Winters can frequently be brutal in West Michigan, but that doesn’t mean the locals don’t know how to go out and have some fun!
Whether you legitimately love the cold and snow or you just don’t let it slow you down, there are plenty of awesome activities to keep you busy this winter. For example:
- Go on a nature walk. Sure, most people associate winter with gray and slush, but we all know that winter can be beautiful, too! If you need proof, why not head out to W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest (just north of Augusta on N. 42nd) for a contemplative walk (or snowshoe) through the forest? Or, if you’d like a mix of both indoor and outdoor activities, head up to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.
- Go skating. Millennium Park in Portage does it right, with great ice (refrigerated to stay frozen even at above-freezing air temps), affordable rates, cozy heated restrooms, outdoor fire area, and concessions. They even have stabilizing “walkers” available for those who aren’t so steady on their skates yet.
- Go luging (or enjoy pretty much any other winter sport). The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is a West Michigan destination for winter sports and recreation at its best. Learn how to luge at their Olympian-designed 850’ track (one of just four luge tracks in the entire U.S.) or enjoy some cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, or sledding. Rental equipment is available if you don’t have your own.
Before you go bounding out the door on your next winter adventure, however, make sure you protect your feet properly!
Feet are at high risk of not only injuries, but also dry skin, infections, and other problems during the winter months. But the good news is that a little bit of advanced planning and a little extra at-home care can help keep those feet healthy and safe!
Don’t Settle for Substandard Winter Boots
In West Michigan, a quality pair of winter boots is not optional.
If you’re going to be spending any length of time outside in the cold, slush, and snow, you need a cozy, waterproof set of footwear protecting your feet and toes. Feet that are wet and exposed to the cold are not only uncomfortable, but can develop frostbite faster than you might expect. In other words, don’t try to dance around puddles or snowbanks in tennis shoes!
Tread grip is also, for obvious reasons, incredibly important for slippery conditions. Don’t go out with a pair of boots or winter running shoes with worn-out treads.
That said, while weatherproofing, warmth, and grip are paramount, that’s not an excuse to ignore other essential attributes of any footwear—namely, comfort and fit.
If your boots fit poorly or don’t properly support and cushion your arches, chances are good that you’ll at least end up with achy, sore feet at the end of a day of play. And if the fit is particularly bad, you might also develop blisters, corns, ingrown toenails, or other very uncomfortable problems.
Don’t be afraid to be picky! Since one pair of boots can last several seasons, it’s important to get a pair that will support you well. To help get an accurate fit at the shoe store, make sure you bring along your fuzzy pair of warm winter socks when you try on your boots. It also helps to shop later in the day, when your feet are likely to be a little swollen already.
Avoid Fungal and Bacterial Infections (and Painful, Dry Skin)
One downside of winter boots is that they don’t really “breathe” all that well. While that does mean you keep your feet toasty and warm, it also means that your socks and feet can get sweaty and damp, which invites the kinds of micro-organisms responsible for athlete’s foot, fungal nails, and other unsightly issues.
One way to reduce your risk is to avoid wearing your winter gear indoors, where it isn’t necessary. Switch into a comfy pair of breathable walking shoes, or just wear your socks if you’re at home. You may also consider applying antifungal powder inside your boots. If you spent a lot of time outdoors and your budget allows, we also recommend you get a second pair of boots and rotate them every other day for extra drying time.
You should also make sure you wash your feet with mild soap every day. One tip here, though: avoid super-hot showers. Even though they can feel great after a long day out in the cold, they can actually dry your feet out. We recommend following up your shower with a moisturizing cream and a clean pair of socks, which help keep your skin soft and smooth despite winter’s wear and tear.
Get Any Problems Addressed Promptly
There’s never a good time to develop a foot or ankle problem or injury—and hopefully, the advice you just read will help you avoid getting any this winter!
However, if you do end up with a problem that you’re having trouble dealing with on your own, or is keeping you from enjoying your winter to the fullest, please stop in at Kalamazoo Podiatry and let us check it out.
From winter sports injury care to restoring healthy skin and nails, we offer a comprehensive slate of effective foot care treatments. We can have you back on your feet having fun in no time.