Children’s Foot Care for Winter Months

by | Jan 8, 2021

Whether we’re buried under the snow or seeing much fewer flakes than we’re used to, winter weather can still bring some special challenges when it comes to keeping your child’s feet warm, comfortable, and in top condition.

Let’s go over some common problems that can get overlooked, as well as some simple ways to help ensure they don’t impede on any wintertime fun and activities.

kid sitting an playing in snow

Winter Shoe Check!

When it comes to winter footwear for your children, it’s easy to fall into one of two common traps:

  • You buy boots that are a bit too large, expecting your child to “grow into them” over time. But because those boots don’t actually fit, your child is much more likely to suffer from blisters, chafing, tripping, dragging, and even ankle injuries.
  • You keep using the same boots year after year, since it’s only for a few months at a time. But these boots can eventually become too small, and just because they are not frequently used doesn’t mean they won’t naturally degrade and lose support over time.

We know that a kid’s growing feet can strain the budget when it comes to shoes, but it’s always best for their foot health to use shoes and boots that properly fit their current foot size and provide full support – regardless of whether it’s just for a season.

Check your child’s winter footwear each year, ideally before the severe weather hits. If boots don’t fit, don’t try to force them – you need a new pair instead.

Keep Feet Warm Outdoors

Small feet that get chilly outdoors become very uncomfortable and even painful. At worst, frostbite can set in and cause real damage.

While the temperature is naturally a main concern, your child’s feet being wet can also have a major impact. Frostbite can happen in a surprisingly short amount of time when the feet are exposed to winter temperatures and moisture.

Warm, waterproof boots (that fit well!) are a must, but do not overlook good socks as well. Socks that help keep feet warm and wick moisture away from the skin can make an enormous difference in how your child’s feet feel at the end of a day outside.

Look for materials such as wool (especially Merino wool) that help keep feet comfortably warm while wicking away moisture and allowing the skin to breathe well. Some synthetic fibers are also up to the task of keeping feet warmer and dryer. Cotton, on the other hand, is a material you should avoid for winter trekking, as it tends to absorb moisture and has a very poor insulating value.

And, just like with shoes, make sure socks fit well. They should be a bit snug, but not too tight as to restrict circulation. Cutting off blood flow means cutting off your body’s own internal heating mechanism! Socks that are too large, however, will tend to bunch up uncomfortably in areas along the foot and not provide as much protective insulation.

a kid sliding down a snow covered hill

Warm Feet Properly Indoors

So what do you do if, despite best intentions, your child’s feet get soaked and very cold? When they come inside, they might tell you that their feet hurt or are numb.

Your first instinct might be to rub the feet vigorously to warm them up, but don’t do this. Such friction can cause damage to cold skin, especially if there is a risk of frostbite. Instead, follow these rules:

  • Remove any wet socks and other clothing, and gently pat the feet dry (again, do not rub). 
  • Start rewarming gradually. Cover the feet with warm blankets, and/or gently put on warm, dry socks. Do not use any sources of direct heat, such as putting the feet in hot water or placing them on or near heating pads, space heaters, fires, etc.
  • Keep your child calm and still. It might make sense to try to warm up faster by moving around more to increase circulation, but this could cause warming too quickly and become damaging.

Check your child’s skin carefully. If you see red or white patches, they may have a temporary form of frostbite (sometimes known as “frostnip”) that tends to go away during or shortly after the feet are fully rewarmed. 

If you find symptoms such as those above, check in on them again an hour after you begin warming, and every 30 minutes a few times after that. If you do not see any continued improvement, contact us right away or go to urgent care/the emergency room.

Also take swift action if you see any green, blue, or black coloring to patches of skin. Those tend to be signs of a more severe and deeper case of frostbite.

Have Safe Fun throughout the Winter

There is no reason not to go out and have some fun on winter days, as long as conditions are reasonable enough and your child has the right protection. The more your child can move and play safely during the winter, the better!

But if you do have any questions or concerns about winter’s effects on your child’s feet, or a problem arises that needs attention, please never hesitate to contact our Waukesha office. We’ll always be happy to help keep your family’s foot health at its best.

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