Long winded, so bear with me...
The last two winters I've been using wool socks inside Rocky GTX socks inside lightweight trail runners with gaiters. Temps in the low teens-30's. This system is part of the ultralighter's playbook, but I'm not convinced. I've got two issues to address.
My biggest issue is my right foot. The metatarsal of my big toe of my right foot causes me discomfort whenever there is ANY pressure/restriction in any direction. Barefoot? Perfectly fine. Vibram FiveFingers? Fine there as well. Most shoes, even with ample toe room, can cause me discomfort even when simply sitting with my shoes on. I think it has to do with lateral pressure against the side of my big toe, no matter how minimal. Its weird, I know, and I should get it looked at. I recently bought a pair of Merrell Orbit Glove shoes for everyday use, and those are the most comfortable shoes I've found. Its part of their barefoot series and has a 0 degree heel drop. (Highly recommended, in fact.) So, AMPLE toe box room is needed.
The second issue is the need for simplicity and temperature comfort. In my combo listed above, my feet have been kept safe, even when stepping into a partially frozen puddle. I thank the GTX socks for that. But ya know, at the end of the day, my socks are damp from sweat, GTX socks are damp on the inside from sweat and outside from tromping in cold nature, and my shoes are usually wet as well. I warm my feet up with down booties for night, but in the morning, my feet go into socks that have at least mostly dried during the night, dampish GTX socks, and frozen shoes. Yes, I could stuff them in a plastic bag and take them in my sleeping bag, but I'd rather not have to. In the morning, my toes get COLD for at least the first 45 minutes of hiking. They do warm up and sometimes feel hot, but there are times throughout the day when my toes are just frozen--like I can't feel the tips of my toes.
I'm looking to simplify, and here's my thought. It may not be as light, but possibly more comfortable:
Start with toe sock liners to keep blisters at bay. Over those, wear a VBL sock (or produce bag from the grocery store). Then, depending on conditions, a comfortable wool sock. Finally, a pair of waterproof shoes with gaiters to shed snow. Waterproof shoes would negate the need for GTX socks, which are narrow in the forefoot, and wouldn't be frozen on the inside because of my VBL liner.
I know that waterproof shoes have their own problems, like when they get wet, they stay wet. In winter, that is mitigated by gaiters, snow usually being frozen, and from the inside, the VBL layer. If I can keep the inside of my shoe dry and find a pair that doesn't irritate my funky big toe, I may wanna give that a shot.
Thoughts and comments greatly appreciated.