It can be normal for people to notice changes in their body as they get older, but something many people notice that causes them concern is their feet suddenly becoming too hot or too cold. It’s a question many in the Starts at 60 community have had before.
More often than not, hot and cold feet typically relate to other issues in the body. For many, it’s the result of diabetes, while others have an issue with circulation, and for some it’s something else altogether.
Having hot feet is typically described as being akin to a warm sensation in the feet. In some cases, it’s simply because the feet have become too warm because of a particular choice of footwear or socks made of synthetic materials. In other causes, it’s the result of a more serious medical issue.
“In terms of burning feet, that sometimes can be related to diabetes or a nerve issue,” Ambassador for Australian Podiatry Association Christina O’Brien told Starts at 60. “Sometimes the nerve changes can cause burning sensations.”
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause a condition called diabetic neuropathy, where nerves in the feet can become damaged because of diabetes. In some cases, people will experience a burning sensation, while it’s common for others to experience pain, tingling or numbness. Similarly, chronic kidney disease can lead to neuropathy.
For women, it can also be a result of menopause, due to hormonal changes in the body. This can increase overall body temperature and leave the feet feeling warm.
Just like hot feet, there are many things that can cause people to have cold feet. In fact, some people experience cold feet for no health reason at all.
“A lot of the time, women complain of cold feet and it’s just something we seem to have. There’s not often a specific cause for it,” O’Brien said.
For many, cold feet is going to be the body’s natural reaction to colder temperatures. For others, high levels of stress or anxiety can be the root of the problem.
In more serious cases, it can be the result of circulation issues, which can be caused by an array of different factors. According to Medical News, everything from smoking to high cholesterol, diabetes and other heart problems can all contribute to circulation issues, which in turn could cause cold feet, as can hypothyroidism, nerve disorders and even anaemia.
While the first instinct for many people is to warm or cool down the feet as quickly as possible, this isn’t recommended by health experts.
“It’s important not to have a sharp change in temperature,” O’Brien said. “Not to have burning feet and stick them in ice water or have cold feet and stick them in front of the heater. You want to do it slowly so the circulation has time to catch up with the changes.”
There are a number of small and easy things people can do to assist with both conditions. Firstly, it’s important to talk to a GP or podiatrist first to ensure there isn’t other health issues causing the hot or cold feet in the first place. In most cases, when these conditions are treated or managed, foot temperature should return to normal.
For cold feet, opting for thicker or warmer socks or shoes will keep them as warm as quickly and safely as possible. Again, it’s avoiding sharp increases in temperature to ensure blood flow returns to the area gradually. Keeping the feet active and moving is also important – particularly in colder weather.
For hot feet, choosing natural fibre shoes and socks such as cotton or wool is suggested.
“Even if they’re warm, you don’t want anything that’s going to stifle the feet like a nylon sock or anything like that,” O’Brien said. “People can feel hot feet in bed at night and that might just be a case of sticking them out from underneath your blankets.”
With warm feet, standing or walking for long periods should be avoided, while sandals and other footwear that allows the feet to breathe will also cool them down.
If experiencing hot or cold feet for long periods of time, people should always seek medical and professional help and treatment.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.