How to choose winter shoes? Note: You don’t need two pairs of socks

Keep enough room in mind and try out special membranes. We’ve gathered advice from physiotherapists on how to choose healthy, comfortable and warm winter shoes. You don’t need two pairs of socks (and they might even be bad for you).

Ten tips for choosing healthy winter shoes

For those who don’t have the time to read the whole article, here’s a summary:

  1. Toe space. Look for winter shoes with a wide toe box to allow your toes to move freely. 
  2. Freedom. You don’t have to constrict the ankle. Shoes that give your feet freedom are safer. 
  3. More space = more stability. Narrow shoes are dangerous when walking on ice. 
  4. Flexible material. Shoes with supple outsole help you grip terrain better and prevent slipping. 
  5. Slip-resistant soles. Don’t rely solely on tread patterns, ask for slip-resistant materials. 
  6. Breathability. Look for winter shoes with a membrane or natural materials. 
  7. Waterproofness. Regular leather can get wet. Opt for more durable materials or waterproof your shoes. 
  8. Adaptable material. Even your calf needs enough room. Choose lacing or neoprene. 
  9. Durability. Avoid leatherette and keep in mind that salt will damage real leather. 
  10. Extra warmth. A winter insole and fur lining will help.

High-heeled tall boots are a thing of the past. Health is the latest trend

Have you also noticed? High heels are becoming less common, especially in winter.  The younger generation wants comfort because that’s where the real beauty is.

According to a study of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, high heels can damage cartilage and tendons and even contribute to the development of heel spurs.

In addition, wearing tall boots with high heels puts pressure on the front part of the foot and overloads it. Toes are crammed in the toe box. They can’t move, blood doesn’t flow through them, so they freeze

Feet in nylons and winter barefoot Chelsea boots

Heels are out, comfort is in. How about the stylish Chelsea boots?

So, this winter, forget about heels. Choose healthy shoes in which you won’t freeze—and won’t slip on ice. Stilettos have been out for a long time anyway.

Reading tip: We know why high-heels are making your back hurt (and we’ve got bad news)

Safety? „Just don’t bind your foot,“ advises an expert.

We asked physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera what is the myth that influences us when buying winter shoes. According to him, it’s the misconception that we need to tighten the foot to keep it safe:

„People tend to imagine a safe shoe as one that tightens the ankle and supposedly reinforces the foot. In reality, this impairs the foot’s function,“ says the physiotherapist.

If you’re worried about slipping, look for winter shoes that free your feet. A foot that can move freely responds to slippery surfaces with ease and utilizes the necessary muscles when needed.

a women in a pair of Ahinsa shoes winter ankle boots

Safe winter shoes don’t immobilize the ankle. The material is flexible to allow the foot to move freely.

So, according to physiotherapists, you can recognize safe shoes as follows:

  1. They are spacious and don’t constrict the foot.
  2. Their wide sole provides stability. 
  3. The sole is slip-resistant.

What to focus on when choosing winter footwear?

✔️ Shape: Wide toe box and plenty of room

You can recognize healthy winter shoes by their shape. Does the shoe narrow towards the toe? Take it off, quickly. We’re not just talking about extremely pointed tall boots, but also about regular winter shoes that don’t respect the shape of your feet.

Focus on a wide, round toe box. It corresponds with the shape of your foot.

To keep warm in winter, you need to move. That also applies to your toes. When you squeeze them into a narrow toe box, you immobilize them, slowing down blood circulation. Put on a pair of spacious shoes and see how your feet start moving and warm up.

Fun fact: Do you wear two pairs of socks? That might be one of the reasons you feel cold. In already tight shoes, your toes are even more restricted. We discussed this topic in our article, Why do your feet get cold in the winter?

That’s why thick socks aren’t ideal either. For wintertime, we recommend warmer socks that are not too thick and don’t pull your toes together. Like these ones, made from bamboo.

Man holding Ahinsa shoes winter barefoot boots with a wide toe box

You can recognize healthy shoes by their wide toe box.

✔️ Sole: You won’t recognize a slip-resistant shoe at first glance

Do you know how to identify slip-resistant shoes? By the tread pattern, you think? Way off the mark. It comes down to the sole material. Even shoes with high soles and a pattern like from a tractor tire can slip on ice.

That’s why you should ask the manufacturer or distributor which shoes have been tested for slip resistance. These will be shoes with soles made from special high-grip materials.  We had our Ahinsa shoes independently tested for slip resistance on both dry and wet surfaces.

Wide toe box = more stability. Look for shoes with an anatomical shape. Their sole is wider, providing you with better stability.

Our tip: Irbis Snow boots with the winter Vibram Gumlite sole don’t slip on snow or ice.

woman in white barefoot Irbis Snow boots
Irbis Snow boots will have your back even in snow. And they are incredibly warm.

Fun fact: Wondering about how a slip-resistant sole is actually tested? There are independent organizations for that, such as the Czech Institute for Testing and Certification. They’ve tested our soles and found that they are reliable on both dry and wet surfaces.

✔️ Material: Leather needs care, artificial materials are more than just leatherette

Are you one of those that believe high-quality winter shoes can only be made from leather? That’s not the case anymore. Synthetic materials are no longer just standard leatherette. For example, at Ahinsa shoes, we use the CF+ microfiber which looks like leather but has better qualities. So, let’s compare it to actual leather.

table comparing the properties and functions of materials

If you, by any chance, do prefer leather, don’t forget to waterproof it and take care of it regularly. It’s susceptible to wear and tear.

Among other winter materials, we’ve found neoprene and water-resistant fabric to be effective. We don’t recommend classic leatherette—it is cheap, but it won’t survive until next winter. Plus, it’s extremely non-breathable.

✔️ Water resistance: Waterproofing will help the material

You know what’s worse than freezing toes in winter? Wet freezing toes. So, this year, get shoes that don’t get wet right away. However, it’s not enough to get waterproof material. Water can run through the seams or around the tongue. That’s why we recommend:

  • Ask the manufacturer or retailer if the shoes really are water-resistant.
  • Waterproof before the first time you wear them, and after washing the shoes.

Bear in mind that the majority of traditional winter shoes are not entirely waterproof. To make them so, the manufacturer would have to consider, for example, special seam welding. That’s how we came up with our new winter snow boots.

Our tip: Irbis Snow boots will keep you warm and dry

a woman in barefoot Irbis Snow boots

Durable microfiber and water-resistant fabric. These shoes will keep you warm and dry.

✔️ Space for calves: Are you familiar with neoprene?

If you have narrow or, conversely, wide calves, you’ve probably stopped eyeing tall boots. Well, you can start again, because we know which ones will fit you. Two options have worked for us:

Neoprene is adaptable, so it will fit your calf as well. It wraps around it, and is able to stretch when needed.

Our tip: Tall boots with neoprene. They’ll fit you well—and look great on you.

A woman in a skirt in Ahinsa shoes barefoot tall boots with neoprene on the calf

Neoprene wraps around your calf and adapts to it.

✔️ Breathability: Look for winter shoes with a membrane

Do you know when your feet are bound to get wet? When you put on non-breathable shoes. Even in winter, feet sweat and need something to wick the moisture away. How to achieve that?

  • Go for breathable materials. Leather, fabric, special artificial materials.
  • Ask for membranes. We use them in all our winter boots with fur.
  • Put on socks made from natural materials like bamboo or cotton.

You might be wondering, what’s the special membrane good for? Its purpose is to wick moisture away from your feet and keep it from getting inside the shoe. These membranes include Gore-Tex, for example, which is very popular with winter shoes.

Our tip: Barefoot zip-up boots with fur and a membrane. They’ll keep you warm and dry.

a woman in a skirt and Jaya barefoot Tall Boots with fur

The fur lining keeps you warm, the membrane keeps your feet dry.

✔️ Warmth: Add a fur lining and insole

You already know the rule for people that are sensitive to the cold: Provide your feet with enough space so that your toes get better blood flow. But what else can you do to make it easier for yourself if you’re really cold-blooded?

Look for warm winter boots with fur—with an ethical fur, ideally, for which no animal had to suffer. You can find winter insoles from the same material to keep you warm from below.

Our tip: Tara Winter sneakers with fur lining suit both your style and the winter weather

a man in the Tara winter sneakers

Sneakers on the outside, fur on the inside.

✔️ Size: Perfect winter shoes should be slightly larger

You can shop for winter boots online. However, take your time and inspect the size chart. Then, measure your feet carefully, and don’t forget to add in some wiggle room, i.e. the spare room in the toe box—about 0.5 cm to 1 cm of space in front of your toes. Thanks to the wiggle room, your foot can naturally contract and stretch during movement.

How to measure your feet correctly? You’ll need a tape measure / ruler and a box, or some other flat object.

  1. Stand with your heel against the wall. 
  2. Put the box in front of your toes so that it is touching the longest toe. 
  3. Put some pressure on your foot. 
  4. Measure the distance between the heel and the longest toe.

Go for the reliable choice. Find out whether or not you can exchange the shoes for free. We’ll replace the shoes at lightning speed and cover the shipping costs of the new pair for you.

Man and woman in Ahinsa shoes winter barefoot boots

The wiggle room applies to both men and women. Thanks to the extra space, the feet can move naturally.

Barefoot shoes in winter? Yes, you’ll finally be warm

If you care about your health, you’ve probably come across winter barefoot shoes. What do you think—can they keep you warm in winter? Yes, definitely!

You can recognize a pair of good winter barefoot shoes mainly by their wide toe box and flexible materials. Your feet move naturally, which keeps them warm. You’ll soon find out that you don’t need an additional pair of socks.

Your feet might get a bit chilly when you stand for a long time—like in a line for a cup of hot mulled wine. For such cases, we add winter insoles with fur to our winter barefoot shoes.

➡️ Why are barefoot shoes so popular? There is a whole lot of reasons:

  • Feet are not squeezed in barefoot shoes. You prevent bunions, flat feet and heel spurs. 
  • You keep warm by moving freely. Blood circulates properly in your feet, keeping them from getting cold. 
  • Your stability improves. A wider sole and better contact with the ground keep you on your feet, even on ice. 
  • Each step brings you joy. Free foot massage at every step. 
  • You strengthen the muscles of the foot. You use them more than in traditional narrow shoes. 
  • You straighten up. Natural muscle tension extends from the free feet through the knees and hips all the way to the back.
  • You boost your immunity. We described this in the article Taking your shoes off for health?
  • You activate the pelvic floor muscles. Read more about that in our article Why do barefoot people have better sex?

Choose your healthy shoes. Warm, comfortable and stylish.

Extra tip: For making shoes smell good in winter

Why do your shoes ”scent” the entire hallway after a winter trip? It’s not your fault. Even in winter, feet sweat and winter shoes often don’t let the moisture out. That’s why odor-producing bacteria thrive inside them.

What can you do about it? 

  • Choose roomy shoes. When your feet aren’t constricted, they don’t sweat as much. 
  • Insist on a breathable material or membrane. 
  • Address fungal infections and other skin conditions before winter. 
  • Let your shoes air out and dry thoroughly every time
  • Wear socks made from bamboo or some other natural material.

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