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Your feet and the cold weather

Despite a few days that were sub-zero in December, we’ve enjoyed quite a mild winter so far; however, this last week or so, the temperature has definitely dropped.

person standing nude in some snow with their feet out and footprints

There’s been a lot said about the current cost-of-living crisis, and there will be some households who simply cannot afford to put their heating on for long each day. There are ways and means to keep the body warm without going near your heating thermostat—such as adding layers of clothing, keeping a hot water bottle about your body, heated apparel, electric blankets, etc. However, if you have poor circulation, you may feel that your extremities never get warm, e.g. your nose, your hands, your feet.

Winter lasts for a few months each year…so what could prolonged exposure to the cold do to your feet?

Just as hot weather makes your skin sweat, the cold has the opposite effect and it dries your skin out. Your feet don’t feature self-lubricating oil glands like other areas of your body, which means they will require a little more self-care. For instance, if you don’t moisturise your skin to compensate for its lack of liquid, it could turn brittle and crack, which may provide an entry point for bacteria and infections to access your bloodstream. Brittle skin and nails are also more vulnerable, and could prove more painful if you were to suffer an injury.

Cold weather brings its fair share of aches and pains all over your body, and your feet may not prove to be an exception. You may experience numbness or the feeling that your toes are nothing more than tiny blocks of ice, particularly if you’ve spent hours in the snow. Resist the urge to strip your feet bare and place them on, or very near, a source of heat. The numbness will block or delay the messages to your brain concerning the level of heat your feet are being exposed to, which could result in burns. Honestly, it’s easy done.

Feet infront of a fire in a warm hut

Consider your footwear if you plan to combat the cold with numerous pairs of socks. This may make your feet feel toasty, but the extra material will make your footwear tighter. If your shoes aren’t the comfiest fit, you may feel acute discomfort from a split nail or tender, sore heels. The reduced space could also result in bunions and blisters. Extra layers of material will cause your feet to sweat; this is also a common side-effect from wearing wellies and other rubber boots. Bacteria and funguses love sweaty crevices, and if left to fester, this could lead to athlete’s foot or other fungal infections. When you’re home and out of the cold, soak your feet for a while then dry them thoroughly before working some moisturiser into your skin. Some people recommend adding a clean, dry pair of socks after this routine to wear throughout the night in bed; doing so softens your skin, which will protect you against cracked heels and sore, chapped skin.

If you suffer from nerve damage or poor circulation, it may take some time for your feet to feel warm, which could be quite a while after you’ve stabilised your body’s temperature. Massage them, so that blood flow is encouraged, or soothe them in warm (not hot) water. If, after you’ve done this, you feel throbbing pain or you’re still struggling to warm your feet up, you may have an undiagnosed, underlying health condition. If you feel this could be the case, come and talk to us at our Wombwell or Morley practices.


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