Particularly cold, or even icy feet , despite wearing thick socks and warm, padded shoes, are a sign that something is wrong. Not always in us, due to some related pathology (although there are medical causes of cold feet ), but in relation to the temperature on the earth’s surface . This happens especially if your feet are cold and your hands are warm.
The thermal value at ground level, measured right on the asphalt of the road, can be 8ºC below the “official” thermometers, which are 1.5 meters above the ground. The colder air, being denser and heavier, tends to descend and settle in the lower areas. The consequence is a greater cold felt at the feet, in contact with the road, and higher temperatures if you go up towards the head, for this reason cold feet often correspond to warm hands and torso, as if the body were clearly divided into two hemispheres with different temperatures.
Causes cold feet
- Winter temperatures
- thyroid malfunction
- diabetes mellitus
- peripheral vascular disease (called PAD, from English Peripheral Artery Disease)
- sedentary lifestyle
- Raynaud’s syndrome
- neurological damage
Cold feet: thermal causes
To explain this phenomenon which is even more accentuated during the winter season, we should examine the relationship between the body and the air that surrounds it: humidity and cold air are located in the lowest points , and therefore they come into contact with the surface through the soles of the shoes; the heat, on the other hand, rises towards the chest and face, even if it often happens to have a very cold nose : it occurs when the body releases heat into the air.
Feet temperature if it’s windy
We have seen where cold and humidity are located which cause the so-called frozen feet, but the wind also contributes to these thermal variations. The wind, in fact, breaks the “thermal inversion”: in this way the cold concentrated in the feet spreads throughout the body, i.e. wind-chill occurs, i.e. we perceive the temperature based on the power of the wind: the stronger the wind is , the greater the cold sensation that will be felt. This happens because the body loses heat.
It may seem like a contradiction in physical terms: the wind usually raises the temperature, but it increases the sensation of cold up to five times, despite a few degrees on the thermometer, compared to the absence of wind.
Albedo effect: what is it?
How we dress affects whether we take in heat or cold. In fact, the color of our clothes is particularly important for receiving and retaining heat from solar radiation . Dressing in dark, black, you know, is not recommended in the summer because it attracts the sun’s rays and retains heat, so it is ideal during the cold season . On the contrary, it is better to avoid light colors, therefore protective and heat repelling. This is defined as the albedo effect which usually defines the reflecting power of the snow which, being completely white, manages to almost entirely reflect the electromagnetic radiation – i.e. the light – that strikes it.
A fundamental variable that affects the temperature of our feet is the surface on which we walk. Walking on a country road, on the snow or on the city asphalt does not have the same effect on the feet or on the thermal sensation, or even on the pleasantness we feel for the whole body. It is logical and clear to understand how feet on an icy or snowy surface lead to a greater transfer of cold to the footwear and therefore to the feet.
Also in this case the albedo effect comes into play: on sunny days, walking on the snow will be even colder, precisely because solar radiation is almost totally reflected. Radiation, on the other hand, does not occur if you walk on asphalt which, being dark, retains and absorbs solar radiation , and therefore will be hotter.
Cold feet: causes other than temperature
The most common and widespread cause of having cold feet is a lack of heat, as we have seen in the previous paragraphs, closely related to the harsh temperatures of the external environment, especially if we usually do not wear suitable socks or shoes in the cold season. This phenomenon, of course, increases in winter, as a completely normal physiological condition.
In the presence of cold temperatures, our body distributes the correct temperature to the brain and to the vital organs, thus reducing if necessary the flow of blood and heat at the peripheral level, therefore to hands and feet above all.
Cold feet, however, can be a symptom of some different pathologies. Among these, the most common is linked to a circulatory problem: the blood no longer regularly reaches the feet, which will be colder than the rest of the body.
- Wear warm or thermal socks
- Use waterproof and padded shoes
- Prefer dark clothing that retains the heat of the sun’s rays
- Walk on paved roads
- Upon returning, take a foot bath with warm water and soothing essential oils such as lavender and rose.