In my years of ice fishing at lakes across Wyoming, I’ve had several otherwise good fishing days ruined by cold feet.
This is a sport that threatens to freeze your toes in a variety of ways: cold outdoor temperatures, frozen ice below you, water from the lake and melting snow, and, of course, the wind.
If you’ve suffered through a day where you wondered if you would ever feel your toes again, don’t worry. There are actually a lot of things you can do to keep your feet warm when you’re ice fishing.
I’ve bundled up a selection of my favorite ideas from experience and from researching what other fishermen have done. Read ahead and find the combination of tips that will work well for you.
7 Tips to Keep your Feet Warm While Ice Fishing
Every tip on this list may not be helpful for you, but you should be able to find at least one that helps keep your feet a little warmer.
Usually, a combination is the best option. For example, I depend on double socks and good boots because my feet get cold very easily – and I still try to move around every half hour to keep the blood flowing to my feet.
1/ Wear the Right Boots
The most effective single tip to keep your feet warm on the ice is to isolate them from the cold conditions with a great pair of boots.
The best ice fishing boots have these three important qualities:
- High above the ankle
You definitely want boots that can check at least two of the boxes on that list.
If your boots don’t do all three, you can use another tip from this list to make up for it. For example, if you want to wear tall and waterproof boots that don’t have any insulation, you can insulate with thicker socks or use foot warmers.
It’s also a nice bonus if the boots have an aggressive rubber tread to keep you from slipping on the ice, but you can also make up for a poor tread with a pair of traction cleats like Yaktrax .
There is a whole range of styles and prices when it comes to ice fishing boots. Kamik offers a great, affordable boot that checks all the boxes above, or you can go with the tried and true Muck brand for a premium.
You should buy your boots a half-size too big for two reasons: they will accommodate thicker socks and a little bit of “dead air” inside the boot can actually insulate your feet.
2/ Keep Your Feet Off the Ice
To prevent losing so much heat through the bottoms of your feet, it helps to put something thick between your boots and the ice. This works especially well if you are in a shelter or sitting in a chair most of the time.
Simply bring an old floor mat from the car with you and place it on the ice between your chair and the fishing hole. It will insulate your feet from the ice.
If you can’t find an old floor mat, a scrap of plywood, or any small rug, such as an outdoor doormat, will do the trick. Just make sure it’s heavy enough that it won’t blow away.
3/ Layer Your Socks
Simple and effective: add a second pair of socks. This usually means a thin pair of socks as a liner and a more insulated pair on top.
It’s best if your liner sock is something moisture-wicking, like wool. There are a lot of cool blends these days. Merino wool is a favorite of mine.
If your feet sweat, avoid cotton which will trap the moisture.
The outer layer should be a thick woolen sock that provides a lot of insulation from the elements, like the set on Amazon below:
4/ Waterproof Your Socks With Plastic
If you don’t have the luxury of true waterproof boots, you should definitely try this tip. Basically, if your feet actually get wet while you’re fishing, you’re toast. You will never get wet feet warm and you could even acquire frostbite.
First, make sure you have a moisture-wicking sock, preferably wool. Put them on your feet. On top of the socks, place a plastic shopping bag or garbage can liner over your foot. Follow this with another pair of socks.
If two pairs of socks are too hot for you, you can just secure the bags to your pants using tape or elastic and put your feet into your boots.
You might make a crinkling sound when you walk, but at least it will keep the water off of your skin and go a long way toward keeping your feet warm.
5/ Use Foot Warmers
Before I bought true insulating fishing boots, I relied on foot warmers to keep my feet warm.
These warmers contain a mix of chemicals that heat up when you open the package. They produce heat for several hours.
My favorite brand is Hot Hands . They have an adhesive side so you can stick them inside your boots and they won’t slip around. This brand stays warm up to 8 hours, so a single pair can keep you toasty for a long day of ice fishing.
These actually might make your feet a little too hot, so you might find yourself removing them after a few hours. If you have very cold feet as I do, these might be your new best friends!
6/ Move Around
This tip doesn’t require any special gear or equipment. Part of the reason your feet get cold when you ice fish is that your body draws blood in from your hands and feet to maintain the body’s core temperature.
The lowered blood flow in the feet can make them feel cold. You can bring more blood to your feet simply by walking around.
Get up every half-hour or so and take a short walk around the lake. You might want to try setting up 2 or 3 tip-up rigs some distance apart so you have to walk once in a while.
Even a little marching in place can warm your toes up. The key is to do it regularly so your feet don’t go too long without extra blood flow.
7/ Warm Up the Air
You can keep your feet, and your whole body, warmer by ice fishing in a warmer environment. That means investing in an ice fishing shelter like the following one made by Eskimo:
Shelters block the wind, absorb sunlight, and trap your body heat. They warm up in just a few minutes and should keep you more comfortable from head to toe.
An extra tip is to bring a small fan to circulate the air in the shelter. Hot air rises so a fan can push the warm air back down to the level of your feet.