Cold Weather Foot Problems and What to Do About Them

Posted by Dr. Brian Nagy on November 22, 2017

winter boots standing on steps in the snowWinter is here, which means we’re all getting used to cold temperatures, wet weather, snow, and ice. While we can bundle up against the elements, we also need to make sure to protect our feet. Cold weather can exacerbate painful foot conditions and also increase your risk of other foot problems developing.

Why does cold weather increase my risk of foot problems?

When the weather gets cold, it affects your body in a few different ways. First, cold winter air can dry out your skin and nails, weakening them and making them more susceptible to damage and infection. For example, drier more sensitive skin on your feet could be more likely to develop calluses or corns.

The weather can also affect your circulation which can lead to problems in your feet, especially for diabetics, as well as cause constriction of your nerves, leading to numbness or pain. If you have neuropathy or a neuroma, the cold can increase the symptoms of these conditions.

And finally, as the weather gets colder you change from sandals to closed-toe shoes and boots and thick socks. If your feet have changed, your shoes from last winter might not fit correctly or you might not have enough room to accommodate thicker socks. This compression can lead to issues like bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

What foot problems are commonly affected by cold weather?

Here at Nagy Footcare, our New Hampshire podiatrists see a lot of foot conditions, especially during the colder winter months.

Toenail fungus infections are more common at this time of year because your nails become dry and brittle. Additionally, you’re wearing shoes and thick socks. If your socks don’t wick away moisture, your feet become the perfect breeding ground for athlete’s foot and toenail infections.

You may be more likely to develop foot problems like blisters, bunions, and hammertoes from wearing shoes that don’t fit correctly. They might compress your toes in to abnormal alignment or rub uncomfortably. The excessive friction can also lead to calluses and corns. You may also experience heel pain or plantar fasciitis from wearing incorrectly fitting shoes and boots.

Chilblains are more common in people who have circulation issues. When your toes (or fingers) are exposed to cold air then exposed to hot air, the small blood vessels in your skin may not respond in the correct time. This lets blood leak into your tissue, causing itchy, red, and swollen spots to develop.

The chilblains can become irritated, leading to the development of cracks in your skin, ulcers, and other infections.  Chilblains are more like to develop on bunions or calluses, where your foot is more exposed to pressure and friction.

Reynaud’s phenomenon is a circulation issue that affects the blood vessels in your extremities. It’s aggravated by sudden changes in temperature and can lead to your toes turning white or blue.

The cold weather can also trigger Morton’s neuroma and neuropathy symptoms. Cold weather can make circulation issues worse, leading to these issues becoming more symptomatic. Wearing incorrectly fitting shoes that pinch or constrict your feet can also cause these conditions to flare up.

What can I do to protect my feet during the cold winter months?

At this time of year, you’ll need to change your foot care regimen to accommodate for the weather and temperature changes. First, wear the right shoes. Even if your boots were perfect last year, your feet may have changed. Your feet tend to get wider as you get older. Gaining weight can also cause your feet to get bigger. Make sure your shoes and winter boots fit properly and if not, replace them with properly fitting footwear.

Also, do your best to keep your feet clean and dry. Invest in good socks that wick moisture away. If your feet are stuck in sweaty socks and boots all day, your skin and nails can be affected. So, change your socks regularly, especially after working out and at the end of the day.

Finally, and most importantly, get professional podiatry help if your feet hurt. Your feet are so important to staying healthy and active as well as being able to complete your normal daily activities.

If you experience foot pain or notice any developing foot problems, schedule a consultation to meet with a New Hampshire podiatrist to make sure that your feet stay healthy, and you stay comfortable. At Nagy Footcare, our best day is when you wake up with no foot pain.

10 Common Causes of Foot Pain eBook

Topics: Foot Problems

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