Why Are My Feet Always Cold? Causes and Treatments

Medically Reviewed By Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA
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Having cold feet is often a common condition, usually in response to cold temperatures or as a response to anxiety. In cold conditions, blood vessels in your feet and other areas, such as your nose, constrict to help minimize heat loss. This decrease in blood flow leads to decreased oxygen in these peripheral parts of your body, causing them to turn a bluish color, called cyanosis.

What causes cold feet?

A person's feet in wool socks
Zoran Milich/Stocksy United

Cold feet can have no underlying cause at all.

However, cold feet can be a symptom of several conditions, including nerve damage (called peripheral neuropathy), diabetes (a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy), chronic alcohol abuse, or in certain vitamin deficiencies.

Cold feet can also be a symptom of poor circulation to these distant, or peripheral, parts of the body.

Circulatory causes of cold feet

Cold feet may be due to peripheral artery disease (PAD), also called peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This condition involves a narrowing or blockage of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities.

Treating PAD/PVD

According to the National Health Service (NHS), the two most important lifestyle changes are exercising regularly and avoiding smoking.

Your doctor may recommend medication, such as statins, blood thinners, or antihypertensive drugs, or — in rare cases — surgery to restore blood flow.

Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease is a rare condition that affects blood vessels, especially in the fingers and toes. It can cause blood vessels to narrow, particularly when you feel stressed or cold. People with Raynaud’s disease may notice their fingers or toes turn white or blue at times.

Treating Raynaud’s disease

Sometimes, doctors recommend medications that help open the blood vessels. Lifestyle measures to improve symptoms of Raynaud’s disease include:

  • soaking hands in warm water if you notice a flare-up starting
  • keeping your hands and feet warm when you know it will be cold
  • avoiding your triggers with the guidance of your doctor

Neurologic causes of cold feet

Cold feet can also be the result of nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) due to:

  • certain vitamin deficiencies
  • chronic alcohol abuse
  • diabetes (a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)

Treating peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy treatment can involve:

  • addressing its underlying cause, such as diabetes
  • improving certain symptoms, such as motor or sensory symptoms
  • medications, which can be oral or topical
  • surgery, for issues like compressed nerves or protruding disks

How can I treat and improve my cold feet?

Doctors will treat cold feet according to their cause. For example, they may recommend medications to help you manage diabetes or neuropathy, or they may recommend certain vitamin supplements if they find you have a deficiency.

Lifestyle changes that can help you manage cold feet include:

  • not remaining in seated positions that reduce the blood flow to your feet
  • avoiding triggers, which may include stress
  • keeping your feet warm in cold weather and at the first sign of a flare-up
  • staying active and fit to prevent certain conditions and complications
  • not smoking

Some Eastern medicine practitioners will suggest acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion (a traditional Chinese therapy that involves burning herbs) for cold sensitivity in the feet.

When to contact a doctor for cold feet

Rarely, cold feet can be a symptom of a serious condition. 

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience:

Seek prompt medical care if you have slow-healing wounds or bruises on your feet and appear to have frequent skin infections.

If you are receiving treatment for cold feet from poor circulation, but symptoms remain persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of cold feet

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed healthcare practitioner will ask you several questions related to your cold feet, including:

  • When do you perceive cold feet?
  • Has anyone in your family had a heart or blood vessel disease?
  • If you have leg pains with your cold feet, where do you feel these pains, exactly? What part of your leg? How is the pain affected by walking or climbing stairs? By exercising? By sitting or standing?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • How is your diet? Can you describe typical meals you might have on an average day?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What other symptoms might occur with cold feet?

Cold feet may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the cardiovascular system may also involve other body systems.

Cardiovascular symptoms that may occur along with cold feet

Cold feet from poor circulation may accompany other symptoms that affect the cardiovascular system, including:

  • bluish or pale tint to the skin (cyanosis)
  • pain, heaviness, and numbness in your legs
  • pain in the legs, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet when walking
  • pain that increases with muscle exertion and diminishes with rest

Neurological symptoms that may occur along with cold feet

Cold feet may accompany symptoms that are related to the nervous system, including:

  • burning pain, particularly at night
  • numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • paralysis of a part of the body
  • sensitivity to touch
  • weakness (loss of strength)

Other symptoms that may occur along with cold feet

Cold feet may accompany symptoms that are related to other body systems, including:

  • cooler skin on one leg
  • erectile dysfunction
  • poor nail and hair growth on the affected limb
  • slow-healing wounds or sores
  • weak pulse in the affected legs and feet

Frequently asked questions

The following are some frequently asked questions about cold feet.

Why is my body warm but my feet are cold?

Your torso may cool down later than other parts of your body such as your limbs. This is because your limbs are further away from your heart, so it takes a longer time for the blood to reach them.

Sometimes, cold feet and a warm body can be a sign of a circulatory or neurologic condition, such as Raynaud’s disease or peripheral neuropathy.

Are cold feet normal?

It is common to experience cold feet once in a while. Sometimes, it happens with no identifiable cause. However, if you are concerned about your cold feet, speak to your doctor. For example, a sudden onset of cold feet or the appearance of new symptoms would warrant a visit to the doctor.

Summary

Cold feet in cold weather is not serious and reverses rapidly when you warm up again. In stressful or anxious situations, your feet become cold when adrenaline prompts a decrease in the blood flow to peripheral areas of your body to minimize blood loss from a potential injury.

At the same time, the perception of cold feet can also be a symptom of several conditions, including nerve damage, which is sometimes seen in diabetes, chronic alcohol abuse, or in certain vitamin deficiencies.

Cold feet can also be a symptom of poor circulation to these distant, or peripheral, parts of the body. For example, in peripheral artery disease, plaque builds up on the inner walls of an artery, narrowing the passageway for blood flow.

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Medical Reviewer: Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 29
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