In an era of quick-fix wellness fads, sometimes it’s difficult to discern what’s legitimate and what’s simply a sham wrapped up in fancy PR jargon and promotion from prominent social media influencers.

In short, it’s easy to fall victim to these promises of how to obtain a certain level of health and wellness without putting in much effort. But, as is often the case, if it’s too good to be true, it’s best to get a second opinion. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Enter the detox food pads. Touted as a quick and easy way to remove toxins from your body — through the soles of your feet — this wellness trend has gained popularity over the past decade.

To find out whether these really work, we’ve asked two different medical experts — Debra Rose Wilson, associate professor and holistic healthcare practitioner, and Dena Westphalen, a clinical pharmacist — to weigh in on the matter.

Here’s what they had to say.

What is happening to your body when you use detox foot pads?

Debra Rose Wilson: There is no evidence of any bodily response to detox pads. Most claims about these types of products include removing heavy metals, toxins, and even fat from the body. They do not. Other false advertisements include its effectiveness for treating depression, insomnia, diabetes, arthritis, and more.

Dena Westphalen: There has not been any published scientific studies to prove that anything happens to the body while using detox foot pads. The idea behind the detox foot pad is that toxins are pulled from the body by applying specific ingredients to the feet. The foot pads can contain ingredients from plants, herbs, and minerals, and often includes vinegar.

Some people notice that there’s residue on the foot pads after use. What could be the cause of this?

DRW: There is similar residue if a few drops of distilled water are put on it too. It makes sense that the same thing would happen when your feet perspire onto the pads.

DW: Manufacturers of the detox foot pads claim that different colors on the foot pads in the morning represent different toxins being extracted from the body. The color that is apparent is likely a reaction of the mixture of sweat and vinegar.

What kind of person or type of health concerns would benefit the most from this practice and why?

DRW: There is no known benefit to using detox foot pads.

DW: There are no scientifically proven health benefits.

What are the risks, if any?

DRW: There have been no risks noted in the literature, beyond spending money on a product that does not have any proven benefits.

DW: No risks have been reported other than a high cost.

In your opinion, does it work? Why or why not?

DRW: Rubbing and soaking your feet are great ways to relax and give some relief to tired, aching feet as part of self-care. That said, quality research has been unable to find any benefits to “detoxing” through your feet. So no, this does not work for detoxing the body.

DW: I believe that detox foot pads are unlikely to be harmful but also have a placebo effect. A person’s feet are full of pores, just like the face. When the adhesive pad seals around the sole of the foot and encloses the area for the night, the foot sweats and the vinegar in the foot pad promotes the sweating. I do not believe that the pads have any effect in detoxing the body.


Dr. Debra Rose Wilson is an associate professor and holistic healthcare practitioner. She graduated from Walden University with a PhD. She teaches graduate-level psychology and nursing courses. Her expertise also includes obstetrics and breastfeeding. She is the 2017–2018 Holistic Nurse of the Year. Dr. Wilson is the managing editor of a peer-reviewed international journal. She enjoys being with her Tibetan terrier, Maggie.


Dr. Dena Westphalen is a clinical pharmacist with interests in global health, travel health and vaccinations, nootropics, and custom compounded medications. In 2017, Dr. Westphalen graduated from Creighton University with her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is currently working as an ambulatory care pharmacist. She has volunteered in Honduras providing public health education and has received the Natural Medicines Recognition Award. Dr. Westphalen was also a scholarship recipient for IACP Compounders on Capitol Hill. In her spare time, she enjoys playing ice hockey and the acoustic guitar.