What causes cold feet?

Many things can cause cold feet. Assuming there are no underlying medical conditions, the most common reason for cold feet is the body’s reaction to colder weather. In an effort to keep the important organs warm, the body will constrict the blood vessels in the feet and legs and hands and arms. Because the feet are the furthest away from the body, they'll feel the coldest. 
Christopher Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Vascular conditions affect the arteries that carry blood throughout your body. Many people suffer poor circulation, especially as they grow older, and this may lead to cold feet. High blood pressure (hypertension) and other types of cardiovascular disease can also reduce circulation, especially to the extremities. So can phlebitis, an inflammation of a vein that sometimes causes a blood clot.

Your feet may be cold due to decreased circulation. The decreased circulation, or blood flow, to the feet may be caused by several things. You may be wearing shoes that are too tight which restricts blood flow. You may be tying your shoes too tightly, which will also restrict blood flow. You may be wearing clothing (pants) which are too tight is some places which may also restrict blood flow to your feet.

If none of these fit your situation, consult your health care provider as you may have a medical problem (high blood pressure, diabetes, old frostbite injuries) which may be contributing to decreased circulation in your feet.

Cold feet reflects poor circulation to the feet. Poor circulation may be due to peripheral arterial disease, diabetes, extrinsic compression of the blood flow, or vasospasm (like in Raynaud's phenomenon.) An evaluation by your primary care doctor may be necessary if you find chronically cold feet and/or pale, blue or purple discoloration to the feet.
There are a couple different reasons for cold feet.  Shoes that are too tight can cause feet to become cold because they can restrict the blood flow.  Another reason is poor circulation.  The blood maintains a 98.6 degree temperature.  It helps to maintain the body's warmth as it passes through the circulatory system.  Poor circulation of the feet and toes can result in cold feet.  If your job requires you to sit for long periods without movement of the lower limbs, stand up occasionally and wiggle your toes in your shoes.  While you're standing, raise up onto your toes about 10 - 15 times.  You can also curl your toes as if making a fist and squeeze tightly for about 5 seconds each time.  If music plays in your office, don't be afraid to tap your feet along with the beat.  All of these activities will send an increased volume of blood to your feet and warm them.

Continue Learning about Heart and Circulatory System

Are You At Risk for DVT?
Are You At Risk for DVT?
The movie The 33 details the lives of 33 Chilean miners who were exploring a vein of copper deep in the earth when a cave-in trapped them in the narro...
Read More
What is angioplasty?
Frankfort Regional Medical CenterFrankfort Regional Medical Center
Angioplasty is the opening up of an artery with a balloon. This can be the heart artery. It can be l...
More Answers
What is “broken heart syndrome”?
Mary A. McLaughlin, MDMary A. McLaughlin, MD
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, affects women more often than men. In this video...
More Answers
How Does a Person Get a Hole in Their Heart?
How Does a Person Get a Hole in Their Heart?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.