The one inescapable truth about outdoor activities is that your feet get cold. Whether you’re skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, hunting or just shoveling the walk your poor feet usually take the brunt of the freezing temperatures. In the past the only way we had to deal with this sorry state of affairs was to grin and bear it.
Thankfully, those days are over. Because now we have heated socks to envelope our feet in a pocket of warmth and comfort. No more borderline frostbite. No more toes so cold you can’t move them. No more kicking your boots against the trees to try and get the circulation going again.
Heated socks are extremely useful and we’ve assembled the 10 best heated socks for you right here.
1. Global Vasion Heated Socks w/Rechargeable Battery
Global Vasion has gone the extra mile to ensure their socks make up for not being 100% wool by incorporating 3 layer construction that keeps the cold out and the comfort in. The outermost layer blocks the wind, the mid-layer contains the heating element and the inner layer is a mix of wool, cotton and Spandex.
The Spandex pulls the sock in tight to your feet and ensures you get optimal benefits from the heating element. We also love the fact that there’s a built in pocket for the battery pack. That way it’s not moving around inside your socks while you walk. Warm as toast and built to last.
2. Snow Deer Heated Socks
Snow Deer Heated Socks are light and comfortable and powered by a pair of 7.4V rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. There are 3 separate heat settings that are color coded so you can always tell easily what setting you’re on. On low you’ll get around 7 hours of toastiness out of these socks. More if you turn them off occasionally.
The material here is a blend of polyester, elastane for a snug hold and colmax. Colmax itself is a blend of wool, cotton and other materials and does a great job wicking away moisture and staying warm and dry. The socks are very breathable and feature padded heels and toes and there’s a 1 year limited warranty.
3. Alphaheat Heated Socks
We like these socks a lot because they’re naturally warm, very comfortable and very affordable. They’re a great choice for spring, fall and light winter camping but not really ideal for icy cold conditions. That said they feature 3 layer construction similar to the Global Vasion socks we looked at earlier.
The windbreaking layer is up top, the heating elements in the middle layer and a poly/fleece blend against your skin for lightweight comfort. If we have an issue with them it’s that the pack to hold the 3 AA batteries protrudes in a rather clumsy way. As such it’s almost certain you’ll catch on them from time to time if you’re hiking. If you can ignore that inconvenience they’re a good value.
4. Autocastle Heated Socks
These Autocastle Heated Socks are powered by 2 3.7V rechargeable li-ion batteries that will provide nearly 7 hours of continuous use when set to low. If you turn them off from time to time (as you should) you may get 10 hours out of a full charge.
They’re great for ski boots, hiking boots, snowboard boots and more. And the discrete way the L-i battery pack tucks away inside the sock means there won’t be any tripping over yourself on the trail. They feature a poly/cotton/Spandex blend that’s durable and flexible and they come in 4 vibrant colors to suit every taste. Well-made with plenty of reinforcement in heel and toe.
5. Sun Will Heated Socks
The Sun Will Heated Socks have an old school look that speaks to their old school value. They’re powered by a pair of 7.4V lithium polymer batteries that won’t let you down on the coldest days. They’ll provide up to 6.5 hours of continuous heating when set to0 low.
They have 3 settings so you can pick whichever level of warmth you need at the moment. And the battery pack is tucked in close to your calf so as not to interfere with your normal gait. These are great for skiing, snowboarding or winter hiking. Ice fishermen will also appreciate them as will hunters. The heating elements are reliable and efficient and they come with a replacement guarantee.
6. Lenz Products Unisex Heated Socks
These high performance outdoor socks are made from a polyester/polyamide/polypro blend that’s light as a spring breeze. There’s also a fair amount of elastane woven in to ensure they stay snugly wrapped around your feet so that the lithium-ion batteries can do their heating thing. They feature full Bluetooth control so you can monitor and adjust from your smartphone, instead of having to stop and adjust things manually.
As long as you have plenty of battery life they’ll serve you well in any conditions. The thing is that should the battery die and the temperature plummet they’re going to need a lot of help keeping you warm. So if you’re going backcountry with these make sure you have thick wool backups, just in case.
7. Volt 3V Heated Socks
The Volt 3V Heated Socks are light and effective and extend right up over the top of your calf. We appreciate that because some heated socks that only go mid-calf can slide down into your boot under the weight of the battery pack. Not these. You get your choice of 3 settings powered by two 3.7 Volt lithium-ion batteries.
You also get a wireless remote and wall charger among the accessories. The socks use the Zero Layer Heat System that places all the heating coils under your feet and banks on the principle that heat rises. You’re going to pay more for these but if you’re an ice fisherman or hunter you’ll probably think it money well spent.
8. Warmawear Battery Heated Socks
These heated socks have been getting something of a bad rap lately and in all honesty we’re not sure exactly why. They’re comfortable and well made, they stay up and they provide you two ways to optimize warmth. The first is the lithium battery powered ceramic heating element. The second is a pocket in the top of each foot into which you can slide heat packs.
The effect when both are in play is quite remarkable and toasty warm. If we have our own bone to pick with these socks it’s not about their effectiveness, it’s about the battery pack that hangs off the side like an ill-fitting backpack.
9. Flambeau Men’s Heated Socks
Flambeau markets their heated socks as menswear but really, socks are socks. Especially in the wintertime when they’re tucked away beneath multiple layers of clothing. That said, the materials here are a comfortable, lightweight blend of wool, polyester and (gulp!) cotton. That means they’re comfy and cozy but not made for 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
More for average winter weather that’s hovering around freezing. Still, the socks are very well made and the heating element is powered by 2 3.7 volt lithium-ion batteries. So they’ll kick out the heat and keep kicking it out for most of the day. The heating wires are integrated in a discrete fashion and never impede comfort and the socks come up to mid-calf so they’ll clear your boots.
10. Turtle Fur Lectra Sox Wader Socks
The final pair of heated socks on our list is from Turtle Fur. These are the only true wader socks on our list and they fulfill that role admirably. They’re a genuine wool blend, run on 2 D-cell batteries (not so great except they aren’t strapped to your legs but to your belt) and provide up to 8 hours of continuous use on low.
They sport a classic look that goes with any type of winter footwear and they’re designed to fit both men and women with equal aplomb. The icing on the cake is that they’re very affordable. Hunters take note! For anyone up to 6’ 2” tall.
What are Heated Socks?
Heated socks are exactly what they sound like. Standard winter socks that have heating elements built right into them. In most cases the heating element is powered by a either standard 9V or AA battery. But in an increasing number of cases the power is provided by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (1). These are lighter and typically hold a charge longer than standard alkaline batteries. Especially in cold weather.
Different brands and models feature different types of heating elements. Some will target specific areas like the sole or the toes and arch. While others will have heated wires coursing through most of the sock. You need to be careful when selecting heated socks though. Because not all are made to be worn while snowboarding or ice climbing or during other types of intensive activity. If that’s your intention make sure the ones you buy are up to the challenge.
How Long Will Heated Socks Stay Heated?
Because your new heated socks are powered by batteries and not plugged into a wall socket they’re only going to stay warm for a set amount of time. You need to take this into consideration before you buy and before you head out into the woods on a prolonged pursuit of a 12 point buck.
In most cases you’ll enjoy anywhere from 1 to 5 hours from your heated socks. Depending on the type of battery used, the number of batteries used and how high or low you set the heat. As we mentioned above you’ll usually get more life out of a lithium-ion battery. And if you bring an extra or extras with you you’ll be able to stay out all day with toasty warm feet.
Keep the following tips in mind to ensure you get as much life out of your batteries as possible:
- Unplug when you can – If your feet are nice and warm it doesn’t make sense to keep draining the battery. Switch the socks to “off” and unplug the connector from the control box. The reason for unplugging them too is because if you don’t they’ll still consume electricity, just like phone chargers and many other devices (2).
- Turn to “low” when in use – Do your feet really need to be so hot that they’re sweating inside your socks? We’ll answer that for you, “No”. The only need to be warm enough to be comfortable. With that in mind avoid setting your socks to “high”. By setting your socks to0 low instead of high you’ll get anywhere from 50 – 200% longer life out of them.
- Don’t wait until the battery is dead to recharge – With lithium-ion batteries in particular it’s important you don’t let them discharge completely if possible (3). So if you have a little time while sitting around the campsite plug your rechargeable battery into your portable power pack so that it’s fully charged when you really need it.
- Keep an eye on the battery indicator – A lot of today’s best heated socks have a built in low power indicator. Keep an eye on it. If you don’t have any way of recharging your socks but your feet are acceptably warm and the battery is low, turn the socks off and disconnect the power cord from the control box.
Also remember that extreme cold will affect the performance of all batteries. Lithium batteries for instance will often register as dead in the extreme cold even if they’re not (4). The best way to avoid the unhappy situation of compromised battery performance is to keep the battery itself as warm as possible. And the best way to do that is to keep it as close to your body as possible.
What Should You Look for in Heated Socks?
When looking for a good pair of heated socks keep the following in mind:
- Material – Wool socks are almost always a better choice than synthetic materials and for a number of good reasons (5). The thing is, with heated socks manufacturers tend to use less expensive cotton/poly blends because, after all, the heating element compensates for the lack of wool. But it’s not like synthetics are without an upside. For instance, they’re usually lighter than wool, they can be far less irritating if you have sensitive skin, they’re cheaper and most of them dry pretty quick after getting wet. If you’re planning on spending serious time outside in sub-freezing temperatures though, you’ll want to have some wool socks with you as backup.
- Battery life – Alkaline batteries typically won’t perform as well as lithium-ion batteries in the cold (6). Especially if the battery is exposed to the frigid air. Alkaline batteries are also going to be heavier than lithium-ion batteries. And there is the possibility that some alkaline batteries might even burst if the temperature drops to -10F or lower. Then again, no batteries are going to perform particularly well at those temps.
- Design of the socks – Ideally you want your heated socks to extend up and over the calf. Or at the very least, to mid-calf. If you plan on skiing or hiking in your heated socks you’ll also want them to offer a little padding and some arch support as well. This type of structured sock will help prevent your feet from succumbing to fatigue over the course of a long day.
- Adjustable temperature – Always look for heated socks that allow you to set the temperature. Socks that only offer one fixed temperature are going to drain the batteries and leave you with cold feet after an hour or so. The greater the adjustability the better. Though even just “low” and “high” are better than one fixed temperature.
- Remote control – Some, not all, heated socks will allow you to control them remotely. Some will have a separate control unit that can be carried in your pocket. While others will allow you to adjust the temperature via a smartphone app. This type of control is a luxury to be sure. They are socks after all, and not garage doors or a home security system. But it can be nice to have remote control if you don’t want to stop and dig out the controller to adjust it by hand.
- Price – Obviously because of the built in heating element your heated socks are going to cost more than regular socks. Just how much more they cost will vary, depending on the type of battery, the quality of the materials, whether the socks are remote controllable and so forth. Only you can decide how much warm feet are worth to you.
Will I Be Electrocuted?
Some people wonder if they’re in danger of being electrocuted by wearing heated socks. While on the surface that seems like a perfectly reasonable concern the fact is there nothing to worry about. First of all, there isn’t a single documented case of someone winding up in the hospital because of an electrical problem with their heated socks. Secondly, although they’ll warm up your feet, they’ll never raise the temperature to the point where they would burn your skin.
Now some folks might have more sensitive skin than others. That’s just a fact. But even they should be able to wear heated socks without worrying. If the highest setting is uncomfortable simply turn the socks down to the low setting. Even better, if you have sensitive skin and are worried about the socks causing problems get socks that can be remotely controlled so you have real time control over the heat settings and can turn them on an off as you please.
Tips for Staying Warm in Heated Socks
Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your heated socks this winter.
- Make use of removable insoles – Removable insoles (7) are designed to help your posture, help maintain comfort during the long day and provide arch support. You can also buy insoles that will retain some of the heat your feet produce. This will reduce your dependence on your heated socks enabling you to run them at a lower setting and save the battery.
- Buy quality boots – If your boots aren’t made for cold weather you’ll be running your heated socks on high all day and burning through batteries. Whether you’re wearing heated socks or not it doesn’t make any sense to participate in outdoor winter activities without the right footwear. So spend a few extra bucks and make sure your boots are well insulated and waterproof.
- Wear under socks – Should you find wool heated socks wearing them all day directly against your skin isn’t going to be the most comfortable experience. So it pays to wear some thin, comfortable under socks. Polypropylene u-socks are a great idea. They’re incredibly light, stay warm even when wet and keep those itchy wool fibers at bay all day long.
- Keep moving – The best way to keep your feet warm is to stay active. The more blood that’s pumping through the veins of your feet the warmer those feet will be. If you find yourself standing around in the cold weather try walking in place. Even if you’re waiting stealthily for that 12 pointer to saunter by you can still wiggle your toes inside your boots just to keep the blood flowing.
The Bottom Line
Cold feet have always been the bane of outdoor winter activities. Thankfully, the days when you just had to accept popsicle toes are firmly in the rearview mirror. Heated socks will allow you to enjoy your outdoor winter activities like never before. You’ll be a more confident skier, a more capable snowboarder and the idea of hiking into the wilderness to set up a winter camp won’t seem quite as daunting. And when it comes to ice fishing or hunting you’re going to wonder how you ever lived without them.