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Are women's feet colder than men's?

Updated on December 15, 2012
  They literally feel like ice.
They literally feel like ice. | Source

Almost every winter, the women in my life complain about their frozen, frigid and/or cracked feet.  At first, I thought.  "Their just over reacting.  I'm wearing sandals and my feet are just fine."  Yet after seeing so many women using heated water bottles or other warm bodies as foot warmers; I began to wonder.  Are women's feet generally colder than men's?  

There is very little hard physical data on how much colder women's feet feel than men's. So I decided to conduct my own little survey. I have attached an informal poll below, so please take it if you have the time.  Otherwise, I have also written down a collection of biological, nutritional, emotional and sociological reasons that others have proposed for women's cold feet.  

"Cold Feet" Informal Poll

What is your gender?

See results

Do your feet feel persistently cold during any part of the year?

See results

The Stats

Well as it turns out, women not only suffer from cold feet during the winter; they seem to suffer from colder extremities in general.  There is a statistic going around stating that women are about nine times more likely than men to experience cold hands and feet.  I cannot verify the source of this stat, but for arguments sake let's say that its close to the actual statistic.  Medical science has however, concluded multiple times that more women than men suffer from Raynaud's phenomenon and other conditions like it.  Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition where there is an extreme reduction in blood flow to the extremities due to changes in weather or stress level.  Those who suffer from Raynaud's can experience cold/frigidness in the fingers and toes as well as discoloration in those same areas (shown below).

Example of Raynaud's Syndrome
Example of Raynaud's Syndrome | Source

Biological Factors

Heat Conservation

One reason that women may feel the chill of cold weather more is because their bodies conserve heat more efficiently than men. In colder temperatures, the human body preserves itself by pulling heat and constricting blood flow from the extremities to warm up those oh so vital internal organs. Women's bodies seem to do this very well. Furthermore, women have more evenly distributed layers of fat which provide insulation; but chiefly for the internal organs.

Thick Skin

Have you ever heard of someone characterizing men as thick skinned? Well it turns out that they are. Particularly around the extremities, men have thicker layers of skin around the hands and feet as well as more layers of subcutaneous fat. This "extra layering" helps keep their extremities a little more insulated. Not only that, but physiological differences can explain the sometimes large differences in blood flow between the sexes.

Muscle Mass

Another thing that may make men's extremities warmer is that men tend to have more heat-generating muscle. Muscle is better supplied by blood vessels than say fat and thus leads to more overall warmth.

Emotional Factors

     Various studies including one recent study at Yale University have shown that physical warmth and emotional "warmth" have similar connections in the brain.  Also researchers in Canada have shown how mood can affect how hot or cold we feel at any particular time.  In general those studies showed that people who were more socially isolated or lonely were more aware of the cold than people who weren't.  

Lifestyle Factors

    Let's face it, a lot of us don't eat right in general, much less eat right to prepare for winter.  Nonetheless, there are dietary changes we can all make to make those winter months a little more bearable.  Women in particular have been known to suffer from iron deficiency.  As oxygen is needed to transport oxygen around the blood, a lack of it can hamper blood flow.  Also, as we age nutrients are not processed through the body as well as they used to be.  In order to fix these and other related problems doctors do suggest a diet rich in vitamins and minerals such as B12 and folate.  Foods such as dark/leafy greens, fish, pumpkin seeds, watermelon, and nuts are all good winter time suggestions.  

    Furthermore, (and I know this will sound repetitive) get enough exercise and good sleep.  As I explained earlier, building sufficient muscle (through exercise) will help generate sufficient heat to keep you extremities warm.  Sleep will help the body recover and keep the benefits you've gained through exercise and good eats. 


     So beside the physiological differences that they can't change, women can do some basic lifestyle changes to better manage the winter chill:

1.)  Exercise on regular basis: to get the blood flowing and build muscle mass.  

2.)  Eat well:, Get some iron and Vitamin K in your diet. (Although most importantly eat a balance diet)  Also staying hydrated will keep you warmer, so drink water. 

3.)  Moisturize: Along with staying hydrated, moisturizing your skin can help you retain moisture.  So don't hesitate to use lanolin, lotion, or similar items on those extremities.  

4.)  Stay Social:  As I stated before, "warm" feelings and the feeling of warmth may actually be related.  And loners feel the cold particularly hard.


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