Suffer From Stubborn Cold Feet? This Might Be Why

Feeling cold in your feet from time to time is usually normal, especially when the weather is getting cold and you’re not wearing warm enough footwear. After all, our feet are the farthest point from the heart in our body and coincidentally, they’re also the body part that always touches the cold ground, so it’s expected that the feet are the first body part to be affected by the cold.
That said, in certain cases, people suffer from persistently cold feet and even at the peak of the summer heat, they feel like their feet are always cold. If your feet seem to be cold all the time, be aware that it can be a symptom of several underlying health conditions or even a sign of chronic stress. Learn about the medical causes of cold feet, as well as several useful tips that should help warm up your feet in this useful guide.

1. Blood Circulation Issues

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies Raynaud Syndrome
Patient with Reynaud Syndrome Image Source: Niklas D/ Wikimedia Commons

One of the most common causes of cold feet is poor blood circulation, as people with circulation issues may not get enough warm blood in their feet. There are many reasons why someone may have poor circulation, here are the most common ones associated with cold extremities: 

  • Lack of physical activity, working at a desk for long periods of time, and a sedentary lifestyle, in general, are capable of reducing blood circulation in the legs.
  • High cholesterol and atherosclerosis cause plaques in the blood vessels, which become barriers that can make it more difficult for the blood to reach the extremities. As Danielle DesPres, DPM, a Foot & Ankle Surgeon & Podiatrist in NYC stated in an interview, "The arteries in your feet are the smallest which means they are most likely to be affected first. When these arteries are blocked, you could experience cold and sometimes painful feet."
  • Smoking can affect circulation as well, as nicotine has been shown in studies to cause premature atherosclerosis in various blood vessels, including those in the feet.

Certain heart conditions, as well as rarer conditions like Buerger's Disease, which leads to blood clots inside the blood vessels, as well as Raynaud's disease, a rare condition where blood supply is temporarily cut off to the hands and feet in response to cold or stress, can likewise cause cold feet.


2. Nerve Disorders

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies woman sitting and hold her foot
Another type of disorder that can manifest itself through cold feet are certain nerve disorders generally termed as peripheral neuropathy. This type of nerve damage in the feet can be caused by trauma, frostbite, injury, or a number of medical conditions like infections, hereditary diseases, as well as kidney and liver damage.
When the nerve tissue becomes inflamed or damaged, it malfunctions and stops transmitting the right feelings to our brain. As a result, patients feel cold in their feet even when the temperature of the surroundings is fine. Patients suffering from this condition may also experience other out-of-place sensations, such as burning, numbness, tingling, and prickling in the feet.

3. Anemia

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies blood samples

Anemia is a condition that occurs when not enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells are being delivered to your body's cells and organs. Our muscles and other tissues require oxygen to produce energy and stay warm, and since the amount of oxygen in the blood of people with anemia is lower than it should be, patients often feel that their feet and hands are chronically cold.

Other symptoms of anemia include fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, and pale skin, but only a blood test can definitively say if you're anemic, so make sure to talk to your health provider if you experience similar concerns.

4. Diabetes

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies man testing blood sugar

Diabetics often experience persistently cold hands and feet, too, and there are two ways in which the condition can bring about this symptom. Firstly, diabetes patients may have issues with blood circulation. High blood sugar can result in the narrowing of the blood vessels which, in turn, affects the blood supply to the extremities.

Secondly, diabetic patients can develop a condition called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage most common in the feet. Diabetic neuropathy is more widespread among type 2 diabetes patients, and about half of them develop the condition compared to around 20% in type 1 diabetes patients.

Nerve damage due to diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are high for long periods of time, especially in untreated patients that don't even realize that they have the condition. Since diabetic nerve damage cannot be cured, it's crucial to diagnose the condition early and prevent the nerve damage altogether. This is especially important in high-risk groups, such as the elderly, people with cardiovascular issues, and overweight individuals, to name a few. To learn more about the risks and types of diabetes, visit our article collection titled 10 Guides to Prevent and Fight Diabetes.

5. Thyroid Issues

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies Thyroid ultrasound

Our thyroid gland controls several key functions in the human body, and an underactive thyroid, a condition called hypothyroidism, is known to manifest itself through cold feet and hands. This is because thyroid hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism, and an underactive thyroid, in turn, worsens blood circulation, decreases the heartbeat, and lowers the body temperature. 

Any of the above-mentioned functions can potentially lead to cold feet, and because hypothyroid patients are more sensitive to temperature changes, the symptom is considered to be a common sign of the condition. Read on about hypothyroidism, it's symptoms and risk, in the article 11 Signs Your Thyroid Doesn't Work Properly.


6. Anxiety and high stress

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies stressed man

Unfortunately, we've all experienced a great deal of stress due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and other global and local events this year. As a result, anxiety and depression rates worldwide have skyrocketed. And while we're all aware of the emotional and mental toll these conditions may cause, the physical effects of anxiety and stress often go unnoticed.

One of such effects can be cold feet, experts say. When we're stressed, our body produces adrenaline into the bloodstream as part of the fight or flight response. Adrenaline makes the peripheral blood vessels constrict in order to make the body save energy, and this naturally decreases one's circulation and may cause cold hands and feet. Relaxation and plenty of healthy sleep are necessary for our body to switch gears and return to normal.

Tips to Warm Up Your Feet

Cold Feet Causes and Remedies woman wearing warm socks and warming up feet near the radiator
As you can see, there is a wide range of health conditions that can cause chronically cold feet, and if this is a persistent symptom for you or someone you know, it's best advised to see a doctor and get diagnosed properly. If, however, cold feet are only an occasional issue or you need a quick fix for your problem, we have listed a few practical tips that will help you improve blood circulation in the feet and warm them up, here they are:
  • Massage your feet to improve blood circulation.
  • The quickest way to warm up and relax your feet is by taking a warm foot bath. We have several tips on how to do a foot bath and recipes to address different concerns in the article DIY Foot Soaks.
  • Make sure your footwear isn't too tight and switch to looser footwear like slippers or thick wool socks at home to maintain healthy circulation.
  • Exercise really helps improve the blood flow to the hands and feet, too. Take a walk, jog, or do a few jumping jacks throughout the day if you have a sedentary lifestyle, for example, to improve the circulation. Any exercise will be beneficial.
  • If you have trouble sleeping because your feet get too cold, try placing a hot water bottle or a heating pad at the foot of the bed before bedtime.
  • Lastly, always keep those feet warm by wearing warm socks and slippers, and cover them with a blanket if you're sitting for a long time.
Share this article with those who will find it useful!
Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Facebook Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy
Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Facebook Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy