Warm Up Cold Feet

date: January 15, 2015

We sit on them, rest them near the fireplace, quietly steal some real estate for them under a partner’s nearby blanket—anything for cold feet we’re desperate to warm up. Your tricks may work, but it’s helpful to know some of the reasons why your pair may be chilly—and some other reliable ways you can get them comfortable again.

Chronic flip-flop wearer? If so, and you don’t live in a warm place year-round, you probably dread the change of seasons and its message that it’s time to find your socks. Of course, cold temperatures make anyone’s feet cold. When the barometer falls, the network of blood vessels under your skin constricts and sends blood toward your internal organs, away from your skin.

This detour actually helps you: Less blood flow near the surface of your skin means less heat loss. However, this change also means that your extremities—particularly your feet—are more likely to get cold.

You may notice that you have cold feet more as you age (despite whether or not it’s coat weather), as a once strong blood supply may become less robust over time; less overall blood flow means even less making it to your extremities. Also, the micro-network of veins and capillaries in your feet can become damaged over time (from standing, walking, running and so on), reducing blood flow even more. You may even experience numbness or pain as a result.

Instant Relief for Cold Feet
You can boost circulation to your feet and warm them up pretty quickly:

  • Soak your feet in warm water. This will slowly increase circulation, gradually warming up your feet. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. In fact, taking drastic measures to warm up cold toes, like placing your foot on a hot radiator or too close to a blazing fire, can actually cause fluid to leak from your blood vessels, leading to inflammation and swelling.

More: The Healing Benefits of Foot Soaks

  • Wear thick, natural-fabric socks. It may sound simple and even a little obvious, but putting on a good pair of thick socks can help warm your feet. Just be sure to choose socks made of wool or cotton, rather than synthetic fibers, which allow your feet to “breathe” and prevent  sweating that might actually leave your feet feeling even colder. Also, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes, as footwear that’s too tight can reduce the circulation to your feet.
  • Practice stimulating foot and toe exercises. Any kind of exercise, whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga class or swim session, will boost blood flow. However, specific foot, ankle and toe exercises can be especially helpful when it comes to stimulating circulation and warming feet up quickly. One to try: Sit in a chair with your feet off the ground, then use one foot to write the letters of the alphabet, leading with your big toe. Complete on both sides two times, remembering to keep the movements small by only using your foot and ankle.
  • Drink plenty of water. As fall settles in, you may not crave the same amount of water you did during the height of summer. However, it’s still important to make sure you’re drinking plenty of liquids. If you’re dehydrated, your circulatory system will suffer.

More: Are You Hydrating Enough?

  • Make a warming foot mask. Slathering your feet in warming, soothing ingredients (see below) can go a long way toward boosting circulation and keeping your feet hydrated. Plus, it feels fantastic and is a welcome 15-minute “me-time” break.

The Do-It-Yourself Warming Foot Mask
It’s easier than you might think to make your own spa-like foot mask. All you need are the right ingredients and a comfy chair in which to relax while your foot mask does its work. The cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger in this mix are warming spices that will boost your circulation, and the oats and honey are especially soothing and hydrating. Try this recipe once a week, or do it any time your feet feel cold.

What you need:

Food processor
½ cup whole oats
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons warm water
2 hand towels

Directions:

Using a food processor, grind the oats into a fine powder, then add the spices and blend until combined. Transfer the oats-spice mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the honey and warm water, mixing until you’ve formed a thick paste. You may need to add more warm water until the consistency is easy to spread yet thick enough to coat your skin and stay there.

Once you’ve made the mask, soak your hand towels in hot (though not boiling) water and ring out well, so they’re soaked but not dripping wet. You can also wet the towels and put them in the microwave for a couple minutes to heat them.

Finally, spread a thick layer of the mask over each foot, covering up to your ankles. Wrap each foot in one of the warm hand towels, which will help seal in moisture from the mask and allow the warming ingredients to penetrate the skin’s surface. Relax as you let the foot mask work some magic for 15 minutes.

When you’re finished, remove the hand towels and rinse your feet with warm water. Dry your feet thoroughly, then rub on your favorite moisturizer or foot balm. To really up the ante on the hydration, put on a pair of cotton socks to help the moisturizer or foot balm soak into your skin.

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