My feet are cold!

In south Louisiana, we canoe year-round. This morning it was about 50 degrees when I left at 7am. My boats are wet foot entry. Despite my neoprene boots, NRS Desperados, when I returned 2.5 hours later, the whole front half of each foot was numb. Loaded the boat on the van, drove 3/4 mile home, went inside - still numb. My feet were so cold that my tile bathroom floor, which generally feels like I’m standing on an iceberg, felt warm. Even after a shower, the tips of my toes were still tingly. How do you guys keep your feet warm?

You get used to it.
You get used to it. Dry suit helps.

Sounds like you might have borderline
Raynauds, like me. The most peripheral capillaries in the limbs tend to constrict.

I once tried to help a guy who had a bad case of Raynauds (bad enough that his fingertips were getting ulcerated) with biofeedback training, but the results were inconclusive.

A Canadian researcher, intending to help tundra mechanics to be able to remove mitts for short periods for exacting work, developed a classical conditioning method, where the hands were first in a jacket circulating cold water. Then the subject would recite some chosen mantra, while jacket flow was changed to very warm water. He was able to show that subjects could use their mantra to temporarily warm their hands.

Your hands, or feet, will not stay warm unless your body core is warm enough to get the periphery to dilate. So, even if your torso is comfy, you may need to wear more insulation, overall.

I’ve paddled LA streams maybe a dozen times now. I don’t paddle there, or here in Atlanta, unless the temperature is nearing 55 and the wind chill is low.

Get a pair of NRS Boundary boots
the worst your feet will get is a little clammy. Wear smart wool socks or any kind of Marino wool socks in them and you’ll be a happy paddler


Cold feet
We paddle all winter (Michigan).

I find that a piece of neoprene (about the size and thickness of a mouse-pad) glued to the floor right where your heels rest, provide a layer of insulation.


– Last Updated: Feb-09-13 7:50 PM EST –

SmartWool socks and room enough in the boots to wiggle
Feet stay toasty warm.

2nd Jack and Willie re Wool Socks
Good wool socks - merino or Smartwool - are one of creations gifts to man. They can help keep feet warm even when wet. I get ‘em at Costco - about $12.00 for three pairs.

And if you can also keep your feet reasonably dry, you’re absolutely golden for warmth. I have a pair of knee-high neoprene boots cut from the legs of a worn-out divers’ drysuit. Boots + merino socks = toasty warm feet - and the water’s a tad cooler here than in Louisiana…lol…

Kneeling or sitting?
My feet definitely get colder when kneeling than sitting - even with Chota Mukluk Lites & wool socks.

May Sound Crazy
but I have Muck Boots. In NH we paddle until it freezes and the when it let off we go back out. Gotta have some good boots. Muck Boots are the best I have found, I use the Artic style which I have found good to about 20 below and at a knee high boot it is good for getting in and out of boats even if there is mud. Just my .02.


I get the Sorels out when the temps get into the 20s. Those & good wool socks are good down to around 0. Below that it’s just cold.

and on that line of reasoning…
“Raynauds, like me. The most peripheral capillaries in the limbs tend to constrict.”

Or peripheral vascular insufficiency of some sorts. I’m gonna guess the top poster is maybe in his 50’s or so? This sounds like something that should be checked out. While this may manifest with cold feet, there could be other more systemic issues with his cardiovascular system.

Smart wool and Chota Mukluks
and I live in the south.

Yeah, he should bring it to his doctor’s
attention. Incipient diabetes, peripheral neuropathy.

But local vasoconstriction can be quite “behavioral”. The fingers on my mouse hand can get cold and tingly, and I don’t have any sign of carpal tunnel.

I would like to know whether he’s kneeling or sitting, and whether his wet suit boots have plenty of toe room.

Pressure points
I use the same shoes. One pair goes over bare feet when I wear a wetsuit. Another pair one size larger goes over drysuit “socks” which themselves fit over light wool socks.

The Desperado shoes sometimes leave part of the ball of my foot slightly numb. It’s almost a “funny bone” kind of feeling. Not enough to be bothersome, and only sometimes. My feet are not cold when that happens. I think there is an area that presses slightly in the wrong way. The fit is not that good for me. Maybe the same thing is happening with you.

Sounds to me like you had a case of frostnip, especially if you noted any pallor (paleness) of the skin of your forefoot.

Fifty degree temperature is rather warm to experience this but some folks are physiologically predisposed. I would definitely agree with wearing some type of insulating sock (wool or synthetic) and I would take along a dry pair or two as well as a towel to dry your feet on if necessary, and a change of shoes to put on at the take out.

I would not encourage you to just get used to it. I have seen many people who had repeated episodes of frostnip (who never had full-blown frostbite) develop very severe cold sensitivity as time went on, or later in life.

What boat?
Let’s assume that you do not have any medical conditions - read above.

Here are possibilities -

  • boat is a bit too tight, if you are paddling a kayak
  • you might not be relaxing your feet during the stroke
  • perhaps you are not generating enough heat to keep you warm? Perhaps your pace is a bit leisurely?
  • shoes are too tight

    My feet get cold easily, I find that combination of NRS kickers, wool socks and neoprene socks keep them warm enough.

Wow - you guys are awesome!
I never expected such a response! OK, more info: I’m 60, and I have had pre-ventricular contractions in the past, but they are presently under control, per my cardiologist, but I will talk to him about the issue of cold feet. I’m paddling a 10.5’ pack canoe/double paddle, and my gps said I averaged 3.78 mph for 2.5 hours. I have had a “cold feet” problem for as long as I can remember. I was wearing the neoprene boots over bare feet, nylon running pants, a long-sleeve cotton t-shirt, and a goretex rain jacket, with a wool stocking cap on my head and gloves. There was wind, though I did alter course to hide from it when possible. When I got back, my t-shirt was soaked with sweat, so I think I’d have been uncomfortable with more insulation on top.

My extremities always get cold, fast
So if I have to work outside, or I go biking for an hour or two, I use toasty toes or foot warmers in my shoes. I’ve never tried it but maybe using both at the same time will keep your feet warm.

New Reply
I read your additional details, and then I did what I should have done before replying the first time. I looked up the NRS Desparado boots, and after seeing exactly what they are, I deleted my earlier reply because now it’s clear to me that your boots are just a really bad choice for a person who’s feet tend to get cold easily. In my deleted post I said that I have trouble with cold hands and feet too, but I’ll add that wet neoprene is the very worst possible thing to have on my hands. In neoprene gloves my hands will become numb and useless in just a few minutes if it’s raining and 45 degrees, but wool gloves in the same soaking-wet situation will keep my hands warm even below freezing. That’s how terrible wet neoprene is for my hands, and I bet it’s doing the same thing to your feet. Ditch the neoprene wet shoes and get some decent waterproof boots and good socks (I prefer wool, but with a synthetic liner sock so I don’t have to wash the wool socks as often).

For your use, I’d recommend against the floppy, sock-like boots that most kayakers wear, and get something with a decent sole and laces or straps to cinch them tight around your ankles and instep. They’ll be far more versatile. I never hesitate to walk a few miles in my lace-up Chota boots, but sure wouldn’t do so in a loose and flimsy kayaking boot. Such boots are expensive though, and a cheap alternative that I used for several years is knee-high “Tingley” boots (available at any store that sells work clothes) over regular lightweight hiking shoes (again with synthetic and wool socks).

If your foot-warmth problems turn out to be too severe to cure with proper boots and socks, you can get chemical warming packs shaped to fit under the balls of your feet. I’ve never tried them, but the basic square heat packs put out a surprising amount of heat, for a few hours. I’d be really surprised to find the boot-warmers for sale in Louisiana (like trying to buy “real” winter clothing in Florida), but you can order them online from any sporting-good store.

footbrace pressure?
Since it sounds like you were sitting (rather than kneeling), were your feet pressing hard against foot braces? That might cut down on circulation and add to feelings of numbness and cold.

I too live in south Louisiana and have feet that get cold easily. The only times I’ve worn my NRS desperado shoes in the winter is when there was a dock for launching/landing so feet could stay out of the water. For “wet foot” locations my favorite winter footwear is Chota mukluk lights. After a number of years mine have developed small leaks, but when new they didn’t leak at all and they’ve worked well for keeping my feet warm. If putting aquaseal on the seams doesn’t stop the leaks I’ll probably buy a new pair of the same style. For cool days I wear them with thin liner socks and on colder days with wool socks. As one who paddles kneeling much of the time, I like the simple design without laces. There is no hardware to press against the top of feet or ankles that are resting on the floor of the canoe.