There are many reasons I prefer indoor activities like reading, drawing, and video games. I do not have to worry about my feet getting cold. I just sit on them until they’re good and warm. For people who prefer outdoor activities like fishing, skiing and riding motorcycles that is not an option. The old-fashioned thing to do was wear two, sometimes three pairs of thick socks. Today, heated insoles and socks are available. Which is better than the other?
Freaking Heated Socks, How Do They Work?
Heated socks run on the same kind of power the robot ballerina does. Batterie power! (Battery…it’s a ballet pun.) A battery causes an electrical current to run through the wiring all throughout the sock. It works much the same as an electric blanket only with portable battery power.
There is no standard size battery for heated socks but it would be best if you got something with replaceable or better yet rechargeable batteries to make them worth the money you sank into them. The heat level is adjustable, often by remote control. Some can even be adjusted from an app on your Smart Phone so there is no extra bulk. How is that for modern?
What About the Heated Insoles?
Heated insoles work on the same principle. The only difference is they focus only on the soles of the feet rather than the whole foot. While the heated socks can be worn indoors by themselves, heated insoles must be worn with shoes. Some heated insoles designed specifically for motorcyclists are powered by the motorcycle’s battery. Some heated insoles can be charged up like a cell phone. Both heated insoles and heated socks work by pumping in artificial heat to keep your feet warm.
The Benefits of Heated Insoles
If you really must go out in the cold, you do not want frostbite. On the other hand, you do not want your feet to get all sweaty. heated insoles keep your feet at a constant temperature. Exposing your feet constantly to warm, damp conditions can lead to trench foot. Trench foot is caused by the blood vessels in the foot constrict, depriving the foot of oxygen and vital nutrients. On a good day, trench foot will cripple you.
On a bad day, it will kill you. It is in your best interest to keep your feet warm and dry. Some models are designed to help you keep your balance, which may be important if you work on rooftops. A few fancier models radiate far-infrared waves through your foot. It’s supposed to prevent fatigue by reducing muscle contractions. Woo? Science? You decide.
The Benefits of Heated Socks
Heated insoles are great when you want to go out and play in the snow, but feet get cold indoors too. Some people just have poor circulation and could do with a little extra warmth. If you only plan to use your heated socks at home there are some that come with an AC adapter so you can just plug them into a wall outlet. Whether you plug them in or use batteries the heat can last for hours.
There are chemically heated ones, but they are not adjustable. The socks are enveloping, not just focusing on the sole. Depending on the length, the warmth may go all the way up to your calves and shins. Some heated socks will even wick away moisture. Do keep aware that because heated socks are a small market you will run into many inferior products. Read the reviews and look for companies that do it right.
Drawbacks of Heated Socks
For one thing, if you go with the plug-in type you will be limited to where you can go. Some models have wiring that is lumpy on the feet.
Drawbacks of Heated Insoles
Though they are nice and smooth, they are also nice and expensive. If you crunch the numbers, you will find the average heated insole cost about $128.54 where the average for a heated sock is currently only about $97.80. If you look at the median, it’s $99 for the insoles and $42.99 for the socks. What is more, insoles never seem to get a higher than mediocre rating from users. The socks rarely get five-star reviews themselves but rate decently.
And Now From The Peanut Gallery
Many people do not care about heated insoles. One complaint is they do not get the feet warm enough. The heated insoles are not so much meant for warming feet to keep them from being cold. They are designed to not get the feet so hot thus they sweat. You will still need to wear good socks with your heated insoles.
Some people highly suggest sock liners in conjunction with heated insoles or socks. These are thin socks meant primarily for preventing blisters. They also wick away moisture. They are a necessity for long hikes. If you are looking for insulation, wool is best. They need not be very thick as all unless you are going into sub-freezing temperatures. (What, are you Doctor Zhivago?)
It is recommended that they be longer than the hiking boots for adjustability. You could try an old football player’s trick and use pantyhose. They provide warmth and compression without being bulky. Merino wool is also a favorite. Putting antiperspirant on feet to keep them from sweating is commonly recommended.
Experienced heated sock users will tell you that if you layer on the socks that will crowd your boots and make them too tight. Either wear thinner socks or bigger boots. Are you by chance wearing these while ice fishing or in a deer blind?
If you are standing on a cold surface for a long time you should have something between it and your feet. Bring a square of carpet to stand on. Many outdoors people swear by bunny boots. While warm, they do not offer much in the way of traction.
As for which one is better, the consensus seems to be that the insole is better for skiing and any other use where you would need less bulk. Heated socks are good for when you are not worried much about a little extra bulk.
Keeping Them Clean And Cared For
You can clean heated insoles with water as long as you do not immerse the battery plug. If it has a USB interface, keep that out of water too. You can wipe them down with a damp cloth. Soaps and other fluids are not recommended. As many seem to be dustproof, it may not even be very necessary.
Air dry them completely before use but do not use artificial means such as blow driers or radiators. Some insoles can be trimmed down for size, but only do that where indicated. Your heated insoles must be stored in a cool, dry place with the power turned off.
Heated socks are fairly durable but do not put them in the washing machine with your other socks. They must be hand-washed so that the wiring does not get damaged. You can immerse them in warm water mixed with a bit of mild detergent. Rinse them slowly and squeeze them out well. Wringing them can damage the wiring. You can then lay them out to dry or hang them. You can use a fan to speed things up but not direct heat.
A Few Words On Raynaud’s Syndrome
Some people have Raynaud’s Syndrome, a condition where feet and hands may become oversensitive to cold and the capillaries completely empty of blood. It is more than just cold fingers and toes, though that is a major symptom. Other symptoms include color changes in the skin in response to cold or stress and pain or numbness upon warming or relief of stress.
Your skin should never look like it belongs on a corpse. Getting warm should feel pleasant. Women are more likely to suffer Raynaud’s possibly due to estrogen. It also tends to affect people who live in colder climates, possibly because it’s triggered more often in such conditions.
This disease is not disabling but it can affect the quality of life. Someone who is hypersensitive to cold may greatly benefit from heated socks or insoles. Medical attention is required if a sore or infection appears on the affected toes or fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, smoking and other damage to the arteries and tissues can aggravate the disease. A blocked artery can lead to ulcers and gangrene. The best way to prevent these attacks is to bundle up and keep cold from reaching hands and feet.
Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you decide whether you want heated insoles or heated socks.
Will my socks catch on fire if they get too hot?
If made correctly and used correctly heated socks should not catch on fire. There are some models that come with an automatic shut-off mechanism that will keep the temperature from getting hot enough to burn.
Can heated socks be used while jogging or other sports?
This is not a good idea. Heated socks would be uncomfortable for physically taxing winter sports. Such activities should warm feet up unless you have very poor circulation. The heated insole is recommended for skiing and hiking. The socks are good for hunting and fishing, activities that require staying still for a long time.
Are they safe?
Assuming you did not buy them out of the back of someone’s car, they should be. Most heated clothing uses voltage just high enough to warm your extremities a little. This reduces the risk of electric shock.
Many will even have a backup mechanism that will cause them to shut off in the event of mishap or malfunction. Many have surge protectors as a safety feature. Even if somehow you managed to get soaking wet while wearing your heated socks or insoles you should be safe.
Are the apps user-friendly?
They tend to be. The download is simple and the use is fairly self-explanatory. As long as your phone is charged you can use this instead of remote control.
Whether heated socks or heated insoles are better depends on your expectations and intentions. You may want the sleekness of insoles if you plan to be on your feet a lot as in skiing. Socks are better if you are taking a more sedentary activity such as motorcycle riding. If money is an object, heated socks are the better option. Both are safe and effective, provided that you know what you are doing.