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Keep your toes and feet toasty

Posted February 12, 2014 in Advice Column, Des Moines West

My feet are freezing!

This has been a frequent refrain this winter, as we have been blessed with Arctic-like wind chills in central Iowa. Being outside for just a few minutes can cause your toes to feel numb. What can you do to ensure that your toes stay “toe-stee” when you are inside and out?

•    Keep your feet warm and dry. Wear a thin inner layer of polypropylene socks which are sold under numerous brands and available anywhere outdoor gear is sold. They will wick moisture away from your skin and keep you warm. But to be effective, you need to wear a warmer sock over the polypropylene. A wool sock is fine, but cotton is not since it tends to stay damp.

•    Keep the rest of your body warm. By keeping warm, your body will not “steal” warm blood from your feet to keep your core from losing heat. Wear a hat to keep heat from escaping through your head.

•    Heat your shoes. Without a doubt, your best friend will be some type of chemical hand or toe warmer that is activated by squeezing the package. Placed over your toes, it will keep them warm for a few hours, but make sure you have room for them in your shoes.

•    Dip your toes in warm water. If you encounter extreme coldness or numbness in your toes or feet, immediately immerse them in warm water (100-104 degrees) for up to 15 minutes. Do not repeatedly take your feet out of the water and then re-immerse; it will only make the problem worse. The skin’s blood vessels will undergo repeated bouts of increasing blood flow while in the warm footbath followed by decreased blood flow when they encounter room temperature. When your feet are so cold that they hurt, the skin is unable to do this function adequately and it can lead to more tissue damage.

•    Be resourceful. Cold-weather cyclists have found that by placing a piece of thin cardboard or paper under the foot or wrapping your foot in a plastic bag before putting on a shoe can aid in keeping you warmer. Some of my female patients swear by wearing two layers of nylons before they put on an outer layer of socks.

James Mahoney is the associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery and a podiatrist in the Foot and Ankle clinic at Des Moines University.

Information provided by the Des Moines University Clinic, 3200 Grand Ave., 271-1700

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