What causes feet sweating?

Jayne Leonard
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It is common to have sweaty feet at times, but excessive sweating can indicate a condition called hyperhidrosis. Sweaty feet can also lead to other health issues, such as foot odor, athlete's foot, and toenail fungus.

According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, hyperhidrosis affects almost 5 percent of people worldwide. Those with excessive sweating of the feet, called plantar hyperhidrosis, can struggle to keep them dry throughout the day. The sweat glands continue to produce extreme quantities of sweat, which many people find both uncomfortable and embarrassing.

There are many ways to handle plantar hyperhidrosis. In this article, we describe 12 techniques for preventing and managing sweaty feet.

Preventing sweaty feet

People can try using the following methods to prevent sweaty feet:

1. Keeping a journal of sweating episodes

Log episodes of sweaty feet in a notebook and look for patterns. This can help to identify foods, situations, or emotions that trigger foot sweating. It is then possible to take steps to limit or avoid these triggers.

2. Wearing the right socks

Choose the best socks for the season and activity.

Wear cotton socks during warmer months for proper ventilation. Wool is a good option for winter months. Avoid nylon as this synthetic fabric can trap moisture.

Some manufacturers also make socks that draw moisture away from the skin. It is usually possible to buy moisture-wicking socks in sporting goods stores.

Other types of sports sock have ventilation panels or contain chemicals that reduce the number of bacteria on the feet, which minimizes foot moisture and odor.

3. Using antifungal powders

An antifungal foot powder will help to keep feet dry and odor-free.

An alternative option is to apply a light dusting of cornstarch to the feet. Cornstarch, however, does not fight fungus in the way that antifungal powders do.

4. Applying antiperspirant

The feet contain more sweat glands per inch than any other part of the body. There are approximately 125,000 sweat glands on each foot.

An antiperspirant deodorant is an easy-to-use remedy for sweaty feet. These products work by temporarily blocking the sweat glands.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommend applying antiperspirant to dry feet before bed and washing it off in the morning. People should repeat this for another 3 or 4 consecutive nights and then switch to using it once or twice a week.

5. Choosing the right shoes

Look for shoes made from a breathable fabric such as canvas or leather. Avoid patent or plastic shoes as they do not allow a good airflow and may trap sweat inside the shoe.

Check that shoes are the correct size. Shoes that are too tight will crowd the toes and contribute to sweaty feet.

Insoles may also provide some relief from sweaty feet. Look for absorbent or deodorizing insoles to wick away moisture and prevent foot odors.

6. Staying hydrated

Drinking lots of water, especially on hot days or when exercising, helps to regulate body temperature and reduce the likelihood of sweating.

How to get rid of sweaty feet

Even the best preventive techniques will not always stop feet from becoming sweaty. When sweating occurs, performing the following actions may help:

7. Washing your feet

Washing sweaty feet not only rinses away sweat and bacteria but cools the skin down and reduces further sweating.

Aim to wash the feet at least once, if not twice, a day. Use an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal soap or add a few drops of antimicrobial essential oil, such as tea tree or eucalyptus, to the water.

Dry the feet thoroughly, especially in between the toes. Damp feet allow bacteria and fungus to flourish.

Apply a light dusting of antifungal powder or cornstarch before slipping on cotton socks and breathable shoes.

8. Soaking feet in black tea

Using black tea may be an effective way to stop sweating.

This unusual remedy involves soaking the feet in a basin of warm water with two black tea bags. The tannins in the tea close the pores in the skin, reducing sweating.

Allow sweaty feet to soak for 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this treatment daily if necessary.

9. Carrying spare socks

When it is not possible to wash or soak the feet, change into a fresh pair of socks. Again, choose moisture-wicking or natural cotton socks. Keep spare pairs of socks at school or work so that it is possible to refresh the feet instantly.

10. Changing shoes

Hot shoes will make feet warmer and more sweaty. When feet start to sweat, change into a cool, fresh pair of shoes.

Try to avoid wearing the same pair of shoes on 2 consecutive days. This gives the shoes a chance to dry out completely between wears. To speed up this process, leave footwear outside for 1–2 hours on dry days.

11. Applying rubbing alcohol

For fast relief, dab a small amount of rubbing alcohol between the toes or on sweaty areas of the feet. This will instantly dry out the feet and stop foot odors.

However, it is essential to avoid using this remedy regularly as it can dry out the feet too much and lead to skin irritation.

12. Trying iontophoresis

The American Podiatric Medical Association recommend a technique called iontophoresis for people with sweaty feet.

Iontophoresis uses water to pass a mild electrical current through the skin of the feet. It temporarily blocks sweat from coming out of the sweat glands.

In one small study, 88 percent of participants with sweaty hands, feet, or both, demonstrated a positive response to iontophoresis, although they had to repeat the therapy every 3–4 weeks to maintain the results.

People with sweaty feet can find iontophoresis machines for home use online or in some drug stores.

When to see a doctor

If the tips above do not reduce foot sweating, it may be best to seek medical advice. A podiatrist can help people to manage plantar hyperhidrosis, while a doctor can explain the treatment options for excessive sweating in other areas of the body, such as the hands, face, scalp, and underarms.

A doctor will diagnose excessive sweating by asking the individual to describe their symptoms and carrying out a physical exam. They may also do an iodine test for starch.

To perform this test, they will apply an iodine solution to the feet. Once the iodine has soaked in, the doctor will sprinkle cornstarch over the feet. If the skin turns dark blue, this indicates an excessive amount of sweat.

Medical treatments

After diagnosing excessive sweating, a doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength antiperspirant, such as Drysol, or oral medications called anticholinergics.

Alternatively, they may recommend a series of Botox injections. Although people typically use Botox shots for cosmetic purposes, this drug can stop excessive sweating. Some research suggests that the effects last for an average of 6–9 months and lead to a high rate of satisfaction.

Severe cases of hyperhidrosis may require a sympathectomy. This surgical procedure involves cutting specific nerves to interrupt the signals that cause the body to sweat excessively.

Takeaway

Sweaty feet are often uncomfortable, and they can be embarrassing for some people. There are many home remedies to prevent and manage sweaty feet.

Good foot hygiene is essential to managing excessive sweating and preventing foot odors and infection.

If home remedies are unsuccessful, a doctor will be able to recommend stronger treatment options for hyperhidrosis of the feet.

A person should wear cotton socks during warmer months for proper ventilation.
 

A person should wear cotton socks during warmer months for proper ventilation.