Cold feet: causes, home remedies and prevention

Cold feet: causes, home remedies and prevention

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Cold feet in frost are normal; When the body needs to store heat, the parts of the body that are not vital for the cardiovascular system cool down first, and this includes feet and hands. However, those who constantly suffer from cold feet, even in the warm season, may suffer from an illness.

Cold outside

This is the most common cause of cold feet, and it makes biological sense. In short: We freeze on our feet so that the most important veins stay warm to the brain, heart and lungs. Our body controls the heat independently: it narrows the blood vessels and so less warm blood gets into the hands and feet. Fingers and toes cool down faster, that's why we wear gloves and thick socks in winter. Cold from the outside is not dangerous in the long run and when the temperature is below zero: fingers and toes are, along with the tip of the nose and earlobes, among the first parts of the body that freeze to death due to bleeding.

Wet feet

Not only cold, but also wet can lead to cold feet. We then speak of evaporative cooling. With this, the moisture dissipates the heat to the outside, and the body also reacts to this by constricting the blood vessels.

Wet feet can cause severe discomfort, because in addition to the cold, the skin becomes sensitive to inflammation. In World War I, so many soldiers died from wet feet that foot powder has been part of the British Army equipment ever since.

So if you've walked through puddles after a downpour and your socks are soaked like the soles of your feet, your feet will cool down. If they are wet for longer, they feel numb - just like in dry cold.

Cold from wet does not have to come from outside: people with sweaty feet often have cold toes due to their own moisture.

Wrong shoes

Cold feet are less a result of the cold itself, but because blood vessels contract. That is why unsuitable shoes can be the cause. For example, if the socks have cuffs that squeeze the bloodstream or the shoes are too tight, the blood can no longer flow.

So if you wear shoes that are too tight, they are additionally soaked and it freezes outside, your feet will almost certainly get cold quickly.

Cold feet in women

Women are particularly often affected. This is not due to psychological hypersensitivity, but to the female organism. The male body consists of approximately 40% muscles, the female only 23%.

But men only need a maximum of a third of their muscles for work, the rest is the body's body heat. In addition, women have less body mass on average. Here too, the following applies: the less body mass a person has, the more often they feel cold feet.

The female body mainly distributes heat to the central organs: the biological reason is probably to protect the fetus in the womb and the female breasts that supply the baby with milk.

Help and prevention: what to do about cold feet?

You can prevent cold feet with a variety of measures.

1.) Wear warm socks. How to keep the cold away from your feet. The socks should fit loosely. If the stockings constrict the blood vessels, you freeze despite the thermal insulation.

2.) Do something about sweaty feet, because wetness cools your feet. If the socks get wet with sweat, change them. Use foot and shoe sprays, foot gels and foot powder that counteract perspiration. If you can't change socks right now, for example because you're on a hike, then air your shoes regularly.

3) Do not wear airtight shoes that inevitably lead to sweaty feet. Instead, use shoes that store heat as well as let air through.

4) Soak your feet in water at around 35 degrees Celsius. Then rub them dry with a towel to stimulate blood circulation.

5) Cool your feet, then put a hot water bottle on them.

6) Gently massage your feet with your fingertips.

7) Use oils, creams and foot balms with active ingredients that promote blood circulation. Lavender oil, for example, is suitable.

8) Season with chilli, pepper or ginger. These three promote blood circulation, as well as hot tea, soups and stews.

9) Move your feet and toes. You can easily do this when you are working on the laptop. The blood circulation starts with movement.

10) In summer you can get your blood flowing by kicking water. Even when the water is freezing cold, your feet get warm because your blood flow is better. In winter you can go barefoot through the snow for a short time. Then make sure to dry your feet thoroughly.

11) Go to the sauna regularly.

Healthy eating

1) Eat lots of green vegetables that contain vitamin B. Vitamin B is our "nerve hormone" and the nerves control the heat balance.

2) Drink a lot. The more water flows into the organism, the better the blood can flow. Conversely, a lack of fluid leads to viscous blood.

3) Reduce alcohol: It deprives water and the symptoms become stronger.

4) Exercise: exercise promotes blood circulation.

5) Reduce your cigarette consumption. Nicotine constricts the vessels.

6) When you are sitting, place your feet side by side. Crossed legs, hooked or spread feet cause the blood vessels to be pinched off.

Cold feet due to illness

Cold feet can be an alarm signal. They often indicate serious illnesses. This includes low blood pressure, because if the pressure is no longer there, the limbs far from the heart cannot be adequately cared for.

Atherosclerosis, an hardening of the arteries, can also be manifested by cold feet. If the vessels are narrowed due to deposits, the blood can no longer flow as before.

Nerve disorders

Nerves transmit signals to the brain and, conversely, receive "commands" from the brain. Without these nerve impulses there is no information to let the blood flow. Nerve disorders, for example due to accidents or diabetes, therefore disrupt the body's heat balance.

Cause iron deficiency

Iron plays an essential role in health, because without the mineral, many body functions would only work poorly. Iron deficiency is either due to the fact that we absorb too little of the essential trace element, we cannot process what is available, or both.

Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the body.

There are two types of iron that play a role for the human organism: firstly from animal sources and secondly from plants. The former is more easily absorbed by the blood. Iron-rich foods include beef, liver, oysters and dark leafy greens such as spinach.

Anemia from iron deficiency arises when we introduce too little of the mineral in our food. Typical symptoms are chronic fatigue and exhaustion, as well as cold limbs. This is because the body cannot transport oxygen into the cells without iron, and without the oxygen there is no energy.

The vitamin B complex

A lack of vitamins from the B complex as well as a lack of folic acid can lead to chills, cold feet and hands. This is mainly because the B vitamins are involved in blood production; Vitamin B12 and folic acid are even essential for the formation of red blood cells. If blood formation does not work optimally, this leads to reduced blood flow, which in turn leads to cold in the feet.

The vitamin B complex contains eight different nutrients: vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12. The body cannot store vitamins from the B complex, and the daily intake of B vitamins is necessary. Each member of the group has its own range of functions in the body, and at the same time these vitamins work together to maintain health.

The primary role of the B complex is to keep the metabolism going, absorb energy from food and supply it to the body. The B vitamins enable a normal appetite, promote vision, stimulate the nervous system, keep the skin healthy, help digestion, promote protein utilization, support the production of blood cells, help the body to use fats, protect against defects in the backbone and brain.

They also help build genetic material and hormones, draw energy from carbohydrates and support hair growth. The group is necessary to prevent beriberi, pellagra and forms of anemia that result from a lack of B vitamins.

B vitamins are water soluble; the majority of these nutrients are excreted in the urine. They can have negative side effects. When consumed in large quantities, they can increase blood sugar and cause skin problems that damage the heart and liver. Overdoses of vitamin B3 can interfere with vision, cause confusion, induce nausea and cause stomach problems.

Folic acid

Vitamin B9, also called folic acid, is essential for brain functions and plays a crucial role in mental and emotional health. It helps form the body's genetic material and is necessary when the cells and tissues grow rapidly, i.e. in childhood, puberty and pregnancy. Folic acid also works closely with vitamin B12, helping to form red blood cells and making the iron work in the body.

Folic acid is important in pregnancy. Pregnant women who do not get enough of the vitamin are at risk of giving birth to children with birth defects. A study linked folate deficiency to autism. Accordingly, an adequate supply of the vitamin should reduce the risk of developing diseases from the autistic spectrum.

The nutrient is naturally found in green leafy vegetables. Caution: Vitamin B9 dissolves in water and is therefore quickly lost when cooking. The longer leafy vegetables cook, the more of the substance disappears in the cooking water. If you just blanch the vegetables or cook them in the steam, you get the folic acid.

The vitamin is added to many foods today, such as flour, oatmeal or muesli.

Inflammation and low blood pressure

Inflamed vessels can also impair blood circulation and lead to a feeling of cold in the feet, as well as narrowing in the arteries that are triggered by pressure. More serious causes of cold hands are an underactive thyroid, a tumor or metastases. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Jan Hastka, Georgia Metzgeroth, Norbert Gattermann: Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, German Society for Hematology and Medical Oncology e.V., (accessed September 6, 2019), DGHO
  • Larry E. Johnson, Nutritional Disorders - Vitamin Deficiency, Addiction, and Intoxication - Vitamin B12, MSD Manual, (accessed September 6, 2019), MSD
  • Thyroid center Cologne: underactive thyroid, (accessed 05.09.2019), thyroid center-koeln
  • Holger Lawall et al .: S3 guideline on diagnostics, therapy and aftercare of peripheral arterial occlusive disease, German Society for Angiology - Society for Vascular Medicine, (accessed September 6, 2019), AWMF

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