How to fix your most common winter woes (goodbye, damp socks!)

Photography by Peter Stigter

There are lots of some great things about winter: snow bunny chic, snow-tipped mountains for snowboarding, roaring fires and an endless supply of hot chocolate. But with the cold comes ugly snow pants, cracked hands, salt stains, wet boots and tons of static cling. While there’s no avoiding most of these annoying things, at least there’s something we can do about them. See below for cold weather problem-solving that will help you keep up with everything Mother Nature can throw at you this frigid season.

Get rid of salt stains
With snow comes salt. There’s no avoiding it, and our suede shoes take the hardest hit. Here’s the easiest way to handle those white chalky stains:

First, wipe the stain with water and a soft rag as quickly as possible. If it’s fresh, this might work on its own. If you need more heavy-duty removal, moisten a rag with a mix of one part water and one part white vinegar, and gently wipe the stains again. For the most stubborn stains, straight vinegar will do the trick. Finish by wiping the whole area with a clean cloth to remove any residue and let them air dry completely (stuffing the toes with newspaper will help dry them even faster). Prevent further damage by spraying shoes and boots with a winter-weather leather protector.

Treat cracked fingers
Dry, chapped hands are one of the awful side effects of low temps. If your scaly winter skin has already set in, here are a few ways to bring it back to life.

1. Wear gloves. An extra layer will protect parched fingers from coming into contact with the blistering wind attacking them on the daily.

2. Wash your hands with warm (not hot) water. Keeping germs at bay with frequent hand washing is important, but so is being careful not to strip your skin of any more moisture. After washing, dry carefully and hydrate with hand cream right away to lock in moisture (cuticles too!). You can also swap in a hand sanitizing gel for a gentler clean.

3. Try a humidifier at home. It will let your skin suck up even more water and keep it from evaporating into the dry air.

4. Moisturize often. Once a day isn’t enough so keep at it (aim for about 5 applications). Having a tube at your desk is a good reminder to reapply constantly.

Banish wet boots forever
Cold toes can put a damper on your whole day. If your feet are getting wet, make sure that your boots are completely waterproof and have a tight seal (UGGs need not apply). Any damage will have the wet stuff streaming in. To properly dry wet winter boots, avoid the dryer and direct heat (like radiators) completely and stuff them with crushed newspaper to absorb the moisture. For best results, replace the paper every few hours to suck up the most water. You can also put them in front of a fan for a quicker air dry.

Deal with socks that slip into boots
Slipping socks are the worst. Buried inside your boot, it’s brutal having to walk on a lump of scrunched down sock, stopping to pull them back up to their rightful place. To avoid the slide altogether, make sure your socks fit snugly. A tighter fit and a style with a larger elastic cuff will help keep them in place (old, worn out socks could be your biggest issue). Another way to manage the slip is to wear taller socks and fold them right over the top of your boots. Problem solved.

Fix earphones that crackle
You’ll be happy to learn that the feeling of tiny shocks or crackling coming from your earbuds in the wintertime is totally safe. The culprit is mini electric shocks from the metal in your earbuds jumping to the tiny hairs in your ears. Dry winter air, the wind, taking your phone in and out of your pocket, jogging and synthetic fibers in your coat all contribute to static build up at this time of year. Aside from waiting until you’re inside to press play, try plastic coated, in-ear earbuds as the plastic will protect you from the metal inside. Another trick is to staying static-free is to touch a grounded unpainted metal object (that absorbs the charge) before putting in your headphones.

Beat static cling
Taking off your coat only to realize your dress is glued to your legs or plucking off your hat and finding a halo of fine hairs are classic winter hallmarks. Come January, there isn’t enough Static Guard on the planet to save us. There’s got to be a better solution. Get to the root of the problem by raising the moisture levels in the air. A portable humidifier (or even just adjusting the settings on your air conditioner) will often do the job—and save your skin in the meantime. Speaking of which, keeping skin hydrated is key and there are even anti-static creams on the market so look for those. Synthetic fibers are also more prone to holding static charge (sorry, polyester!) so it’s best to swap in natural fabrics like cashmere or cotton. On a final note, wool is an excellent conductor so steer clear of wool socks and stick to cotton instead.

Never have wind in your ears while exercising again
You’ve pushed yourself to lace up your shoes and zip up your run jacket. You finally get out the door and are about to find your groove when your ears start to ache. Ugh. Instead of turning back, be prepared for this winter worry next time. Caused by extra-sensitive nerves and thin cartilage in your ears, which make them more susceptible to pain from the cold, the best remedy is to catch it early and cover them up as best you can. A headband, hood or earmuffs can help prevent the pain before it even starts. Lots of sport stores carry slim versions so you don’t have to jog in your toque.

Layer expertly for warmth
On the extra chilly days, it seems like you’d have to run in your parka to stay warm, but with a few tips, you can actually get out the door without looking like an arctic explorer. Start with a base layer. Any synthetic (like DryFit or polyester) will help to wick moisture from the skin directly. Next, your insulation layer helps retain heat. Sometimes an extra long-sleeve tee will work, but on really freezing days, this might call for fleece. Finally, your outer layer is the one that will keep out the wind, rain, snow and sleet. Butt coverage is key and so is a hood. Accessories are important too, so stock up on gloves, hat, warm running tights, sunglasses, SPF, water-resistant shoes and moisture-wicking socks.

If all else fails, find an indoor treadmill and wait for warmer weather.