What can I do about my (freezing) cold feet?
November 13, 2007 7:17 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my ice-cold feet warm, or reheat them once they do get cold?

I get cold feet. So cold that I frequently lose feeling in my toes while wearing shoes and socks in a room that is of comfortable temperature to the rest of my body. So cold that when I go to bed at night, and turn my heated mattress pad onto 'high', it takes (literally) two+ hours for them to heat through. So cold that I have to move them around the bed for a long time because anywhere I put them actually makes the bed cold. My feet keep me awake and feeling uncomfortable most winter nights. Any touch of my toes to my partner at night sends him howling. They're awful little blocks of ice.

This happens every winter, all my adult life. I've tried slippers, and they do nothing. Wearing shoes and socks until bedtime does nothing either. When I was in my early 20s I used to take a shower every night before bed, just to warm my feet through, and it worked... But my current lifestyle just won't allow it. Also my skin is getting much drier as I get older and two showers a day would probably cause some scaly issues.

Any recommendations from anyone who's beat this problem? I've looked at microwave heated slippers and electric foot warmers. I'm wondering if the microwave slippers are actually effective, if they can put out enough heat not to be made completely cold by my feet. The reviews of electric foot warmers I've read are not so great, often saying the "warming" function is a joke. I've also wondered if one of those paraffin baths would fix my problem, but I'm not sure if it would get expensive to use it every day for 4 months a year. Or if they're meant to be used in such a way.

Any ideas greatly appreciated. To have my feet just be at body temperature when I go to bed would be a godsend.

I apologize if this has been asked and answered before. Searching for "cold feet" obviously returned a lot of nonrelevant stuff.
posted by FortyT-wo to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Get or make one of those aromatherapy sack things filled with rice that people put in the microwave, heat up, and use on their aching backs, shoulders, etc. Heat it up in the microwave and take it to bed with you, placing it on or near your feet.
posted by konolia at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you tried down-filled slippers? I find they are way warmer than anything else I've tried, including real sheep fleece. I also find that changing my socks when I get home helps - my socks tend to be a bit damp after being inside my shoes all day, and those damp socks get cold very fast after I take my shoes off. So clean dry socks and down-filled slippers is my suggestion.
posted by Quietgal at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2007

It's all about circulation. I find having lots of socks on actually causes my feet to get colder. You need to improve blood flow, since warming the surface of your feet just brings the veins closer to the surface.

Cats also help. My problem now is keeping my legs from getting too hot.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:25 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

A hot water bottle is what works best for me - fill with the hottest tap water you can get, place between the sheets, and apply bare feet directly to it. By the time the water bottle is cooled off, my feet are warm and the bed is warm.
posted by beandip at 7:27 PM on November 13, 2007

Are you getting enough aerobic exercize? I think that's what helped me. Meant to say that, but I always ramble on the keyboard.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:27 PM on November 13, 2007

Can you sleep in socks? My friend has this problem and she wears a pair of cotton socks under a pair of thick wool socks under a pair of down filled slipper-socky type things. She did say it takes some getting used to but it brings her feet up to minimal body temperature at night.
posted by beautifulcheese at 7:28 PM on November 13, 2007

A relative of mine has a similar problem, and her doctor had her try out some sort of circulation-boosting medication. It worked, but it also gave her a rash. You could ask your doctor about it.

In the short term, why not try the microwaveable booties? If your feet cool them off, you can always re-nuke them.
posted by CKmtl at 7:32 PM on November 13, 2007

I've had success with rubbing small amounts of cayenne pepper on my toes. This was a long time ago.
posted by alms at 7:40 PM on November 13, 2007

I have the same problem and no idea what to do at work, where they say I can't have a space heater anymore. My hands and feet are freezing.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:50 PM on November 13, 2007

My wife had the same thing until she realized she had undiagnosed thyroid issues (hypothyroidism). She now takes a thyroid supplement and is no longer cold for the first time in her life. Might be worth checking out the next time you see a doctor.
posted by shothotbot at 7:58 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

My feet do this, and wrapping them does no good. All that does is keep your cold feet from touching anything else. If my feet get cold, I wash them in the sink in hot water until they warm up and go to bed. (Water is a better conductor than air.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2007

I have cold feet too, though not quite as cold as yours. I do a few things.

- some nights I take a bath. I think I could use one of those foot spa things with warm water too, while I was watching a movie or something. I put on moisturizer afterwards
- if I'm wearing socks before bed I take them off and give my feet a good bit of time before I put on other socks. Usually the socks I've been wearing are just a little sweaty and perfectly dry socks are easier to warm up. This is esp true if I've been wearing shoes as opposed to indoor slippers. I usually wear slippers in the house.
- hot water bottle
- I have a little electric throw rug thing that is like a blanket but small. Sometimes I just sit with it over my lap and/or feet for a few hours while I'm doing whatever I do in the evening if I'm home
- exercise helps. Then again I usually swim which is followed by a hot shower so it's hard to tell which is responsible.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2007

I had the same problem when I was younger, and it seems that it was a result of poor circulation. My doctor thought that that was what it was, and one night of netball training a week and a game on the weekend wasn't exactly enough to improve my circulation, and because I was 14-15 he didn't want to put me on any meds. I've since started playing the drums and the 20 minutes or so of activity a day with my feet seems to have improved the problem significantly, but I still wear socks most of the time, and even sleep in them.

Maybe you could try tapping your feet around under your desk for a period of time each day if you're stuck at one for long periods of time to get the blood flowing through them. I also find that thick cotton socks help because my feet don't sweat in them as much as woollen ones (and damp = cold), and change them at least once during the day, either as soon as I get home or before I go to bed. Also, the type of shoe I'm wearing is vital. Boots and sport shoes are great, but thin/canvas shoes (eg Chucks) will always lead to cold feet. Of course YMMV.
posted by cholly at 8:03 PM on November 13, 2007

I had a similar issue when living in a poorly insulated apartment in Philly. My solution was a hat and something wrapped around my midsection. So try a sleeping cap. It actually made me too hot on some occasions.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:13 PM on November 13, 2007

Medium-term: Circulation-boosting exercise, and ask your doctor if there's anything they suggest for this.

Short-term: Warm them up under hot running water right before bed, plus super-insulating blanket that just goes over the bottom part of the bed.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:20 PM on November 13, 2007

Those rice-filled microwaveable things really retain heat for a long time. I second that recommendation.

You could also just soak your feet in hot water before going to bed, rather than taking a full shower. A plastic basin (of the kind often used for dishwashing) will do the trick.

Also: wool socks. Maybe more than one pair.

And: Check your residence for drafts. I realized a while back that our bedroom window was spilling huge amounts of cold air into the apartment during the winter. I tried to tape up the cracks and/or seal them with cut-up pieces of a plastic trash bag, which has helped a lot. I also close the door to the bedroom when I'm in other rooms.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:27 PM on November 13, 2007

I never went to "Outward Bound" but friends of mine did, and they told me that one of the first things they were taught was this: "if your feet are cold, put on a hat."

Your cold feet are the consequence of an important survival mechanism, it turns out. Its purpose is to reduce the chance of you dying of hypothermia.

If your feet are cold, put on a sweater. Or a hat. I'm not joking; it works. If your body isn't trying to conserve heat, it will allow more heat to reach your feet and hands.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:39 PM on November 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

Seconding shothotbot. Dry skin (and hair) are also symptoms of thyroid deficiency.
posted by jamjam at 8:43 PM on November 13, 2007

Wiggle your toes. Wiggle early, and wiggle often.

Your floor might be quite a bit colder than the rest of the room. Seal up drafts and put in a ceiling fan. Put a wool rug over any cold flooring materials such as concrete or tile. As a long term solution, choose a heating system installed in the floor.
posted by yohko at 8:56 PM on November 13, 2007

i have the icy cold feet too. my favourite way to warm them up before i go to bed is to get in a hot bath. mmmm, toasty warm.
posted by netsirk at 8:59 PM on November 13, 2007

Ginger is good for poor circulation, and quite warming. Try ginger tea - put a minced teaspoon of it into a mug of boiling water, with honey if you like it sweet. Good for menstrual cramps too.
posted by Sar at 9:05 PM on November 13, 2007

Wear a hat.

Humans have large brains that require a ton of oxygen, hence a lot of blood. The skull isn't very well insulated and will shed a lot of heat. Your body is trying to keep that delicate brain at precisely the right temperature and will divert blood (ie;, close off capillaries, &c) from the relatively unimportant parts of the body (ie., your toes) so it can get warmed up in your body core and pumped into the brain, hence losing even more warmth.

Shield the biggest leakage of warmth from your body and you'll feel warmer overall.
posted by porpoise at 9:07 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem (although not quite as severe - it usually takes only 30 to 60 minutes for mine to warm up). Socks usually don't help at all - there has to be warmth there for the socks to preserve.

I bought an extra long heating pad (24 inches long), and I wrap it around my feet and ankles as soon as I'm sitting down for the evening. About 5 months of the year, my feet stay wrapped in it for the evening.

If my feet are really freezing, even that takes too long. In that case, I sit on the bathroom counter and immerse my feet in very warm water for 5-10 minutes. I dry them off, rub lotion in, and immediately put on thick socks and get into bed, or wrap them in the electric heating pad if I'm going to be up for awhile.

If my feet were as bad as yours, I would probably invest in some electric socks.
posted by onemorething at 9:15 PM on November 13, 2007

OMG this happens to me too! A combination of things recommended above:
- change socks frequently. If they're even a bit damp, all the warmth in the room/bed won't help warm them up. Change socks a few times a day to prevent getting that cold.
- insoles. There are warmer insoles out there for street shoes that actually do work.
- double-layered socks. One thinner layer, one slightly thicker layer, depending on your preference for materials. Some people love wool socks, but when my feet are white, they do nothing (people don't believe me but it's true!).
- Wear a hat if possible.
- dunk feet in warm bath, little foot spa or sink to jumpstart the process when you get home. Put on some lotion if your feet are too dry.
- warm-ass slippers. Down camping slippers, or boiled wool slippers, or even better -- Ugg boots!
- Here's my daily routine: change socks all the time. Come home, if feet are white - either shower or warm foot bath. Into clean, dry camping socks and finally ugg-type slippers.

You might have Reynaud's. Or a thyroid problem. Do your hands do this too?
posted by barnone at 9:24 PM on November 13, 2007

Most important to me is to have loose socks with absolutely no elastic. Many's the long winter night I've picked away at the built-in hidden elastic in socks. When my socks are floppy my feeble circulation isn't impeded and once my feet are warm they stay warm.
posted by anadem at 10:30 PM on November 13, 2007

Electric socks, particularly those designed for people with chronically cold feet.
posted by paulsc at 12:24 AM on November 14, 2007

In addition to the other suggestions, try decreacing your caffeine intake.
posted by Good Brain at 12:51 AM on November 14, 2007

take a 15-minute walk.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:21 AM on November 14, 2007

Seconding that you may have Raynaud's. (Knowing this won't solve your problem, but hey, at least you're not alone!)

Seconding ginger, exercise, footbaths, and socks. The polar fleece socks are great because they're loose but toasty.
posted by desuetude at 6:20 AM on November 14, 2007

I don't have such a serious problem, but I can't fall asleep if my feet are cold, which they usually are. I put my bed so my feet are in front of the heater, which I turn up high enough so that it's pretty much going all night, and I can stick my feet in front of it, or touching it, whenever I want to. Not cheap but worth it! I also have a pair of battery socks that I LOVE. They don't warm up instantly, but they are great.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2007

I had a brief bout of Raynaud's about 20 years ago and found silk undersocks to be very useful.
posted by Dolukhanova at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2007

I'm gonna go way out on a limb on this one and say that all these suggestions to keep your feet warm are probably making your problem worse in the long run.

People who really need to avoid getting frostbite in their extremities, such as mountain climbers, will regularly dip their hands and feet into ice water as part of their training. As long as the bodies core is kept warm, the physiological response will be to increase circulation to the hands and feet.

I wouldn't try this if you have an underlying physical problem that is causing poor circulation to your feet, but other then that it has worked pretty well for me.
posted by jefeweiss at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2007

Seconding the Raynaud's disease. Members of my family have this, and their feet are perpetually cold; to the point of being grey in colour.

The family member doesn't carry a lot of excess body mass, and I believe that this is a contributor as well.

I don't know how serious this can be other than a discomfort, but just for your own peace of mind you should consult your doctor. Oh, and if you smoke, you should quit as smoking can cause reduced circulation.

Wikipedia has a rather good article on dos linken verclicken
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2007

I have this problem due to Thalassemia - I put my night-time socks in the dryer for a few minutes before putting them on and getting in bed. Mmmmm - warm feet!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2007

I think the trick is to get your feet warm first, then wrap them as much as needed to keep the warmth in. If you wrap them up cold, they'll never get warm. Sorry this so lengthy, but I would recommend several things:
- Exercise/stretch your feet/ankles/calves for about 20 minutes
- Wash your feet with a washcloth soaked in very hot water
- Dry them vigorously with a thick bath towel fresh from a hot dryer
- Once you're in bed, wrap your feet in one of those things you pop in the microwave for a couple minutes. They're designed for the shoulders and neck but they work anywhere and are extremely flexible. (They sell them at almost any drugstore.) Leave it wrapped around your feet until your feet feel somewhat warm. Then immediately put two pairs of socks on, one thin and close to the skin on the inside and the other thick and preferably tightly woven (is that the right term?) on the outside. I think the socks should be comfortable and not tight at any part of your foot, or that might make it worse.
- Wear full pajamas to bed, even during the summer. It doesn't have to be thermal all the time, but thermal's best during the coldest months.
- Sleep with two blankets, even if you just use the second one for your feet. I pull the bottom of all of the covers underneath and around my feet, kind of like a cocoon, once I'm situated, and pull the covers right up to my chin. Once any part of me gets cold, my feet get cold, too.
- If your feet are still cold, go for the heating pad underneath your feet while you sleep. Make sure if you want to use it the whole night that you spring for one with an automatic shut-off that you can set for a particular time.

Also mention it to your doctor. IANADoctor, but if there is a medical cause behind it, it might cause other things you're not aware of.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2007

Sitting on a hard chair of with improper posture for extended periods of time makes lower-extremity circulation worse. Make sure you're not cutting off your circulation that way.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 1:32 PM on November 14, 2007

Anyone who camps in the cold will tell you sleeping in lots of clothes actually works against you. Sleeping naked lets out the body heat to keep you warm under the covers. I've heard that a lot.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2007

I'm sure the best advice in here is to get some exercise and put on a hat.
But has anyone here ever taken a Niacin pill? I did one time and it made my hands, feet, earlobes feel hot. Its a B vitamin. I guess it opens the blood vessels.
posted by low affect at 1:49 PM on November 23, 2007

My wife uses heating gel-packs that you boil to recharge. They have changed her bedtime ritual significantly. You can find them in camping stores & at Bed Bath & Beyond.
posted by Four Flavors at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2007

Gain a few pounds. Seriously. If you're on the skinny side, this could be your problem.

I lost about ten pounds a month or so ago thanks to my crazy fast metabolism and catching the 'flu for the first time in years; I was never very big to begin with. I'd always had cold (but not freezing) feet and hands, and they never bothered me until I lost weight. Now I'm frequently cold, I have the exact problem you described (with the addition of chilblains, which are swollen, itchy toes with little hemorrhages all over them due to chill exposure), and I'm desperately trying to regain the natural insulation I lost.
posted by oogenesis at 11:36 PM on January 20, 2008

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