What are Heated Socks?
Heated socks are socks with special heating elements built into them. These heating elements are typically battery-powered (9V or AA), but they can also be connected to a power source, such as a 12V power connection (on motorcycles and vehicles). The power source heats up the tiny electric threads woven into the socks, providing direct heat to your feet.
The heating elements will typically be included in both the tops and bottoms of the socks, providing direct heat to your entire feet to keep them warm. Though they’re not always able to handle hardcore sports use (such as when skiing or snowboarding), specially designed heated sports socks can be your best friends when hitting the slopes.
Safe Use of Heated Socks
If you plan on using heated socks, it’s important to understand how to be safe while wearing them. Remember that there is electricity running through the socks, close to your skin. If you’re not careful, that electricity can cause harm. Also, if you want your socks to last for years to come, it’s critical that you use them right.
First, always make sure the battery is charged before connecting the heated socks. Charge the battery pack or the rechargeable AA batteries, or make sure to use a new 9V battery when trying out the socks for the first time. With the charge on full, you’ve got the best possible run time.
Surprisingly, it’s best NOT to use the heated socks on your feet directly. The heating element may actually get too hot for your skin, and it can lead to heat irritation or even burns. It’s best to wear a lightweight pair of socks beneath the heated socks. Not only will it protect your skin, but the added layer of material will help to trap the heat close to your skin and keep your feet as warm as possible.
As you slip on the heated socks, make sure that the cables connecting the socks to the battery, battery pack, or charger are not tangled up around your feet or ankles. Lift the cables up and out of the way as you slip your feet into the socks.
If the battery pack is designed to clip onto the socks themselves, you’ll find it’s typically very easy to keep the cables organized. But if, as with some socks, the battery pack is designed to clip onto your pants or even your waistband, it can be a bit trickier to keep the cables out of your way. Make sure that the cables are running up your leg inside your pants, never on the outside.
Always test the socks’ heating before using. Slip them on in your home, and set the heat setting to “Low”. Once they heat up fully, see if your skin can handle the socks on a higher heat setting. Low power will usually make your battery last longer, but if it’s really cold, you may need to crank up the heat to high.
How Long Do Heated Socks Last?
Seeing as your socks are battery-powered, you’re depending on a battery as the power supply.
For most socks, the average run time will be between 1 hour (on the very low end) and 4 to 5 hours (on the higher end). The run time will also be affected by the type of battery used. A 9V battery will have a different battery life than a 3V battery, a pair of AA’s, or a built-in battery pack. Really, the only way to know how long your heated socks last is to read the reviews and test them for yourself.
There are a few things you can do to extend the lifespan of your socks’ batteries:
- Set to low. High heating will drain the batteries faster, so switch the heat setting onto low. It may not get as warm as you might like, but you’ll get longer battery life (by anywhere from 50-200%). And, if you’re moving around a lot, you may not need the heat to be on high.
- Switch it off. Disconnect the connector plug from the control box to conserve battery power. If your feet are warm and you’ve got the blood flowing, unplug the cables and keep the battery unplugged for as long as possible. Even if the power is off, some of the batteries’ energy will be leached out if the cable is plugged in.
- Keep an eye on your LED indicator. Many heated socks come with an LED indicator that blinks to let you know how much power you have. When you see the indication that the power is low, switch the socks to low heat in order to make that last bit of energy last a bit longer.
- Recharge regularly. Seeing as most heated socks use the latest-model battery packs, you can recharge them without waiting for the batteries to drain completely. Always recharge your heated socks between uses, as that will ensure the energy is always topped up for maximum heating.
Some users consider bringing a few sets of extra batteries or an added battery pack, just in case their feet are still cold even after the battery run outs. This can be a great way to ensure you’ve always got power, no matter how cold things get.
How Warm Do Heated Socks Get?
The average pair of heated socks can get as hot as 110-140 degrees at the highest heating setting. While each manufacturer and brand has their own heat settings, the “safest” heat output is around 120 degrees F for the heated socks. That’s hot enough that the heat will warm up your feet, but without being so hot that your skin is damaged.
However, it’s important to note that not all brands heat alike. Some brands will fail to get even mildly hot on the high heat setting, while others will feel very warm on the low setting. That’s why it’s important to read the reviews; it’s the only way to know just how warm or hot your socks will get.
The good news is that, with a good pair of winter boots, even a pair of heated socks that only reach mild temperatures will usually be enough to keep your feet warm. The mild heat will last longer, and will keep your feet toasty warm in your boots without the need for excessively high heat.
Choosing the Right Heated Socks
When shopping for a pair of heated socks, there are a few factors you should always consider:
- Material – Heated socks tend to be made from synthetic materials, which tend to be fairly durable, quick-drying, and provide cushioning. However, when they get wet (from sweaty feet), the insulation factor is reduced, meaning it takes more effort for the heating element to warm your feet. If you can find heating socks made from wool, you’ll find that wool is warmer, thicker, better at dealing with moisture, and also offers cushioning. Though wool dries a bit slower than synthetics, it’s ultimately the best choice for warm socks to take snowboarding, skiing, or snowshoeing.
- Design – You’re likely going to be wearing these heated socks outdoors, very possibly for active recreational activities such as hiking, skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. It’s always a good idea to find socks that have built-in padding and a bit of arch reinforcement, which will help to protect your feet from excessive wear and strain. You’ll also want heated socks that are at least mid-calf high, as that will protect your feet in your boots.
- Heat Duration – This is critical to consider when looking into heated socks, as it will determine just how long you can keep your feet warm in the outdoors. The longer the battery life, the longer you’ll be able to run the socks’ heating element. Read the reviews above to find the socks that last the longest.
- Maximum/Minimum Heat Output – This is another very crucial factor! You want to find a pair of socks that delivers just the right amount of heat to keep your feet warm, both when you’re just stepping outside and when you’re moving around. That means you need to find a pair with not only a high maximum output, but also a decent minimum output to keep your feet warm when the heat is on the lowest setting. The last thing you want is to have cold feet because you’re trying to conserve battery power.
- Remote Control – Some heated socks come with a remote control that you can carry around in your pocket and use to control the heat settings without having to bend over or futz with the sock itself. Others are Bluetooth-enabled, which means they pair with your smartphone to allow you to control the heat settings via a smartphone app. Both remote control and Bluetooth pairing make it very easy to adjust your socks’ heat or switch them on and off.
- Price – Always think about the price tag! A higher price tag doesn’t guarantee better functionality, durability, or longer lifespan, but it’s definitely one of the indicators that a sock is well-made. Consider spending a bit more to get a better, longer-lasting pair of heated socks that will serve you well for years to come.
How to Care for Heated Socks
Heated socks are made with electric threads woven into the material, and if you damage those threads, the socks can and will stop working. It’s important that you take care of the socks properly—not just thinking about the material itself, but also to keep the electric components lasting as long as possible.
Always, ALWAYS read the manufacturers’ guidelines for caring for the socks. If you don’t read the instructions carefully, you could end up ruining your socks by washing them the wrong way. In fact, if you damage the electric wires, you might actually cause yourself serious harm when you reconnect the wires to the battery pack again.
The good news is that you don’t usually need to wash your heated socks on a regular basis. This is because you’re always—ALWAYS—wearing them on top of another pair of lightweight socks. The under-socks will absorb most of the sweat and smells, so you can put them in the wash without needing to clean your heated socks too often.
But when the time comes to wash the heated socks, know that there are two ways to wash them:
- Hand washing
- Machine-washing in the specially supplied bag
Some socks will tell you to only hand wash, while others will instruct you to only wash in the machine-safe bag. Follow the wash instructions that come with the socks to the letter—it’s the best way to make sure they are cared for safely.
Once the socks are washed, your best bet is to leave them to drip dry. Never put them in the spin cycle or tumble dry, but hang them up somewhere warm to dry off. It may take a couple of days (depending on the material), but it’s the best way to ensure that the socks dry safely.
Never boil, iron, dry clean, or bleach the heated socks. Doing so could seriously damage the electric wiring and render them useless—or, worse, dangerous.
Remember that heated clothing can be very delicate! If you don’t take care of it properly, it could end up seriously damaged and out of order. Or, in severe circumstances, it could cause you harm thanks to an electrical short or damaged wiring. Heated socks are designed to handle plenty of wear and tear during your daily use, but they’re at their most vulnerable when exposed to water during the washing process. Make sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully when you are washing them!
Are Heated Socks Safe?
You may be thinking, “There’s electric wiring near my feet; how the heck can that be safe?”
Let’s be clear: there have been instances of chemical boot warmers causing damage, but there have been no reported cases of people going to the hospital or ED as a result of heated socks. They will get warm—perhaps even very toasty, depending on the maximum heat setting—but they will never get hot enough to burn your feet.
Granted, some people tend to have very sensitive skin, skin that can be damaged a bit more easily. If your skin is very sensitive to hot and cold, you may find that heated socks can be painful on the highest setting. Sensitive skin may also get burned more easily, or you may break out in a rash as a result of the heat.
However, for the average person, heated socks are perfectly safe. As long as you take care of them and wash them as instructed, you have nothing to worry about. You can use the heated socks to keep your feet warm with no worries about damage or injury.
Tips for Toasty Warm Feet
If you want to keep your feet extra-warm this winter, here are some tips to help make your heated socks even more effective:
- Wear the right under-socks – Don’t just throw on the first pair of socks you find, but look for the “right” pair to wear under your heated socks. You’ll want a sock that is lightweight, not too tight or loose, and made with a moisture-wicking material that will pull sweat away from your feet. Cotton is always a no-no because they get sodden and hold moisture, which can actually make your feet colder. Wool is the best material for warm socks, but you can also go with synthetic materials as a great choice of under-sock.
- Use inner soles – Inner soles are designed specifically to warm up your feet while you walk, as they reduce the amount of air inside your shoes. You can find heated inner soles, but even simple inner soles that store the heat of your feet will be enough to keep you warm.
- Get the right boots – A good pair of winter boots is worth its weight in gold! Thick soles, good insulation, and sturdy materials are critical for keeping your feet warm in even the coldest winters. Winter boots can be pricier, but they are an excellent investment to help you stay warm and toasty when the temperature plummets.
- Move around – You’ll find that the more you move around, the warmer your feet will feel! You may not have to keep the heated socks turned on for long once you start moving around. Ski, snowboard, walk, run, or cycle, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to keep your feet warm during the winter. A few minutes of run-time may be all you need to warm things up.