phenomenon can block blood from flowing to fingers and toes. Don’t forget, if you cannot feel your feet, this could be a sign of hypothermia, and you need to seek medical attention right away.

Can both parties be right?

If you incorrectly layer your socks, you can decrease the ability of your body to send blood to your toes and feet. This restriction, in turn, cools down your feet. If you wear cotton or non-breathable socks and your feet sweat, holding in the moisture, you inadvertently have now caused your feet to cool.

On the other hand, if you properly layer and are considerate in picking a thin, moisture-wicking liner or first layer, layering can be an effective method for keeping the feet warm. Keep in mind, the same core concepts of non-cotton and keeping dry apply.

Test it out. Which one works best for you? Whatever way, just get outside in the crisp, fresh air. As the saying goes, “to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” Don’t let chilly feet cause you to pass up the beauty of the season.