Feet are very sensitive. They do not acclimate to differences in temperature and barometric pressure as well as other parts of our bodies. Hot and cold weather as well as variations in atmospheric pressure impact blood flow and cause pain and swelling. Cold-weather induced reduction in circulation and retention of fluid caused by hot weather can cause discomfort and pain, but with the help of proper footwear and socks, these types of foot conditions can be soothed or even prevented.
Barometric Pressure and Our Feet
Barometric pressure (a measure that refers to the weight of the air) can cause aches in joints. When the air pressure is low, a common theory for the pain is that tendons, muscles, and bones expand, putting pressure on joints and can cause swelling in areas affected by arthritis. People with arthritis and those with chronic pain are more likely to notice subtle changes in barometric pressure. Not every person is affected by upcoming weather changes, but those that are sensitive to the change in barometric pressure can feel stiff or achy pains.
Also, cold weather can decrease circulation. In people with naturally poor circulation or diabetes this can cause numbness or swelling. Since the feet have no oil producing glands, dry cold weather can cause the skin on feet to crack. If not cautious, the skin can create lesions that are prone to infections.
Hot weather also increases swelling of the feet. During heat waves, many people experience excessive water retention. Heat causes blood vessels to become dilated and the body to have a harder time bringing the blood from the feet back to the heart, causing fluid build-up. People with lung, kidney, liver, heart disease or those who are overweight are more prone to edema or excessive water retention causing greater swelling of the feet. A first sign of edema is when you press on the swollen foot with a finger and the indentation persists for a few seconds.
Footwear Tips to Help Your Feet with Weather Changes
Orthopedic footwear & socks can help alleviate conditions caused by changes in atmospheric pressure, cold, or hot temperatures.
Orthopedic shoes can provide supportive insoles and soft fabric lining features that help reduce any discomfort from rubbing thus preventing sores or lesions if feet swell. Also, the more depth provided in orthopedic shoes are more accommodative for swelling. If you have foot conditions from bunions, diabetes or swelling, look for styles that include soft fabric lining or stretch material at the toe area, extra depth features, wider toe box area, and supportive inserts.
The use of socks made from wool material can keep your feet warm during cold weather and prohibit the expansion of tendons, muscles, and bones that cause the foot pain. Also, wool can help absorb moisture making them a great choice for more humid climates.
For warmer weather, compression socks help promote blood flow which prevents swelling and even blood clots. Compression socks come in different compression levels. Use this article to help understand how compression socks work and which compression level is right for you.
Light exercise is also beneficial to get the blood flowing and to release stiffness and tension in joints and to warm up the feet. When going outside in the cold, make sure that your shoes are supportive and have moisture-wicking features to keep your feet stay cool and dry.
Foot Health Tips to Use Throughout the Year
In the summer, warm weather affects our feet differently than cooler weather. Below are some tips to consider for those warmer days.
- Wear supportive footwear – You may want to be outside more to enjoy the sun. This means being on your feet more. Be sure to wear footwear that offers support to prevent any strains and help with lower body alignment.
- Inspect feet daily – When you are more active on your feet, the movement can make you more susceptible to cuts or injuries to your feet. Diabetic foot conditions can make you more prone to cuts that you may not feel initially. Be sure to inspect your feet, including between your toes and the bottom of your feet. Use a mirror if necessary to ensure areas that are hard to see do not have any cuts or abrasions.
- Groom feet – regular foot moisturizing and toenail trimming is ideal during the summer. This can prevent dry skin causing cracks or sores as well as prevent hangnails or fungal infections. If you are doing a pedicure, be sure conditions are sanitized to prevent germs on your feet.
- Change socks daily – socks can absorb any moisture from our feet throughout the day. Damp socks can harbor germs and cause infections if not traded out and washed.
- Keep shoes dry and clean – Try to use a powder or spray inside your shoes after wear. This can eliminate odors and kill germs. Be sure to open up the tongue on the shoe to help the shoe dry out. If you have a second pair, try alternating use each day.
- Foot massages and exercise – exercises, stretches, and massages that focus on your feet help with range of motion and pressure distribution.
When temperatures drop, you may want to change your foot health routine slightly to help prevent foot discomfort and provide an enjoyable winter season.
- Make sure footwear is clean and dry after use – After each use of your footwear, use a powder or spray that helps eliminate moisture in your shoes or boots. Taking out the insole and opening up tongue after use can help dry the shoes faster. Leaving shoes damp inside creates an ideal environment for bacteria which can be harmful to our feet, especially if wounds are present.
- Use foot powder between toes – lotion between your toes can cause fungal infections. Instead, try using talcum powder between your toes to keep skin dry. If using diabetic foot creams, apply to tops and bottom of the foot to sooth dry and/or cracked feet.
- Dry feet thoroughly after bath or shower – Use lukewarm water in bath and be sure to dry feet thoroughly – even between toes. For diabetic feet, be sure not to over-soak which can dry the skin on feet.
- Use insulated and supportive footwear – cold weather can affect blood circulation in your feet. Using insulated footwear can help keep your feet warm and improve blood flow to your feet. Also, cold weather can cause aches in joints, especially in arthritic feet, supportive footwear can help align lower body extremities to reduce discomfort in feet, ankle, and knees.
- Change and wash socks daily – You may think you do not sweat in cooler weather, but moisture can be present even without any strenuous activity. Damp socks are breeding grounds for bacteria, so be sure to take off used socks daily and wash.
Whether it’s hot or cold outside, temperature change can negatively affect our feet. Make sure you are prepared for each season with proper socks and footwear and follow the above tips to improve your overall foot health.