1. Keep those dogs dry. Socks that are even the tiniest bit damp from sweat mean trouble once you’re out in the cold. So take a tip from serious winter athletes: After you get to the slopes or the sledding hill, slip on a fresh pair just before your first run.
2. Be mindful of materials. Cotton retains moisture; wool and high-tech fibers wick it away and provide warmth. Two to try: the washer-and-dryer-safe socks from SmartWool(888/879-9665; smartwool.com; $13) and the Eurosock (shown here; 866/323-9648; angustrading.com; $15), made with scratch-free microfibers.
3. Stop at one pair. Contrary to what your mother told you, a single good pair of socks is usually enough. Still prone to Popsicle toes?Add a thin liner sock made of silk or polypropylene, such as Wick Dry Sta-Dri Jr. from Fox River (888/472-5678; sockcompany.com; $4.50). No more than two layers, though—blood flow is constricted when toes don’t have wiggle room.
4. Try the skier’s cheap trick. Disposable foot-warmers from Grabber Mycoal (800/426-4840; rei.com; $2) stick to the bottoms of socks. The packets are filled with iron filaments and salt; when exposed to air, the iron rusts, generating heat—and keeping hooves toasty for up to six hours.
5. Bag ’em. If you’re going to be knee-deep in snow, a little old-fashioned waterproofing helps. Grab a couple of bread bags from the cupboard and wrap one around each socked foot. Add another sock on top. Now go build an igloo.
Look for well-fitting waterproof optionstoo big or too small are both recipes for chilly feet. Insulating, quick-drying interiors are also crucial. Consider Sorels Cubs (877/666-7352; moosejaw.com; $45), with multilayered hand-washable felt liners, and Kamik Rockets (800/426-4840; rei.com; $45)they have an exterior ankle strap for a snug fit, and are rated to minus 40 degrees. Your kids may never come in from the cold.