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Why are my Feet Always Cold and Smelly?

Having constantly cold and smelly feet can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But what causes this common problem, and what can be done about it? There are several potential reasons why your feet don’t stay warm and fresh.

Poor Circulation

One of the most common reasons for chronically cold feet is poor circulation. When blood flow to the extremities is reduced, it’s harder for the feet to stay warm. Certain health conditions like diabetes, artery disease, and autoimmune disorders can impair circulation. Lifestyle factors like smoking, lack of exercise, and prolonged sitting or standing in one position can also contribute. Besides coldness, poor circulation can cause numbness, tingling, pain, cramps, changes in skin color, or slow healing. Improving blood flow through exercise, losing weight if overweight, quitting smoking, and supplementing with antioxidants may help. Wearing warm socks and avoiding prolonged restriction of blood flow can also keep feet warmer.

Thin Skin

The skin on our feet is thinner than on most other body parts. With less fat and tissue to insulate them, it’s easier for feet to get cold. Skin also thins with age, worsening the problem. Moisturizing regularly, wearing socks, and keeping feet covered with shoes or slippers can help retain warmth.


Anemia, a condition where you lack enough healthy red blood cells, can manifest in constantly cold feet. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. When their numbers are reduced, blood circulation and oxygen delivery suffer. Causes for anemia include iron, vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies, blood loss, and certain disorders. Doctors can test for anemia, and treatment involves supplements, medication, or dietary changes. Keeping feet well insulated also alleviates symptoms.

Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease causes the blood vessels in the extremities to overreact to cold temperatures and stress. Vessels abruptly constrict, limiting blood supply to the hands and feet. This leads to color changes in the skin, numbness, and cold sensations. Episodes are usually temporary. Managing Raynaud’s involves keeping warm, managing stress, avoiding triggers, and medication if severe.


When the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones, it causes hypothyroidism. Since these hormones regulate metabolism, inadequate levels can impair the body’s ability to produce heat. Fatigue, weight gain, and sensitivity to cold are common hypothyroidism symptoms. Blood tests diagnose it, and hormone replacement therapy helps normalize thyroid function. Lifestyle measures like regular exercise, stress reduction, and infrared saunas may also improve cold symptoms.

Poor Foot Hygiene

Now let’s explore reasons your feet may smell unpleasant. The most obvious cause is poor hygiene. Sweat easily collects between the toes and in shoe fabrics throughout the day. Bacteria thrive in the warm, damp environment. As they digest sweat, they release isovaleric acid, causing a cheese-like odor. Dead skin cells and socks or shoes that aren’t breathable can worsen the smell. Washing feet daily with soap, drying thoroughly, using antibacterial foot powder, wearing clean socks, alternating shoes, using shoe deodorizers, and getting regular pedicures can control odor.


If you sweat excessively, a condition called hyperhidrosis may be to blame. People with hyperhidrosis have overactive sweat glands that persistently secrete more sweat than needed to cool the body. Besides stinky feet, symptoms include sweaty hands, underarms, or other areas. It’s considered a medical condition when it interferes with daily activities. Treatments include prescription strength antiperspirants, iontophoresis, medication, botox injections, and surgery in severe cases.

Fungal Infection

Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections thrive in the moist environment of sweaty feet. Fungi break down the tissues between the toes, causing cracking, scaling, redness, and itching. The infection creates an unpleasant, cheese-like smell. Over-the-counter antifungal creams usually clear up athlete’s foot. But fungal nail infections, like toenail fungus, are harder to treat and may require prescription antifungals. Keeping feet clean and dry prevents fungal growth.


Certain bacteria like Pseudomonas and Proteus species can infect feet and generate a foul smell. People with diabetes or compromised immune systems are most susceptible. These bacteria thrive in wounds and ulcers on the feet. Infections require treatment with antibiotic therapy. Keeping cuts and blisters clean until healed can prevent bacterial colonization. Wearing clean socks and shoes and not sharing pedicure equipment also reduce risk.

In summary, several factors can leave feet chronically cold and stinky. Managing underlying medical conditions, improving circulation, practicing good hygiene, wearing appropriate shoes and socks, and using treatments when necessary can help resolve smelly and frozen feet. If problems persist, see a podiatrist or doctor to check for underlying causes. Don’t have to live with uncomfortable, cold, and smelly feet.