Tips for improving symptoms include keeping moving, avoiding tobacco, and massaging the feet. People should speak with a doctor if they experience persistent poor circulation for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The body transports blood, oxygen, and nutrients to cells around the body through the circulatory system. If blood vessels in an area close, harden, or narrow, a person may develop reduced circulation.

Poor circulation in the feet can cause the feet to become cold, discolored, or numb. Cold weather or an underlying condition, such as Raynaud’s disease, can cause it.

In this article, we will look at the symptoms of poor circulation in the feet, potential causes, treatments, and self-care techniques.

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People with poor circulation may notice their feet feel cold or numb. They may also notice discoloration. The feet may turn red, blue, purple, or white.

These symptoms may worsen in certain situations, such as when a person sits still for long periods or goes outside in cold weather. However, for some people, these symptoms may be constant or flare up due to an underlying condition.

Additional symptoms of poor circulation can include:

  • dry or cracked skin
  • hair loss on the legs or feet
  • weak toenails
  • slow wound healing

Below are some of the underlying conditions that may cause reduced circulation.

Raynaud‘s disease

Raynaud’s disease syndrome causes blood vessels to narrow when someone is cold or, sometimes, when stressed. This limits the amount of blood flowing to the fingers and toes. Rarely, it may affect other areas, such as the nose and ears.

The symptoms include:

These symptoms can last as little as 1 minute or as long as several hours.

Most people with Raynaud’s disease have the primary form of the condition. Some people have secondary Raynaud’s, which occurs due to another illness. Secondary Raynaud’s tends to be more severe.

There is no cure for Raynaud’s, but it is possible to reduce the symptoms and potentially reduce the frequency of attacks with medical treatment and lifestyle changes.


Acrocyanosis is a condition that causes the extremities, such as the toes, to turn blue. This occurs when the blood vessels constrict, preventing blood flow and oxygen from moving through that part of the body.

It is a rare condition that is similar to Raynaud’s phenomenon. The main symptoms include:

  • blue-tinged fingers or toes
  • cold, clammy skin
  • swelling
  • a typical pulse

As with Raynaud’s, there are two types of acrocyanosis: primary and secondary. Primary acrocyanosis occurs on its own and typically affects both sides of the body, for example, both feet. Further research is necessary to understand the cause.

Secondary acrocyanosis often affects only one side of the body and can be a result of many conditions, including eating disorders, blood disorders, and genetic conditions.


If a person has diabetes, they are at risk of blood vessel damage. This may happen if they experience high blood glucose levels for extended periods.

If a person with diabetes does not receive any treatment, they could develop reduced circulation in the feet, as well as foot ulcers that do not heal.

Managing diabetes effectively can help prevent foot problems. People with diabetes should receive an annual foot examination to ensure they do not have poor circulation, ulcers, or neuropathy.


Arteriosclerosis occurs when the arteries harden, and blood cannot travel through them easily.

Some people with arteriosclerosis exhibit no symptoms, while others may develop some. The symptoms vary depending on which arteries the condition affects and may include:

Treatment for arteriosclerosis may include medication, such as medication to control a person’s cholesterol or surgery to open blocked arteries or remove plaque buildup.

Peripheral artery disease

If left untreated, arteriosclerosis can turn into peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD occurs when plaque builds up in arteries. This can reduce or even stop blood flow, resulting in tissue death and potentially amputation.

Symptoms may include:

Prescription medication can improve symptoms in people with reduced circulation. In more severe cases, a person may require surgery.

Factors that can increase the likelihood of low circulation include:

  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure

Smoking can reduce blood flow by affecting a person’s cardiovascular system. It raises the risk of arteriosclerosis and PAD.

Additionally, smoking is a risk factor for a form of vasculitis known as Buerger’s disease, which can cause severe Raynaud’s. In some cases, Buerger’s can cause gangrene.

Caffeine, alcohol, and stress can also constrict blood vessels, causing or worsening circulation problems.

A doctor can diagnose circulation problems and any underlying issues causing them. They may ask about a person’s medical history, as well as their symptoms.

Doctors may diagnose Raynaud’s or acrocyanosis from symptoms and a physical examination. They may also try cold stimulation to observe the body’s response or a nailfold capillaroscopy, which can detect changes in the capillaries.

Doctors diagnose PAD with a physical examination and by comparing the blood pressure in a person’s arm versus their ankle. They can diagnose diabetes using a blood sugar or urine test.

The best way to improve foot circulation is to treat any underlying conditions that may be causing it. If doctors cannot pinpoint a cause, however, several self-care strategies may help.

People can try:

  • Move more: A 2020 study found that simple leg stretches can help improve vascular function after 12 weeks. The stretching regime made arteries less stiff, helping them dilate. If sitting for a long time, set reminders to get up and move around.
  • Massage: Massaging the feet can stimulate circulation. People with Raynaud’s may also find it helps prevent or shorten attacks.
  • Relaxation techniques: Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help manage unavoidable stress.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can constrict blood vessels and exacerbate Raynaud’s.
  • Wear compression socks: Compression socks apply pressure to the legs and feet, forcing blood to travel back toward the heart.
  • Stay warm: If circulation problems worsen in cold conditions, keep the home at a comfortable temperature and wrap up in layers. Use hand or foot warmers when necessary.

Anyone experiencing persistent circulation problems in the feet should speak with a doctor. Sometimes, this is a symptom of an underlying condition that requires treatment.

A person should call 911 or contact the local emergency department if they experience:

  • swelling in one or both limbs
  • pain that begins at the calf in the affected limb
  • warmth
  • skin discoloration

These symptoms can indicate deep vein thrombosis, which can be life threatening.

Below are some common questions about poor circulation in the feet.

How can someone check the circulation in their feet?

People can look out for the following symptoms of poor circulation in the feet:

  • skin discoloration
  • dry or cracked skin
  • hair loss
  • slow wound healing
  • weak toenails

What vitamin is good for circulation in the feet?

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), some people with Raynaud’s phenomenon may benefit from taking additional vitamin C and E.

However, further research is necessary to understand how effective these vitamins are at improving circulation.

More vitamins and supplements for circulation.

Does soaking feet in hot water help blood circulation?

Soaking the feet in hot water can increase blood flow. It is also a common treatment recommendation for people with Raynaud’s phenomenon to reduce the severity and length of a flare.

Poor circulation can occur for many reasons. Sometimes, it is due to a disease that requires treatment. However, it can also occur on its own due to a condition such as primary Raynaud’s.

Staying warm and active, wearing compression socks, and managing stress may help people relieve the symptoms of poor circulation in the feet. However, it is important to seek guidance from a doctor so that they can rule out underlying conditions.

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