High-tech fitness trackers certainly encourage people to put their feet through the paces these days. But for those suffering from hyperhidrosis (or excessive sweating), peeling off sweaty socks without having engaged in any physical activity whatsoever is nothing to celebrate. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHS), about 5 percent of people worldwide — that’s 367 million people — deal with issues related to extreme sweating.
Hyperhidrosis can mean you wind up producing much more sweat than what is typically associated with exercise or nervousness. Simply put, your sweat glands remain “on” for longer periods of time and don’t know when to stop. Those with plantar hyperhidrosis or sweaty feet, in particular, often find themselves contending with soggy footwear, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, or continual cold feet.
Pinpointing exactly what causes these bouts of extreme sweating continues to prove challenging for researchers, but there is possibly a hereditary connection. And although for many, hyperhidrosis first manifests itself during childhood or adolescence, it can occur at any age.
Your sweaty feet game plan
When it comes to managing your sweaty feet, you need to formulate a solid game plan. Start by following the American Academy of Dermatology’s advice to keep a journal of how and when sweating episodes occur. This will help you identify triggers such as certain foods or situations that should be avoided.
Wash your feet every day
Addressing plantar hyperhidrosis also involves going the extra mile when it comes to hygiene. Be sure to wash your feet daily, twice if necessary.
Over-the-counter soap options include antifungal foot washes like those from Purely Northwest and ArtNaturals, which feature tea tree, eucalyptus, and other essential oils. Whichever you prefer, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, to reduce skin bacteria.
Dr. Suzanne Fuchs of LuxePodiatry suggests a short 20-minute soak in warm water with 3 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda. She also recommends using black tea for soaks, due to the presence of tannins. These can help shrink pores, thereby reducing the flow of sweat. Simply swap out the baking soda for two bags of black tea and keep your feet under for an additional 10 minutes.
Dry your feet with antifungal powders
Keeping your feet dry and fungus-free is essential. A dusting of cornstarch works in a pinch — let it sit for about half an hour, then wipe off. Powders, however, pack more of an antifungal punch in addition to tackling moisture. And there are plenty to choose from. The most common brands include Dr. Scholl’s Soothing Foot Powder, Gold Bond Medicated Foot Power, and Zeasorb Antifungal Treatment Powder.
Choose the right antiperspirant
Your two feet contain roughly 250,000 sweat glands, so how can you slow them down? The IHS points to antiperspirants as a first line of treatment since they are inexpensive, easy to use, and not invasive. Sprays like Odaban and roll-ons such as Driclor work by temporarily plugging the glands and stopping the flow of sweat. Apply them just before going to bed. You sweat less at night, allowing for better antiperspirant block buildup. Please note: If you have sensitive skin, you may wish to check with your doctor before trying this approach.
Wear the right socks
Do not overlook your socks. Wool socks are especially good for ventilation, as are cotton. But be sure to avoid nylon socks, which will trap moisture and lead to sogginess. Kirkland provides a good option. Change them more than once per day and take along an extra pair when you’re out.
Last but not least, the shoes
When it comes to actual footwear, take a pass on the boots and the sport shoes, as they excel at trapping in moisture. Instead, settle on something a bit more breathable that employs canvas or leather. Alternate the pairs you do wear to keep them all as dry as possible. Changeable absorbent insoles such as those by Zederna and Dr. Scholl’s provide additional defense against odor. And whenever you’re able, kick your shoes (and socks) off and give your feet some fresh air.
Keep in mind that the results of these suggestions vary depending on the individual. By and large, plantar hyperhidrosis does not require a visit to the doctor, though that could be the next course of action if there is no improvement.