10 signs your feet are warning you about a thyroid problem

10 signs your feet are warning you about a thyroid problem

Snuggled in a fluffy white bathrobe in an upscale spa, I was waiting to have my feet pampered with a deluxe pedicure as the basin was filling with warm, fragrant water.

“Your feet are extremely dry with thick, hardened skin on your heels that have deep cracks. I see feet like this in women with sickness,” the woman remarked, a little too loudly, inspecting my feet at close range.

“What type of sickness?” I whispered, feeling very embarrassed as people in the crowded spa turned to gawk at my feet.

“You should see your doctor about your feet.”

This woman giving me a pedicure could see as plain as day the signs of a serious health condition right there in my feet, but it would take 10 more years to finally receive my formal diagnosis: severe hypothyroidism.

1. Dry, flaky, cracked feet with calluses

In 2012, a study was designed to identify the cutaneous (skin) manifestations of hypothyroidism, an under-active thyroid. Of the four hundred and sixty diagnosed cases of hypothyroidism, 300 patients (65.22%) presented with dry, coarse skin.[1] In another study that same year, 100% of subjects with hypothyroidism had coarse, rough, dry skin. Palmoplantar keratoderma, found in 33%, is a term that refers to a group of skin conditions with marked thickening of the skin in the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.[2] Hyperthyroidism, over-active thyroid, due to the autoimmune condition Graves’ disease may also present with thickened dermis.[3] While it may seem contradictory, it is often the case that some symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism present the same.

2. Itchy feet

Pruritus is the medical term for itchy skin. Chronic pruritus can present in both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Itchiness can happen all over the body not just the feet, including the legs, scalp, and even the genitalia. In the case of hypothyroidism, it may be that the very dry skin is the cause of the itchiness. Researchers suggest that pruritus and even chronic urticaria (chronic hives) may be associated with thyroid autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease (Graves’ disease is the term used in the United States and the term Basedow’s disease is more commonly used in Europe.)[4] When you develop one autoimmune condition, you are more vulnerable to develop multiple autoimmune conditions. It is, therefore, important to mention that the Cleveland Clinic lists several autoimmune conditions associated with chronic pruritus including Sjögren’s (SHOW-grins) syndrome, lichen planus, and psoriasis.[5]

3. Cold feet

Thyroid pioneer Dr. Broda Barnes (1906-1988) wrote, “When thyroid function is low, circulation is reduced. In advanced cases of hypothyroidism, the skin, in fact, may receive as little as one-fourth to one-fifth the normal blood supply.”[6] Our extremities, including our feet, are particularly vulnerable to poor circulation especially in cold seasons. “The metabolic needs of the skin may be sacrificed over prolonged periods in order that body temperature may be kept constant. In a cold environment, when body heat must be conserved, sympathetic impulses constrict the cutaneous vessels and blood flow through the skin is conspicuously reduced in order to prevent body temperature from falling.”[7]

Dr. Barnes analyzed the body’s basal body temperature (BBT). Before arising in the morning, the patient’s axillary (underarm) temperature was taken. Normal underarm temperature is between 97.8°F and 98.2°F (36.6°C and 36.8°C). Consistent below-normal temperatures indicate hypothyroidism and consistent above-normal temperatures indicate hyperthyroidism.

4. Swollen feet

Heart disease, kidney dysfunction, diabetes, and skin infections are common culprits considered when a patient presents with swelling of legs and feet, but the possibility of hypothyroidism should always be considered. Swelling (edema) is a classic symptom of hypothyroidism and this includes swelling all over the body. In 2013, a 21-year-old presented with generalized swelling including pitted edema in both legs and feet. In contrast to non-pitting edema, pressing of the pitting edema will cause an indentation to remain on the skin well after the pressure is released. Her edema subsided with thyroid medication. According to professor of medicine Dr. Neki, peripheral (the extremities including the arms, legs, feet, and hands) is found in 55% of hypothyroidism patients and periorbital edema (swelling around the orbits of the eyes) is found in 22%.[8]

5. Foot pain and cramping

Muscle, joint and nerve pains are not usually stressed as primary symptoms of hypothyroidism, but after years of hearing from hypothyroid patients at Hypothyroid Mom, there is one thing that I am certain about. Full thyroid testing should be conducted on every single person that presents with chronic pain or fibromyalgia.

The number of people that write to Hypothyroid Mom about plantar fasciitis, the pain along the bottom of the foot especially the heel that shoots through them especially when they step out of bed in the morning, can’t be a mere coincidence. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, the immune system can also attack the joints and muscles frequently in the feet and ankles. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, thyroid patients are also more vulnerable to develop tarsal tunnel syndrome.[9] Add to this the increased risk of developing gout [10] and burning feet from painful neuropathy [11], and the incidence of foot pain in thyroid disease becomes very clear.

6. Tingling, numb, pins and needles sensation in feet

Paresthesia can present in hypothyroidism. Researchers explain that the axonal myelin sheath, the insulating layer around nerves, begins to degenerate without sufficient thyroid hormone, and regeneration of damaged nerves also slows. Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, pernicious anemia, arthritis, and Type 1 diabetes can all present with paresthesia. I would guess that the majority of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease patients that follow Hypothyroid Mom have multiple autoimmune diseases.[12]

7. Foot Infections

Susceptibility to infections of the feet, hands, fingernails, and toenails occurs in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease and this includes Onychomycosis and Athlete’s foot.[13]

8. Smelly feet

One of the classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism is excessive sweating, and that includes the feet. Sweat on your skin is a breeding ground for bacteria, and that can make things smelly. While hypothyroidism tends to result in markedly reduced sweating, the opposite is true as well, in particular in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hyperthyroid symptoms including increased sweating may occur simultaneously with symptoms of hypothyroidism in the case of Hashimoto’s. As antibodies attack and destroy thyroid cells, their stored supplies of thyroid hormone are released into the blood stream. These bursts or “leakages” of thyroid hormones in Hashimoto’s are responsible for the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.[14]

9. Yellow soles of feet

Thyroid hormone is required for the conversion of beta-carotene (that’s what gives carrots their orange color) to vitamin A. Buildup of beta-carotene in the case of hypothyroidism will be stored in the outer layer of the skin including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.[15]

10. Toenail alterations

Too much thyroid hormone and too little can result in abnormalities of the nails, both the fingernails and toenails.[16-18]

Nail changes in hypothyroidism:

  • Slow nail growth
  • Thick, dry, cracked, brittle nails
  • Yellow nails
  • Dry cuticles
  • Longitudinal ridges
  • Onycholysis (separation of nail from nail bed)
  • Spoon nails (koilonychia)

Nail changes in hyperthyroidism:

  • Fast nail growth
  • Pitted and discolored nails
  • Absent lunulae (half moons) and cuticles
  • Onycholysis (Plummer’s nail)
  • Acropahy (clubbing of fingers & toes)

Our feet can tell us a great deal about our thyroid health. They often show obvious signs of disease years and even decades before a thyroid diagnosis.


  1. Keen, M.A., et al. A Clinical Study of the Cutaneous Manifestations of Hypothyroidism in Kashmir Valley. Indian J Dermatol. 2013 Jul-Aug;58(4):326.
  2. Puri, N. A Study on Cutaneous Manifestations of Thyroid Disease. Indian J Dermatol. 2012 May-Jun;57(3):247-248.
  3. Safer, J.D. Thyroid hormone action on skin. Dermatoendocrinol. 2011 Jul-Sep;3(3):211-215.
  4. Yonova. D. Pruritus in certain internal diseases. Hippokratia. 2007 Apr-Jun;11(2):67-71.
  5. Taylor, J.S., et al. Pruritus. Cleveland Clinic. Center for Continuing Education. April 2010.
  6. Broda O. Barnes, MD. Research Foundation Inc. http://www.brodabarnes.org
  7. Landis, E.M. The Capillaries of the Skin: A Review. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 1938 Aug;1(4):295-311.
  8. Neki, N.S. Pitting Edema in Hypothyroidism. JIMSA. 2013 Apr-Jun;26(2):133.
  9. Dyrmishi, B., et al. Secondary hypothyroidism and the tarsal tunnel syndrome. Endocrine Abstracts. 2016;41:EP 1076.
  10. Giordano, N., et al. Hyperuricemia and gout in thyroid endocrine disorders. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2001 Nov-Dec;19(6):661-5.
  11. Penza, P., et al. Painful neuropathy in subclinical hypothyroidism: clinical and neuropathological recovery after hormone replacement therapy. Neurol Sci. 2009 Apr;30(2):149-51.
  12. Sharif-Alhoseini, M., et al. Underlying Causes of Paresthesia, Paresthesia, Dr. Luiz Eduardo Imbelloni (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0085-0, InTech, Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/paresthesia/underlying-causes-of-paresthesia
  13. Macura. A.B., et al. [Nail susceptibility to fungal infections in patients with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism]. Przegl Lek. 2005;62(4):218021.
  14. Harsch, I.A., et al. Hashitoxicosis – Three Cases and a Review of the Literature. Available from: https://www.touchendocrinology.com/sites/www.touchendocrinology.com/files/harsch_1.pdf
  15. Aktuna, D., et al. [Beta-carotene, vitamin A and carrier proteins in thyroid diseases]. Acta Med Austriaca. 1993;20(1-2):17-20.
  16. Keen, M.A., et al. A clinical study of the cutaneous manifestations of hyperthyroidism in Kashmir valley – India. Our Dermatol Online. 2016;7(1):5-9.
  17. Mayo Clinic. Fingernails: Possible problems. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/nails/sls-20076131
  18. Rich, P. Nail changes due to diabetes and other endocrinopathies. Dermatologic Therapy. 2002;15:107-110.


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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. Sally White says

    Think I have this had thyriod issues after pneumonia thought I was okay but I’ve been shaking short of bresthe cant swallow my face is puffy and my knees are weak and I keep getting numbness in my fingers l,time to make yet another doctors appointment hope I can get in their with this coranavirus going around.

  2. I have hoshimoto’s thyroiditis , I’ve been experiencing lots of things and most of all lack of libido. I have Plantar Fasciitis along with itching and burning, some muscle cramping and tightening along with arthritis. I’m a very athletic person still at 63. I have great muscle tone, but now I’m starting to feel things I’ve never experienced before. IT band issues. I’m an indoor volleyball player plus 4 man sand player. I love race walking but hate running. I’ve also experienced sciatica.
    Seeing a new Endocronogolist this year. He seems to be on top of this disease and I’m hoping he will help in July ( my next visit) with some of my issues. I have lost 30 lbs on weight watchers. My doctor ask me to lose as I was getting to close to being diabetic. So, I didn’t want to deal with that in my life so I joined WW. In Nov. 2017 I’m still doing good with maintaining. Any info I can read about my body’s make up will be great. Thanks

  3. I am a wreck!! My endocrinologist says I am hyperthyroid. But I have all the classic low thyroid symptoms. My hair has fallen out, my eyebrows are gone, my fingernails are crumbly and won’t grow! My temperature is never over 97.4°! I have a huge goiter. With 3 echogenic tumors. I also have lots of nodules, ultrasound says benign. PET scan says hot and cold nodules. Cold nodules are usually cancer. I also have a tumor on my adrenal gland. I also have stage IV colon cancer. I had to fight to get a biopsy!🤬 I see an ear,throat and nose guy in 2 weeks! Hopefully I will finally get a biopsy. My TSH level is so low, it won’t even show up on the graphs from the blood tests. My endocrinologist claims that I have Graves disease, but all my symptoms are low thyroid. She gave me methamazol to lower my thyroid output. I have gained 45 pounds and all my symptoms are worse! I am a “Down Winder”! My mom and sister had thyroid cancer and had their thyroids removed. I don’t know what to do. Supposed to be high thyroid, but I am not. My hair fell out, low temperature, awful nails, dry skin, weight gain, i am so very tired. Anyone else like me?? What did you do to get better??

  4. Why can’t I find anything on CHRONIC DEBILITATING HEEL PAIN AND THUROID ISSUES? I HAVE HAD UNrELIVEED HEEL PAIN FOR 14 YEARS NOTHINF HAS HELPED SEVERAL DRS UNTIL I BEGAN TAKING LIOTHYRONINE and it’s gone now I am in shock and why can’t I find anything about this? I lost my career due to my heel pain. It snot just in the morning it’s all day long after standing 1 hours or less.

  5. Patricia Pierce says

    Thank you so much for your post. I myself suffer not only from hypothyroidism but I now am diabetic. I had issues with my feet for many years before I was diagnosed. My biggest reason was that I was not able to have medical insurance until we moved to Arkansas. Since then I see my Drs get regular check ups. I tried synthroid for 2 years but it just made me feel worse. So I wiened myself off. I wish I could give more details to help other’s. But I have a back injury and just in allot of pain today 😭. At another time I will come back and add some other thyroid symptoms I have that may help someone else.. 🤗. Until then do not loose hope whatever you do.. there’s so much free information out there. It does take time just have to be persistent.. 🙏🙏 prayers for all of us who suffer from this disease.

  6. Sharon Caminiti says

    My daughter is sick with thyroid disease. It even effected her Pituitary gland and she is only 31. She went from size 3 to size 16 and she has hot flashes and is in premenopause. The doctor put her on medicine for the thyroid but she has only lost 5 lbs and she looks tired and unhappy. The problem here is why so many women with this and why isn’t she getting better. I worry for her cus she has three children and I work and can’t help her enough. I know what will help her . A Naturalpath doctor but they are very expensive and the vitamins are also. Does anyone have any idea what she can do? I told her to go on a gluten free diet and she struggles with that because of the little time she has working full time. I know that would help her if she could cook for herself but like most women in the work force have little time after getting home. I would appreciate any help. Thank you, Sharon

    • Check out Medical Medium !! He has your answers. I am totally on the mend thanks to discovering Epstein Barr virus is at the cause of all Hashimotos disease and nearly all thyroid disorders too.

    • I also have Hypothyroidism, I am 36. Depression will take over but lots of prayer (God First) and check out Forefronthealth.com so much has to change in your diet to start feeling better. Gluten free, lots of water, and carrots .

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