Sweaty feet are common in hot weather, especially if you’re doing something active. But sometimes, your feet sweat when they shouldn’t – like in the winter when they’re cold.
If you’ve been concerned about your feet being cold but sweaty, you’ve already taken the first step—taking action to determine the cause.
Here’s what we know about cold, sweaty feet and the potential conditions behind them. It’s not necessarily a concern upfront, but figure out why it’s happening and seeing a doctor if it’s something serious.
How Common Are Cold and Sweaty Feet?
Cold feet are quite common. Sweaty feet are also fairly common. But experiencing cold and sweaty feet at the same time… Well, that’s not as common.
Poor circulation, medical conditions, and even certain medications can make your feet feel colder than usual. And because our feet have more sweat glands per square inch than any other body part, sweaty feet are pretty normal, too, especially when there’s heat involved!
But if you’re experiencing cold feet that are also sweaty, it’s a good idea to look into the problem and determine if there’s a potential underlying cause.
What Causes Cold and Sweaty Feet?
A number of things can cause cold, sweaty feet. But if you start seeing them as a symptom rather than an effect, it might be easier to figure out the problem. Here are some of the most common causes of cold and sweaty feet.
Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)
Hyperhidrosis is a term for excessive sweating that is not caused by heat or exercise. It occurs most often on the face, under the arms, on the hands, and underneath the feet, and it can be set off at any time unexpectedly.
Primary hyperhidrosis is a genetic condition. Secondary hyperhidrosis can be caused by a range of things, including injury to the spinal nerve that regulates sweating, neurological conditions, menopause, medical conditions, or medications.
The main symptom is excessive sweating without a logical cause for it. You may also experience a flushed face, which you might not be able to see, but others will notice.
Note that your cold, sweaty feet will most likely be accompanied by sweating on the face, under the arms, and on the palms of your hands. If it’s ONLY your feet, this may not be the cause.
If you feel that hyperhidrosis may be the cause of your sweaty, cold feet, there are various treatment options available. Wearing moisture-wicking, breathable clothing and socks is a good start. Although it won’t treat the condition, it helps you manage the effects.
Topical creams and antiperspirant sprays are available that help to dry out the excess moisture on the skin. Some research suggests that switching to a vegetarian diet can help, but it’s advisable to check with a doctor first.
Other, more serious interventions include anticholinergic medication, which dries out moisture throughout the body; sweat-reducing injections; microwave thermolysis of the sweat glands, which is a way of destroying them; or surgery on the nerve that controls sweat production.
Raynaud’s syndrome occurs when the tiny blood capillaries in the fingers and toes are extremely sensitive to cold. This tends to come and go, with affected people getting “attacks” or “flare-ups. “
Where most people’s veins constrict to send warm blood to the core, in those with Raynaud’s syndrome, those little veins constrict too much and can cut off blood supply.
This can lead to cold, numb feet that can’t warm up easily. Even in warm weather, your feet may stay cold, but they’ll still sweat if you exercise enough.
Common symptoms include cold fingers and toes, numbness in the fingers and toes, and often some discoloration, usually extreme paleness in the extremities.
When the hands or feet warm up again, the affected fingers and toes will likely turn red, tingle or hurt, and swelling may also occur.
Treatment often depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Doctors will often prescribe vasodilators, which can prevent the capillaries from such severe constriction. In severe cases, surgery may be a last resort, to cut the nerves that signal the capillaries to constrict.
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral arterial disease is characterized by the veins and arteries—particularly in the lower extremities—narrowing. This makes it more difficult for blood to circulate effectively, leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms, one might be cold feet.
If you’re suffering from this condition and you’re hot or doing physical activity, your feet can sweat but remain cold to the touch and feel cold to you.
Aside from cold feet and legs, pain in the feet and legs while active is the most common symptom. The pain eases up with rest. The skin might look smooth and unusually shiny, and sores on the legs might not heal.
Lifestyle changes will be needed. Quitting smoking, cleaning up your diet, and getting regular exercise will help, although you’ll need to be careful of your choice of exercise—swimming, rowing, and other less leg-heavy options will work.
Your doctor may recommend aspirin or other medication to improve blood flow in your legs. Surgery may be recommended in serious cases to bypass blocked veins and arteries.
Peripheral neuropathy can present similarly to peripheral arterial disease but occurs when the peripheral nerves have been damaged.
A wide range of different things can cause it. Diabetes is a common cause, as is trauma to the nerves. If you think you have this condition, it’s wise to see a doctor to discover the underlying cause.
The peripheral nerves carry signals from the brain to the rest of the body, so when they’re not working properly, they can cause strange sensations, often more so in the feet and legs.
This can lead to a cold feeling in your feet, even when they’re sweating. If sweating is a normal and expected outcome of your actions, but your feet still feel cold even when the rest of you is hot, this could be a definite sign.
On the other hand, damaged nerves can also give you the false impression of your feet being too warm. Other signs and symptoms may include tingling, numbness, cramping, muscle weakness, and loss of balance.
If you check your feet closely, you may also notice blisters, raw patches, or sores you didn’t feel. This is a classic sign of peripheral neuropathy.
The treatment of peripheral neuropathy depends largely on the underlying cause. If you suspect this is behind your cold, sweaty feet, visit your doctor—they’ll be able to accurately assess your condition and give you the best way forward.
In many cases, doctors will prescribe specific pain medication designed for neuropathic pain, which blocks the pain receptors rather than working on the source of the pain.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland gets less and less active, so it doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. This can have many consequences, especially if it isn’t treated early.
It most often affects women over 60, but it’s also known to run in families. The thyroid may also be damaged due to trauma, certain medications, radiation treatment, and autoimmune conditions.
If your thyroid gland is underactive, one of the main symptoms is that you struggle to tolerate cold. This can lead to your feet feeling unusually cold pretty much all the time, so even if they’re sweating, you might feel chilly.
Other symptoms include unexplained weight gain, “puffiness,” dry skin, dry and thin hair, and unusual fatigue. It’s worth noting that some people also experience a decrease in sweating, but not all.
An underactive thyroid is treated with medication that replaces the hormones your thyroid isn’t making. You may also need to avoid certain foods or medications, but it’s best to confer with your doctor on that.
Anxiety is an emotion, but when it begins to affect you physically, it could be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can lead to physical symptoms, of which sweating may be one.
But the body’s fight-or-flight response may also draw the blood to the core, leaving the feet with less circulation. In this case, you may have sweaty feet, although they feel oddly cold simultaneously.
Anxiety symptoms vary from person to person. Aside from the sweating and the cold extremities, you may experience trembling, dizziness or lightheadedness, and a knot in your stomach. In serious cases, it could progress to having difficulty breathing.
There’s no specific treatment for anxiety, as sufferers are often closely evaluated before treatment commences. If you feel that anxiety may be an issue, you may prefer to see a psychologist before seeing a doctor.
Menopause is something that only affects women, and it’s more common among women between the ages of 45 and 55. However, it can happen before that, so it’s worth remembering if you’re experiencing other relevant symptoms.
As your hormone levels fluctuate during this time, your body may not be able to regulate its own temperature very well. This can lead to the dreaded hot flushes or cause things like cold feet… Sometimes both at the same time!
The biggest factor is a change in menstrual cycle. It may be heavier, lighter, longer, or shorter. Other common symptoms include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, weight gain, incontinence, and mood swings.
Woman are different, so treatment can vary vastly. Hormone replacement therapy is common to balance out the estrogen deficiency. Various other medications can be prescribed to treat the range of symptoms associated with menopause.
If your foot problems popped up suddenly, consider if you’ve recently gone onto any new medications. As your body gets used to the medicine, it may experience unpleasant side effects. In some cases, they’ll go away, but a medication change may be needed in others.
Tips for Managing Cold and Sweaty Feet
Struggling with cold, sweaty feet? Try these tips to manage the symptoms and ease the discomfort a little.
- Choose the Right Socks: Your socks should be breathable, moisture-wicking, and NOT made of cotton (it absorbs moisture and can make your feet colder).
- Wear the Right Size Shoes: If they’re too small, they can hamper circulation and also prevent sweat from evaporating.
- Maintain a Good Foot Hygiene Routine: Keep your feet clean and use an antiperspirant product like a powder or spray.
- Change Your Socks/Shoes Often: If possible, take an extra pair or two of socks and shoes with you and change during the day. If not, try to wash your feet a few times throughout the day to avoid your socks getting soaked.
- Reduce Stressors: Foot sweating can be influenced by stress, so remove stressors as much as you can.
- Wear Compression Socks: These can help to stimulate circulation and warm your feet up a little more.
When to See a Doctor
If you’ve taken steps to handle cold feet and sweating, but you’re still experiencing them, it might be a good idea to visit your doctor. Experiencing it once or twice shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re experiencing it often, you should certainly find out the cause.
We recommend not waiting too long to visit the doctor, even if your cold, sweaty feet aren’t significantly impacting your life. Identifying underlying reasons early can make a big difference and may help prevent it from worsening.