Skiing is an exciting and rewarding sport that we’ve lucky enough to have lots of access to here in New Hampshire! If you’re planning to boot up and hit the slopes this winter, here are some tips to keep in mind and make sure your feet stay healthy.

Try your hardest not to put your foot in a cold ski boot! Don’t leave your boots in the car overnight or for an extended period of time so that the boot will be warm when you put it on. Not only will it be harder to get your foot into the boot when the plastic is cold and stiff but your toes could be cold before you even get on the lift.

Buckling your ski boot might seem simple, but there are some ways to ensure your foot is as secure as possible without causing pain.

1. Make sure the whole boot is unbuckled and unstrapped, and that you’re wearing a thin, dry ski sock.

2. Slide your foot into the boot. Make sure your heel is back as far as it goes by tapping your heel on the ground a few times.

3. Secure the strap on the top of the boot so that the tongue of the boot is sitting securely against your shin.

4. If there are two upper buckles, secure the bottom one first.  This buckle keeps your ankle in place while you ski and is the most important buckle on the boot!  Then buckle the top buckle, and keep adjusting both vertical buckles until your ankle feels secure inside of the boot. When you stand up and flex the boot forward, your ankle and calf should feel supported and shouldn’t move too much.

5. Next tighten the two lower buckles. These should be snug, but your foot shouldn’t hurt.

6. Finally, go back and adjust the power strap if need be; while you tighten the buckles the

If your toes feel tingly or your lower leg is uncomfortable, take a few minutes to readjust and loosen your boot to ensure proper circulation. That said, it’s important that your ski boot itself and the buckles are snug and supportive of your foot and leg. Loose boots can cause a litany of injuries including toe pain, bruised shins, or allow too much movement around the ankle, increasing the potential for a strains.

Be sure to trim your toenails before spending the day skiing. I recommend trimming your nails straight across, insuring that they are shorter than the tip of your toes.  Elongated nails can cause the nails to bump against the end of your ski boots throughout the day. You may not be able to feel the trauma as it actually happens, but if you have long toenails, chances are you can feel the effect after you remove your boots. Microtrauma may disrupt the nail matrix, causing ridging in your nails or even a small hematoma.  Significant cases may result in loss of the nail in its entirety.

It’s also important to put on a fresh pair of socks right before you put your feet into your ski boots.  Always change out of the socks that you wear into the lodge. Choose a sock with a wool material – keeping your feet both warm and dry – and that extends past the height of your boot.  A sock that ends mid-calf can cause skin irritation and chafing; you want a seamless fit underneath your boot. Remember – a thicker sock doesn’t mean a warmer sock!

If your toes are feeling cold, I recommend taking off your boot and sock when you take a break in the lodge.  I realize what a pain in the neck that may be, but chances are, they are not going to get any warmer unless you take action.  Look at your toes if they appear wrinkly and moist, or have a white appearance – that’s not good. Warm your feet by massaging them, holding them in your hands, or wrapping them in a warm/dry piece of clothing.  It is so important to put on a dry pair of socks before putting your feet back in your boots.

Toe warmers are an awesome tool. The proper way to apply the warmers is against your sock, not against your skin.  Place them on the bottom of your foot, never on top. If you are a person who has neuropathy, who doesn’t have feeling in their feet, use these foot warmers with caution, as you may not be able to detect if your feet are getting too hot.  In general, for those who have neuropathy, check your feet frequently when participating in cold, outdoor activities.

Keep these tips in mind, and enjoy your time on the slopes!

– Dr. Julie