Australia is heading into winter, so now is the perfect time to get your cold-weather strategies sorted. Whether it’s breaking out the heater, switching to an electric blanket or putting on some socks, we all have our own ways to keep warm.
Recently, I was alerted to the fact that microwavable slippers exist. This is a genius invention any day of the week, but it also got me thinking. Does warming up your feet effectively heat up the rest of your body?
In this edition of Ask Lifehacker we’re going to find out.
Can heating our feet keep us warm?
Feet have always been thought to have a big impact on body temperature – hot or cold. That’s why your first instinct when you’re hot might be to stick your foot out from under your blankets or to chuck a pair of socks on when it’s cold.
But is this scientifically accurate?
Otago University Professor Jim Cotter told Stuff NZ that both feet and hands have specialised blood vessels that help to pass high volumes of blood through them to offload heat when required. When this isn’t required they become constricted and thus reduce blood flow.
The fact that they’re positioned at the end of our limbs and don’t contain much muscle also means that our hands and feet can cool to much lower temperatures than other parts of our body.
There are also a number of medical conditions that can cause your feet to feel cold constantly, such as poor circulation, anemia, or Raynaud’s disease. In these cases, it can be essential to warm your feet.
According to Cotter, the advice that putting socks on instantly makes you feel warmer is more of a perception than a fact.
The feet can become so cool that pain receptors are triggered and so they’re uncomfortable; so wrapping and therefore warming them up has an obvious perceptual benefit.
So, while warming your feet might not instantly make your entire body feel warm it can relieve the discomfort that comes with one part of your body feeling very cold.
Other suggestions for warming your feet include soaking them in warm water or doing some exercises to promote blood flow. If you’re choosing the socks route, make sure they’re thoroughly insulated!
I’ll be taking this as approval to go and buy the microwavable slippers.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.
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