Feel like you always have cold feet? If it’s the “I’m not sure I want to get married” kind, we suggest seeing a good therapist. But if it’s the “Was Vanilla Ice singing about my feet in his song, Ice, Ice Baby?” kind due to circulation problems, hypothyroidism, Raynaud's disease, diabetes or other common cold feet causes, we’ve got you covered.
Speaking of being covered, before you read any further, check to make sure you’re wearing socks. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people complain of having cold feet only to realize that simply covering their tootsies is the best way to combat against the uncomfortable condition. Got those toes covered? Okay, now it's time to move on to the serious issues that could be affecting the warmth of your feet.
The most common causes your feet feel like they belong in the ice age is poor circulation. When your body is unable to pump enough blood to your hands and feet, they become cold. Simple ways to improve circulation include exercising, staying hydrated, stretching throughout the day (especially if you have a sedentary job, such as an office job) and receiving massages. We’re fans of the last option for obvious reasons, but we also frequently try to stretch throughout our workday. Actually, now feels like a good time to do that. Hold on a minute...
Okay, back — with improved circulation, no less.
Another common cause of having constant cold feet is hypothyroidism, which is when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones. Symptoms associated with this common condition include cold hands and feet, hair loss, fatigue and weight gain. It’s just a generally awful way to feel, so if you suspect an underactive thyroid is causing your cold feet, then run — don’t walk — to a health care provider to be checked out. Bonus: The run will improve your circulation, which will help warm your feet. (See what we did there?)
Turns out, there’s a reason women often suffer from cold feet much more frequently than men: female hormones. The hormone oestrogen plays an important role in the function of blood vessels, and the more of this hormone a woman’s body produces, the more sensitive she is to temperature changes. Normally, the hands and feet are kept at a comfortable temperature via blood pumping through the capillaries. When a chill hits, tiny thermo-receptor cells signal the capillaries to divert blood flow away from your extremities to more important organs (the heart, lungs and other internal organs). High levels of oestrogen can cause the thermo-receptors to shut the blood vessels down even from a minimal amount of cold, which is why women can sometimes experience increased temperature sensitivity during menstruation and pregnancy (when levels of this hormone are higher). So it’s not really a woman’s overall body temperature that decreases, but rather her skin temperature that goes down in order to protect her most vital organs. It’s a trade-off, but at least having cold feet helps keep women warm hearted.
Smoking or Alcohol Abuse
There are many consequences to living a party lifestyle, and one of them is having cold feet. Smoking can reduce the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and it shrinks blood vessels, which decreases blood circulation. Meanwhile, alcohol can cause vasodilation, which is an opening of the blood vessels. While this is responsible for the happy glow you get while intoxicated, it can also be responsible for chilly feet: The blood in your body is sent elsewhere.
Though it’s one of the least common causes of cold feet, Raynaud’s disease (as well as Raynaud’s phenomenon and syndrome) is another cold feet culprit. The condition, named after the French physician Maurice Reynaud, causes certain areas of your body to feel numb and cold in response to cool temperatures and emotional distress. Essentially, the type of artery responsible for supplying blood to your skin narrows, which limits the blood supply to areas like fingers and toes. And just like a vampire, skin needs blood to feel warm and alive.
Muscle tightness can create all kinds of pain and problems, one of the least known being icy feet. Stiff muscles don’t allow much blood flow, so try some foot, leg and buttocks stretches to loosen and relax the muscles as well as increase circulation.
Peripheral Neuropathy or Peripheral Vascular Disease
If you have the feeling that your hands or feet are cold, but they feel warm to the touch, or if you are experiencing numbness, tingling or burning in addition to the cold feeling, you may have peripheral neuropathy, which is a result of damaged nerves, or peripheral vascular disease, which is a result of a build-up of fatty material in the blood vessels. Conditions associated with both peripheral neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease include diabetes, infections, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins and vitamin deficiencies. It’s extremely important to see a health care provider if you suspect you have peripheral neuropathy or peripheral vascular disease, as the underlying conditions can continue to wreak havoc on your body (and then cold feet will be the least of your worries).