The Cold, Dry Skinny on Combatting Common Winter Foot Woes

Some very nice and very reasonable people absolutely love winter. It’s their favorite season!

Other people might enjoy the first snow or two, then lock into a mental hibernation until spring.

Both of these views are entirely valid, especially with the kind of weather we tend to get tossed a few teams each season. You can like winter without liking the blizzardy parts of it.

If you have spent at least several years around Indianapolis or surrounding climates, you likely already know how to keep yourself from becoming Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Something you might not have down on lock so well is keeping your feet in optimal condition.

We previously tackled some common problems you might face on the ski slopes, but a winter climate can have everyday effects on your feet as well.

For that reason, we will be diving into two common winter foot problems: cold feet and dry feet.

Keep in mind that these problems are not restricted just to winter—that will become obvious shortly. However, winter can make them worse, so it’s a great season to start taking action.

Cold Feet

It’s the bane of many couples’ bedtimes, but there can be more to it than simple external temperature changes.

Consistent cold feet may be sign of a diminished vascular supply. In other words, your feet are not receiving an optimal flow of blood.

Now, it is already somewhat of a challenge for blood to reach your feet, since they’re the farthest part of you from your heart (not to mention the often straight uphill climb blood has on the return trip!). But other factors can contribute to diminished vascular supply as well.

Nicotine can cause a restriction of your blood vessels, contributing to cold sensations in your extremities. And yes, it is the nicotine directly. It doesn’t matter whether you smoke cigarettes, vape, wear a patch, or chew gum—if you are getting nicotine into your body, it can have this effect.

A syndrome known as Raynaud’s disease can also cause severe constriction of peripheral blood vessels, causing coldness and additional symptoms in the hands and feet.

Raynaud’s is an abnormality in the internal “thermostat” we all have. In severe cold, our bodies will respond by constricting blood flow to our extremities to have a better chance of saving our cores. If you have Reynaud’s, however, this reflex can occur due to more minor changes in temperature and even episodes of stress.

In addition to the cold, a Raynaud’s episode might also include the skin of your feet changing into a patchwork of colors; much like a jigsaw puzzle. When you start warming up, you may also feel numbness or a prickly sort of pain.

Whenever a problem with circulation is at hand—whether from Raynaud’s or another cause—an easy, preliminary test for it is to pinch a nail and wait for its color to return to normal. If it takes more than three seconds, it’s a likely sign of a diminished vascular supply.

It’s a good idea to receive further vascular testing if you have concerns, and our office is well equipped for doing so via our Smart ABI tool. If you have cold feet regularly and:

  • Also have diabetes.
  • Are over 50.
  • It’s 75 degrees and you’re at home.

Then we highly recommend coming to see us.

Dry Feet

We see an upswing of dry feet in the winter, but some patients have dry feet regularly based on certain outside factors. They may have a thyroid or pituitary condition, for example. Many medications can also cause dryness as a side effect.

Otherwise, just the simple fact that our environs can be more parched during winter can be enough to cause dry feet. In addition to generally dryer air outdoors, we can also suck moisture out of our homes through our heaters.

And sorry to tell you this, but if you like taking long, steaming showers in the winter, that can be drawing moisture from your feet as well! We swear, nothing’s fair.

Dry feet are not comfortable and don’t look appealing, but a bigger issue is when dryness leads to cracks or fissures in the feet. These can be especially painful, as well as leave the feet more open to infection.

Whenever the body is not able to do its job (in this case, staying moisturized), you have to do it for yourself.

Making a few changes at home can help. For example, get a cool mist humidifier (and maintain it well so it doesn’t start spewing a fine spray of germs throughout your house). You might also want to limit the time and temperature in your shower.

But perhaps the most impactful change you can make is starting a moisturizing regimen. The best time to moisturize your feet is when they are damp, so right after a (cooler, shorter) shower is a good opportunity. Just before bed is also a good time, and you can place a pair of old socks over your feet to help the moisturizer stay against them.

What kind of moisturizer is best? Look for ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which help draw water into the skin. There are a host of other ingredients in many moisturizers, including fragrances, exfoliators, and the like. As long as what you use moisturizes your feet and doesn’t cause any irritation, it’s likely a good call!

In fact, you can even make your own moisturizer if you’d like. Some of our patients do, using paraffin and basic oils. Once again, if it works, go to town! Read the ingredients on some naturally based lotions and see if you can copy it.

Stay Warm and Wet (Well, Moisturized, We Mean)

If you take measures to improve the warmth and moisture of your feet and things just aren’t working that well, our Indianapolis office is here to help! We can handle a wide variety of problems concerning your skin and nails.

Call us at (317) 545-0505 to schedule an appointment with us. If you prefer to contact us electronically instead, our online contact form is always open. Just fill it out and a member of our staff will respond to you during our normal business hours.


9505 E. 59th St., Suite A
Indianapolis, IN 46216

Phone Number

(317) 545-0505

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