5 Possible Reasons Why Your Feet Are Always Cold (and What to Do About It)

Socks aren’t your only option!

Having cold feet is never a fun experience. (And we're talking about literal chilly feet, not the proverbial pre-wedding jitters.) Feeling cold can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and frustrating, no matter when or where you're experiencing it. And if your feet are still cold even after you've slipped into a pair of thick wool socks—and even when the rest of your body is warm—it can be tough to know what to do. To find out what might be causing your constantly cold feet—and what you can do to help warm them up—we talked to a few doctors for answers. It can be a physical sign of stress or poor circulation, but it could also be a symptom of something more serious that require a chat with a medical professional. Here's what to know if you always have cold feet.

Cold Feet Causes and Explanations

01 of 05

Your body literally runs cold.

If you're always cold, including in your feet, you may have been told off the cuff that you're the kind of person who "runs cold"—and the truth is, you really might be. Some individuals naturally feel colder more often and/or more severely than others, says Aarti Agarwal, MD, chief health officer at Juno Medical. While this is sometimes the symptom of an underlying health condition, it's often a simple matter of lower muscle mass. Those who run cold may have relatively less muscle mass for their body size, and since muscles generate heat, their bodies may try to keep them warm by diverting heat away from their extremities like your hands and feet.

02 of 05

You have poor circulation.

Everyone has a circulatory system that's responsible for carrying blood throughout the entire body, but some people's circulatory systems are less efficient. If you have poor circulation, your blood may not flow as freely or as rapidly as it should, and since circulation can affect body temperature, this decreased blood flow may cause you to feel cold. Dr. Agarwal notes that the blood vessels in your feet and hands are some of the smallest and most sensitive. So poor circulation may cause your feet and hands to feel particularly chilly, even if your body is warm (or simply not cold).

"There are many reasons for poor circulation," Dr. Agarwal says. Smoking and obesity are common risk factors, as well as other underlying health conditions (like Peripheral Arterial Disease or Raynaud's Disease). Getting regular exercise, avoiding cigarettes, and eating a balanced diet are all healthy habits that can help improve your circulation. But you can also see a doctor to find out whether your poor circulation is tied to another medical condition.

03 of 05

You're really stressed.

If you're feeling extremely stressed out or anxious, your body's fight-or-flight response will likely kick in. When this happens, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase, and you might notice yourself breathing more heavily. This is because your body is working to direct resources—like blood, nutrients, and oxygen—to your major muscle groups. After all, these are the muscles that are most likely to help you fight (or flee) effectively.

Since your hands and feet are not major muscle groups, they may experience a decrease in blood flow during times of stress. And since circulation plays a key role in body temperature regulation, this may cause your hands and feet to feel cold and/or clammy.

04 of 05

You have an underactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism is a fancy term that means your thyroid gland is underactive. Your thyroid gland is a small gland in the front of your neck, and its job is to produce hormones that affect the way your body uses energy.

If you have hypothyroidism—again, an underactive thyroid gland—your thyroid gland isn't producing enough of these hormones. This can gradually cause your body to slow down and function less properly. And it can make you feel tired, sore, and depressed (among other things). It can also cause you to be more sensitive to the cold.

Some people are born with hypothyroidism, and there are also a handful of things that can cause it later in life (certain medications, thyroid inflammation, and Hashimoto's disease, to name a few). There are also several different risk factors: Women, folks over 60, those with a family history of thyroid issues, diabetics, and many more can be more susceptible to hypothyroidism. (It's worth noting that many of the other conditions associated with hypothyroidism can cause your feet and hands to become cold, specifically, while hypothyroidism may lead to feeling cold in general.)

05 of 05

You may have an underlying health condition.

While many of these triggers for cold feet are more common and less severe, a few others may be more concerning and require medical attention. "If you develop cold intolerance due to a medical condition, it will likely be accompanied by other symptoms," Dr. Agarwal says. "However, it's always a good idea to seek advice from your doctor for any health concerns you may have." Potential issues that could be at play:

Peripheral Neuropathy: This means your peripheral nervous system—the nerves and nerve cells outside your brain and spinal cord—has been damaged, making your nerves less effective at sending signals to the rest of your body. Neuropathy can affect the nerves in any part of your body—including your feet. And if the nerves that are tasked with sensing temperature get damaged, they may start telling the rest of your body that your feet are cold when they actually aren't.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): A blood vessel disorder resulting from blood vessels becoming so narrow or blocked that they can't carry blood from your heart to your other organs. This can be caused by fatty plaque building up in your arteries (a condition that has its own name: atherosclerosis). PAD typically affects the legs or the arms. And you may be at higher risk if you smoke, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, have high cholesterol, or are over the age of 60.

Raynaud's Disease: A rare blood vessel disorder that typically affects the fingers and toes. If you have Raynaud's disease, your blood vessels may constrict when you're cold or stressed—causing a lack of circulation to certain parts of your body (like your fingers and toes). You may be at higher risk if you're a woman, over the age of 30, have a family history of the disease, or live in a place with a cold climate.

Buerger's Disease: A blood vessel condition, more formally known as thromboangiitis obliterans, that can cause the blood vessels to swell, preventing blood from flowing properly. This can cause blood clots, and it can also cause your hands and feet to burn, tingle, change color, or grow cold. "[Our] smallest blood vessels are in our hands and feet, so we are more sensitive to changes in these areas," Dr. Agarwal says. "If the blood vessels in the hands or feet narrow for any reason—causing decreased blood flow—we experience a cold sensation."

Anemia: A fairly common blood condition in which you have a lower-than-normal red blood cell count due to any number of reasons: blood loss, your body isn't producing enough red blood cells, or your body is destroying too many red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for circulating oxygen throughout the body—without enough of them, the body struggles to function properly. This is why anemia can leave you feeling tired, weak, dizzy—and often, cold.

Cold Feet Treatment and Tips

As you've probably gathered, there are several possible explanations for why your feet are always cold. A few of them are linked to underlying health conditions, and you might need a doctor's opinion to uncover the root cause and get proper medical treatment, if necessary. However, the doc may confirm that you have no medical issue to worry about, in which case you can rest assured you're in tip-top shape.

Here are some basic tips and healthy habits to help warm up your cold feet:

  • Get some heated slippers: Some brands, like Warmies, make super-cozy heated slippers and booties that you can safely microwave for soothing cold-feet relief. Nuke your slippers for up to 90 seconds, depending on the strength of your microwave, and enjoy heated feet for about an hour.
  • Stretch or move your feet: According to Dr. Agarwal, moving around can get some blood flowing to your feet, which can help you warm them up. Here are three great foot stretches to do every day.
  • Get some exercise: Regular exercise is one easy way to improve your circulation, which can help you prevent cold feet before they happen.
  • Soak them in a warm foot bath: Fill your bath tub or a large enough vessel with warm water and let your cold feet soak for about 15 minutes to heat them up and increase circulation to the area.
  • Use a hot water bottle or heating pad: Soothe freezing feet and toes by wrapping them in a warm pad or heated blanket, or using a hot water bottle. If your feet get cold in bed or during the night, consider investing in a heated mattress pad or bedding for warm, cozy comfort, no matter the temperature outside.
  • Manage chronic stress: Since stress can cause your extremities to grow cold, it's worth it to cut down on stress wherever you can (here are some strategies to get stress under control).
  • Wear good, thick socks: Socks are an obvious way to warm up and insulate chronically cold feet. Even better? Treat yourself to a luxurious pair of warming socks for extra coziness.
  • Cut back on tobacco: Smoking—and tobacco use in general—has been linked to a few different blood vessel disorders. By cutting down, you may be able to reduce your risk of experiencing some of these conditions.
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