Road Cycling

Ask The Expert: How Can I Stop Cold Feet When Cycling?

Frost bite will not win! We discuss ways to keep your tootsies toasty.

What can I do about cold feet on a ride? Pretty much every time I go out, after about 20 to 30 minutes of cycling, my feet are freezing. Yesterday I went out wearing foot warmers in my shoes, two pairs of socks and overshoes and my feet were STILL cold!

Getting cold feet sucks. It’s uncomfortable and distracts you from cycling. And for some people, it’s almost insufferable. You’d be forgiven for thinking  that cycling itself causes cold feet… so we asked a podiatrist.

“The actual motion of prolonged cycling does not contribute to cold feet to my knowledge,” says London-based podiatrist Thomas Walton. “You could argue that poor hydration and replenishment of electrolytes could cause cramping and the spasm of the musculature of the foot, possibly having an effect on temperature regulation, but this is not a proven theory.”

So, if cycling isn’t likely to be making us any colder, we need some solid advice on how to keep our toes nice and warm.

It’s good that you’ve tried layering up – and although it seems like overkill, more layers could still be the answer. Try an extra pair of socks, or some toe covers in addition to your overshoes.

If you’re still feeling chilly, then consider the materials you’re wearing. A change to merino socks could make a massive difference: merino wool is cosy and quick drying. It’s pretty much nature’s gift to humans.

Then it’s time to make sure nothing you’re wearing is too tight. Wearing socks that are too snug can impede your circulation. Also, a bit of breathing room allows for pockets of warm air to get trapped, keeping you toasty.

Still numb? It’s time to get out the big guns. Chemical foot warmers are great, so you’re already on the right track. But did you know you can also get heated insoles for your cycling shoes?

If you’re still suffering, then it might be time to consider some winter cycling shoes (like these), or reverting back to not wearing cycling shoes. Clipless shoes tend to be designed to let air circulate as best as possible, so they’re not the best for winter. They also have a hunk of metal in them, which is not a material you want near to your poor, frozen feet.

Also bare in mind that your cycling shoes may be a terrible fit. “Shoes not being right is a key one as well that contributes to feet getting cold in a big way,” says Thomas.

Thomas also suggests “rubbing a rubefacient cream into the feet, such as Tiger Balm, to help stimulate and and improve circulation.” You can find some here.

Finally, consider lifestyle factors and their effect on your circulation. Here at TWC, we used to have a smoker on staff. When she gave up she noticed that her feet warmed up dramatically.

“Ensuring that you get the right nutrients as well as vitamin C, E and K will help with with circulation. As will oily fish,” says Thomas.

Overeating junk food can also contribute to bad circulation – and of course being too skinny can also make you cold. If you’re worried about either of these factors, then speak to a doctor.

Tom Walton is a podiatrist at South West Podiatry

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