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Poor Foot Circulation - The Complete Guide

by Jessica Hegg May 10, 2017 0 Comments

Sore feet

Poor foot circulation is as confusing as it is uncomfortable.

That’s because poor circulation itself isn’t a disease; it’s a complex symptom that could point to any number of ailments. While there are a number of ways to treat the discomfort of poor circulation, you’re often still left wondering what the root cause of the pain is to begin with.

We know how tough it is to get circulation back in your toes & because poor circulation is such a complicated symptom, we've broken down everything you need to know about bad feet circulation problems, what it feels like, and what you can do about it.

What is Poor Foot Circulation?

To put it simply, poor foot circulation is when is your body’s incapable of efficiently carrying blood your feet. There are several things that can contribute to poor circulation, but it mainly boils down to blockages in your arteries.

Symptoms of Poor Foot Circulation

It can be hard to identify foot circulation problems at first. Many of the warning signs can seem like run-of-the-mill aches you experience with age. They might even seem like normal pains from being overly active, or from when your foot falls asleep. The point is, some of these symptoms can seem perfectly normal, so it’s crucial to be aware of what you’re feeling, and always discuss with your doctor.

It’s important to know what signs to look for so you can seek treatment and relief sooner. If you’re worried about the circulation in your feet, here are things to feel for:

Poor Foot Circulation Symptoms You Can Feel:

The best way to identify a circulatory problem is to get in touch with your body. Does anything feel out of the ordinary? If you often experience any of these issues in your feet or legs, it may be due to there being no blood circulation in the foot:

  • Near constant coldness in your feet, often severe (or even icy)
  • Numbness in your extremities
  • Uncomfortable or painful cramping in your feet or legs, whether you’ve been active or inactive
  • Frequent tingly feelings in your feet or legs, similar to when a limb falls asleep
  • Not being able to walk very far without feeling pain in your calves

These symptoms are uncomfortable, and in the case of poor circulation, often persistent. If you can’t seem to escape the pain, you may have poor foot circulation.

Poor Foot Circulation Symptoms You Can See:

Of course, being able to feel the problem isn’t your only option. There are also physical signs you should be on the lookout for:

  • Discoloration in your toes. This might mean your toes are tinged blue, red, or purple. They may even look slightly blistered. Think about a time when you’ve gone outside for too long in the cold without your gloves on. If your toes look like that, they may not be getting enough blood.
  • Hair loss on your legs and feet due to low blood flow
  • Dry skin, even if you drink plenty of water
  • Swelling in the feet

These can be key clues your body is using to warn you of foot circulation problems. Be aware of what your body is telling you and be attentive to its needs. These aren’t issues you’ll want to ignore, even if they aren’t as severe.

Causes of Poor Foot Circulation

Foot cramp

Dry, cracked, skin present on the bottom of feet may be an indicator of poor foot circulation ( Image Reference).

As stated earlier, cold, tingly feet and bad foot circulation isn’t a disease you can cure. It’s often a symptom of another disease entirely. This could be due to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes. No matter the cause, there are influencing factors both inside the body and outside that could contribute to your symptoms.

Outside Factors that Cause Foot Circulation Problems

Outside factors refer to behaviors and habits you can avoid to help cut down on your symptoms. While avoiding these actions alone isn’t a cure, they can certainly help reduce some of the discomfort that comes along with these symptoms.

  • Poor diet
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time without moving (yes, the person standing in one place is just as susceptible as the sedentary couch-potato)
  • Smoking
  • Lack of regular activity, including exercise

Health Conditions Related to Foot Circulation Problems

There are also things that can go wrong inside our bodies that cause pain, coldness, and tingling. It’s scary to think about, but it’s better being able to identify these issues. The earlier they’re spotted, the earlier you can seek treatment.

  • Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins Varicose veins can negatively impact blood circulation ( Image Reference).

Varicose veins can actually be blamed on genes. If you have family members who have them, you’re more likely to experience them, yourself. Varicose veins are large, puffy veins that look misshapen and may even be discolored. They’re caused by valve failure, and as a result, can’t move blood as well as healthy veins. This could lead to poor circulation, or in extreme cases, blood clots. 

    • Blood Clots

    As their name implies, blood clots are blockages inside veins that block the flow of blood. When these occur in your extremities, you may start having symptoms of poor circulation. Blood clots can be dangerous, even fatal, if not treated in time. 

      • Diabetic Foot Circulation

      Diabetes can impact the body in several different ways. It increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and poor circulation (also called diabetic neuropathy, which dulls sensations in your feet and legs), and can be especially painful in the legs, calves, or thighs. To make matters worse, the pain can actually intensify when that person tries to exercise. 

        • Obesity

        Most of the trouble with obesity or excess weight stems from how it compounds other issues we’ve discussed here. Obesity increases the risk of blood clots and varicose veins, making an individual more likely to experience the painful symptoms associated with poor circulation.

          • Peripheral artery disease (or PAD) 

          This is a condition that causes narrowing in the arteries and veins. This narrowing can be very painful, and leads to some of the symptoms we mentioned above, like numbness. PAD results from plaque building up in your arteries. Enough plaque, and you could face the risk of stroke or heart attack.

            How to Diagnose Poor Foot Circulation

            If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms mentioned here, your best course of action is to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor. While knowing the signs of poor foot circulation can help you figure out some at-home remedies, a doctor’s diagnosis can help with more lasting relief.

            Types of Tests

            Your doctor will likely perform a series of tests to help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. This could include tests like:

            • A standard physical. This could be used to find out exactly where and why you’re feeling pain, as well is identifying any sources of swelling.
            • Blood tests can be especially beneficial since they can look for diseases in the blood, test for high sugar levels which would point toward diabetes, or look for signs of blood clots.
            • Ultrasounds can take a closer look inside the body to identify blockages.
            • Blood pressure tests, particularly on the legs, can be used to measure circulation.

            How to Improve Foot Circulation

            Even while you and your doctor work to identify the cause of your symptoms, you can still take steps to naturally alleviate the pain and discomfort of, cold, aching legs, toes, & feet.

            You can start by making certain lifestyle changes that will help avoid these painful episodes altogether. These changes may not be easy for everyone, but they will help reduce the amount of pain you encounter from a lack of blood flow. These can include:

              Poor Foot Circulation Treatment Ideas:

              Elevated Legs While Sleeping.jpg Elevating legs above the heart while resting helps to facilitate blood flow and improve foot circulation ( Image Reference).

              You still have options, even if you’re already experiencing the symptoms. There are several ways you can work to improve foot circulation and help cut down on the pain you’re experiencing:

              • Exercise

              Even short bursts of it, can go a long way in helping get your blood flowing. Take a walk, go for a short swim, or even walk up and down a flight of stairs. It doesn’t have to be strenuous to make a difference.

                • Hot and Cold Therapy

                This can be remarkably effective in improving circulation. Even better, it’s not something you need to go to the doctor for—you can do it right at home.

                  In hot water, your blood gets closer to your skin and absorbs more oxygen. Switching quickly to cold water sends that blood inward to your internal organs, taking all that fresh oxygen with it. Switching back to hot water then flushes blood out of your internal organs and up to your skin for more oxygen and improves foot circulation. Cold therapy can also be performed with the use of heat packs and ice packs. Try out one of these top rated ice packs convenient cold therapy.

                  Careful—don’t start the process with scalding or freezing water, especially if you’re dealing with numbness in your feet. Go slow and gradually work up to hotter and colder temperatures so you don’t hurt yourself.

                  • Elevate Legs While you Sleep

                  Sleeping with a pillow or leg wedge under your legs helps push blood back toward your heart, improving the flow of blood. Also make sure to keep your feet warm overnight, either with socks or blankets.

                    • Change up Your Routine

                    If you’re prone to spending most of your day sitting or standing, be sure to take breaks. If you’re a sitter, make sure you get up and walk around, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you’re a stander, give your legs a rest when you can.

                    • Wear Compression Stockings 

                    Consider wearing leg compression stockings that promote blood flow throughout your legs. There are athletic styles that are great to wear while on a walk or participating in a sport, but daily compression stockings that can be worn with everyday shoes and outfits are also available.

                    • Use Air Compression Leg Massagers 

                    Designed to improve the circulation in your legs and relieve muscle pain, these are to be worn while sedentary and work to massage the blood and increase flow within your legs and down to your feet.

                    • Try Wearing Toe Separators

                    No, they're not just for pedicures.   Gel toe separators are handy little inserts that you can secure between your toes.  The compression and gel contour stretch and promote blood flow to your toes.

                      • Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes

                      This doesn’t apply to just skinny jeans kids wear. Belts pulled too tightly, tight workout gear, or even socks can all make a poor circulation problem worse.

                        • Get Regular Massages

                        Again, this doesn’t have to be something overly intense if you aren’t comfortable with it. Even a light massage a few times per week can help get blood back into your extremities.

                            Reduce Pain & Improve Poor Foot Circulation 

                            Having poor circulation in your feet can range from a minor problem to a debilitating and painful condition. If you have poor circulation or foot pain, make sure to talk to your doctor. Remember, poor circulation isn’t a condition all on its own; it’s a complicated symptom that likely points to another disease or condition.

                            You can find ways to lessen your foot pain and discomfort, but you’ll also want to treat the underlying cause of the poor circulation itself. Make sure to speak to your doctor about your symptoms, and in the meantime, keep your feet healthy by taking the suggestions we’ve recommended here.

                            Jessica Hegg
                            Jessica Hegg

                            Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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