Causes of Cold Feet

Protect yourself by identifying the causes of cold feet.

Joy Pape By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

Having cold feet is related to a lot more than being scared, or cold weather. It may be related to your diabetes, and it may not.

Your feet may feel cold to you, and they actually may be cold temperature wise. Or they may even be warm but just feel cold to you.

Some causes of cold feet:

  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathyNeuropathy, the cause of all kinds of weird symptoms, is also one of the causes of cold feet. Either they are really cold or just feel cold to you. For the most part, it is caused by unmanaged diabetes.
  • Temperature – Cool temperatures can cause your feet to feel cold if not properly covered and protected.
  • Frostbite – damage to your skin and other tissues caused by freezing. It is caused by exposure to temperatures below freezing.
  • Circulation problems – This includes PAD.
  • Hypothyroidism – low thyroid can cause you to feel cold all over, especially your hands and feet.
  • Your medications – certain medications for high blood pressure, some antibiotics, and possibly other medications can cause your feet to feel cold.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) – a neurological disorder when you feel funny sensations in your legs when at rest such as creeping, crawling, aching, and some times cold sensations to the skin of your legs that are relieved by moving them.
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – A type of compression neuropathy (nerve disease due to compression of the nerve) in the ankle and foot. This is more common in people with diabetes than the general population.
  • Other causes of cold feet include conditions such as Raynaud's phenomenon, Buerger's Disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Cockayne syndrome, and Pratesi syndrome.

Prevention is the best treatment. People with diabetes can have a decreased capacity for healing, especially in the feet. And because of this, the risk of amputations increases. Use the following tips to warm up and prevent damage to your feet:

  • Identify in your surroundings the causes of cold feet. This may be something you can do yourself. For example, you know if the room is cold and you aren't wearing protective socks and shoes. On the other hand, if it's due to a diagnosis you are not aware of, or a side effect of a medication, you will need to work with your health care provider.
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy – attain and maintain your target blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipid levels.
  • Cool temperatures and frostbite –
    1. Keep your surroundings at a comfortable temperature. This varies among people. Room temperature is considered 20°C (68 °F) to 28°C (82.4 °F).
    2. Avoid going barefoot either inside or outside.
    3. Wear well-fitting socks and shoes to fit the occasion. Wear shoes with faux fur lining, fur, or sheepskin lining. Remember to make sure the sole of your shoe is hard enough that a tack wouldn't go through it.
    4. Avoid hot water bottles, electric heaters, electric blankets, heated socks and shoes, and hot water baths or soaks. These can burn your skin and you may not know it until it's too late.
    5. If you experience frostbite, elevate your feet, keep them clean, dry, and covered. Contact your health care provider right away. This can be a medical emergency.
  • Besides the tips above, talk with your health care provider about the other causes such as RLS, circulations problems, hypothyroidism, your medications, or the other reasons mentioned above.

EnJOY! the winter months and keep your feet warm.

Read Joy's bio here.

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: January 30, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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