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How can I keep my toes warm?

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How can I keep my toes warm?

Old 11-22-10, 08:44 AM
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How can I keep my toes warm?

The lowest temperature I'll ride in is 35 degrees. The few rides I've done this year at this temp has left me with very cold toes, but the rest of my feet are okay. I am wearing a mtn spd bike shoe and wool socks, and my commute is about an hour.

I've been reading about merino wool, toe covers, and booties. I will invest in a pair of merino wool socks if they will do a better job than standard wool, but I don't really want to get toe covers or booties. Is there a way to keep my toes warm with some special type of sock or sock combination without resorting to toe covers or booties?
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Old 11-22-10, 08:56 AM
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How much ventilation is there in the toes of your shoes? If the problem is cold air coming in, then you might be able to stop it with a second wind-blocking layer over your socks.

Another possibility is that the SPD pedal cleat plate is acting like a heat sink, pulling heat away from the ball of your foot and into the pedal and crank. An insulating sole insert may help.

I use booties over my shoes at below 32 degrees. Above, I just double up my socks and use some "casual" MTB shoes with minimal ventilation.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:11 AM
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I was using sandwich bags over my toes held on with a rubber band. I would clip in my SPDs right through the bag. That worked fairly well.

I finally got some wind blocking fabric booties. That made a huge difference. They really work. I use the booties up to about 50F (and I can tolerate them up to 60F if the day warms up). Try them on at the store to see if they fit. Booties are sized for road shoes, so mountain shoes might need a larger size.

The booties keep my feet dry if I run through puddles. Even though they aren't waterproof, the dampness stays outside my shoes.

My shoes were a half size too big, so my Defeet Blaze heavy wool socks aren't compressed down by a tight fit, but they still aren't warm enough without booties.

Last edited by rm -rf; 11-22-10 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:17 AM
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Get some SmartWool ski socks off Steep and Cheap. I picked up 5 pair for 9 bucks each.. you just have to catch the deal when it is running.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:19 AM
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I'm very sensitive to cold. Right at about 45 degree is where my toes get cold from my regular shoes. I found a pair if 1.5mm Neoprene diving sock along with my regular sock keeps the wind and chill out of my feet and toes without adding extra bulk. It also keep my feet dry in the rain. I'm also thinking of getting some thicker sock like the 3mm or 5mm and cut off the toe section and slip that into my shoes.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:26 AM
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I wear neoprene shoe covers over my summer cycling shoes.
I rode is single digits (F) with no problems.
Only problem is that the socks are wet after the ride, but I do feel cold.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:38 AM
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I have neoprene shoe covers. I can easily ride down to 25 degrees. I wear smart wool socks. Merino wool isn't any warmer than regular wool, just softer and less itchy. You can also do chemical toe warmers but that is probably overkill with shoe covers in 35 degrees. If the metal cleat is acting as a heat sink, then add a thin Dr. Scholls type insert. I added a memory foam insert to my road shoes and that does the trick.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:38 AM
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I'm going to try something with a conducting material to get heat from my feet/legs to my toes. I'm thinking of cutting a sheet of thin aluminum or using aluminum foil. I think it should work if I put the conducting layer between my sock and my boot's insulation layer.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan
I'm going to try something with a conducting material to get heat from my feet/legs to my toes. I'm thinking of cutting a sheet of thin aluminum or using aluminum foil. I think it should work if I put the conducting layer between my sock and my boot's insulation layer.
You can't be serious? Aluminum is a terrible heat conductor. Not to mention uncomfortable. Your own body is excellent at creating heat, all you need to do is trap it with an insulating layer.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:44 AM
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I ride with my SPD's in cold temps to 35-40 with Toe covers by Louis Garneau. The problem with MOST toe covers are that they are made for Road shoes. EXpect them to get pretty chewed up, but I touch them up with Duck tape.
As stated Shoe covers are good, but I tend to verheat in them and my feet sweat. A plastic bag over just the FRONT toe area will help
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Old 11-22-10, 09:44 AM
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At those temps I usually only wear a medium weight wool sock....unless it's a long ride, in which case I'll add some wind-stopper booties or toe covers.

The key is to have plenty of room in your shoes. If they are too tight, your toes are gonna get cold, no matter how many socks or covers you are using.

Finally, a piece of duct tape under the foot beds and over the cut-outs for your cleats can help too.
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Old 11-22-10, 09:58 AM
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I'd try two pairs of socks.

This is my first fall with clipless and I've managed well on cold mornings with just sandals in 30 deg. F weather. I've used a pair of heavy wool socks with a second pair of short cotton ones over them.

For the warmer afternoon rides home, I just took off the cotton socks. Cotton has a tighter weave, so I suspect it blocks wind better, but I don't really know. The wool is very warm for me and my feet don't get clammy. This said, I don't have a problem, in general, with cold feet.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:13 AM
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I suffered from this until I did:

Smartwool PHD socks - I'm not sure what's so magical about these socks vs other wool socks, but these things feel dry (key) even when soaking wet, and stay super warm.
Vapor barrier underneath socks- The classic newspaper plastic bags here work just fine. Feet barely sweat, stay warm, and the plastic blocks the wind/potential rain.

I know vapor barriers go against everything modern outdoor gear touts about breathe-ability, but try this out when the temp hits <40F.

I've thought about trying SealSkins against my skin for a vapor barrier, but they're too thick with wool socks to get a shoe on, so I think I'm going to save these for the warmer but rainy days.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
You can't be serious? Aluminum is a terrible heat conductor.
Aluminum is a good heat conductor (looks like it is at least 3x steel):
"Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 62% the conductivity of copper."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...conductivities
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal...imental_values

Originally Posted by slowandsteady
Not to mention uncomfortable. Your own body is excellent at creating heat, all you need to do is trap it with an insulating layer.
Yes I know my body is excellent at creating heat, that is why I want to siphon that heat from warm areas to my toes which are cold.

Anyways I haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know how it works out.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by jaidog
but I don't really want to get toe covers or booties. ?
you're asking for solutions but rejecting them?
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Old 11-22-10, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan
Aluminum is a good heat conductor Yes I know my body is excellent at creating heat, that is why I want to siphon that heat from warm areas to my toes which are cold.

Anyways I haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know how it works out.
heat doesn't conduct like electricity. The aluminum will radiate the heat out to the other side of the aluminum a few thousandths of an inch before it conducts it the many inches to your feet.

Your blood is the best transporter of heat to extremities, ensure good circulation and insulation and you'll have warm toes.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan
Aluminum is a good heat conductor (looks like it is at least 3x steel):
"Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 62% the conductivity of copper."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...conductivities
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal...imental_values



Yes I know my body is excellent at creating heat, that is why I want to siphon that heat from warm areas to my toes which are cold.

Anyways I haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know how it works out.

It won't work. Keep your core warm and your body will siphon all that heat via something called the circulatory system. It works better than aluminum foil......

There is a reason that you can place aluminum foil in a hot oven for hours, then remove it with your bare hands. It doesn't conduct heat very well. The kind of aluminum that they use in pots and pans is not the same as the kind used in foil.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
It won't work. Keep your core warm and your body will siphon all that heat via something called the circulatory system. It works better than aluminum foil......

There is a reason that you can place aluminum foil in a hot oven for hours, then remove it with your bare hands. It doesn't conduct heat very well. The kind of aluminum that they use in pots and pans is not the same as the kind used in foil.
That may be because the foil is extremely thin (and also has low specific heat), so cools very rapidly when removed from the heat source. That would have not much to do with conductivity. If you hold a lighter under one end of a long piece of foil is the other end hot? That is conductivity.

Anyways I'll use thicker stuff if it is necessary.
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Old 11-22-10, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by LeeG
heat doesn't conduct like electricity. The aluminum will radiate the heat out to the other side of the aluminum a few thousandths of an inch before it conducts it the many inches to your feet.
Ack... oh well... But wouldn't the foil reflect the heat back to my feet too? And since there's insulation on the other side, how much would really be lost?

Originally Posted by LeeG
Your blood is the best transporter of heat to extremities, ensure good circulation and insulation and you'll have warm toes.
I'll keep reading up on this. And keep trying stuff out.
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Old 11-22-10, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan
That may be because the foil is extremely thin (and also has low specific heat), so cools very rapidly when removed from the heat source. That would have not much to do with conductivity. If you hold a lighter under one end of a long piece of foil is the other end hot? That is conductivity.

Anyways I'll use thicker stuff if it is necessary.
No....I can literally remove the foil from my food while it is still in the oven with my bare hands. I can put the foil over top of my turkey to keep the skin from browning. It reflects the heat well.
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Old 11-22-10, 11:07 AM
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If you must...you could use something like this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_blanket
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Old 11-22-10, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by bijan
Ack... oh well... But wouldn't the foil reflect the heat back to my feet too? And since there's insulation on the other side, how much would really be lost?



I'll keep reading up on this. And keep trying stuff out.
the aluminum foil will provide an excellent conductor of heat to the cold air surrounding it, 1/1000" of an inch is a lot closer than 6". Since your blood is the source of the heat wouldn't it make sense to ensure it makes it to your toes and not radiate the heat away from your skin BEFORE it makes it to your toes? Your plan rests on removing heat from your skin and transporting it outside the body down to the toes. Insulate your foot/toe box and make sure your feet aren't cramped.
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Old 11-22-10, 12:12 PM
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Sidi Hydro GTX Winter Road Shoes w/Gore Tex & SmartWool PhD Sox.




Last edited by 2ndGen; 11-22-10 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 11-22-10, 12:22 PM
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size up shoes if you are adding thicker socks ,

you need circulation to your toes to keep them warming themselves ..

constricting circulation will not help.

Try liner socks , vapor barrier , maybe even put plastic bags over your feet
before you put them in socks , to keep moisture and heat in, as evaporating
moisture in damp socks is cooling..
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Old 11-22-10, 12:29 PM
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OP here, thanks for all of the suggestions. My shoes have mesh material which I presume is for ventilation -- great for summer, not so much for winter. Seems like the key to warmer toes is to block the wind. Using sandwich bags, covering shoe openings, and wearing neoprene socks have been mentioned above. I'll start with the quickest and cheapest solution (bags and covering shoe openings), and see how it works. If I still don't have happy toes, I'll search for neoprene socks. There were also two recommendations for SmartWool socks, one specifically for the PhD line. Without wind protection, will these SmartWool socks be that much warmer than my current medium-weight wool socks, or simply less itchy as another post mentioned above?
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