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Causes and Treatments for Sweaty Feet

Dr. Tim Dutra

Reviewed by
Dr. Tim Dutra

Sweating is our body’s natural way of cooling itself down. Sweaty feet, or hyperhidrosis, is a common condition that causes excessive sweating on the soles of the feet. The condition also affects the palms of the hands and the underarms, but in this article we will focus only on the feet. Plantar hyperhidrosis is localized to the plantar side of the foot (the bottom). Sweaty feet can lead to or exacerbate problems such as athlete’s foot, plantar warts, or other skin conditions. If the sweating is associated with another medical condition, it is known as secondary hyperhidrosis.

There are over 250,000 sweat glands in each foot. Each foot normally produces a half pint of moisture per day. It’s important to keep in mind that our feet are sweating all the time, and bacteria are naturally present on our skin. For most people the sweat evaporates quickly, but for others the sweat is trapped within the glands, which allows bacteria to grow. This can be a problem if a person has more than the normal amount of sweat glands in their feet and is prone to excessive sweating.

Sweaty Feet Symptoms

Excessive sweating on the soles of the feet is the most common symptom. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Smelly feet/foot odor
  • Increase in skin problems
  • Itchy feet
  • Toenail fungus
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Clothes are frequently soaked with sweat
  • Clamminess

Sweaty Feet Causes

There are various reasons why our feet sweat. Although the condition is most commonly brought on by emotional stress or physical exercise, there are other causes. Heredity is said to play a role, as individuals with sweaty feet commonly share their affliction with their families.

Your toxicity levels can also cause your feet to sweat. Toxins originate from foods we eat that are high in saturated fats. Alcohol is also a toxin. If you do not exercise often, these toxins can build up and cause your feet and other parts of your body to sweat.

Your feet may also be sweating due to the type of footwear you use. Certain footwear—such as nylon and cotton socks, or shoes made of plastic or some type of synthetic fabric lining—prevent sweat from evaporating. Nylon and 100% cotton socks can act like a sponge and lock moisture in. This keeps your feet wet at all times and leads to additional problems like tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) and toenail fungus.

Some experts also believe this condition may have something to do with the sympathetic nervous system, but it is still unknown whether this is due to over-activity of the system or the sweat glands themselves.

When to See Your Doctor

You do not need to see your doctor if you have sweaty feet unless the sweating interferes with your daily activities, or if you suddenly find yourself sweating a lot more than usual and over-the-counter treatments have not helped.

Sweaty Feet Treatment

Your podiatrist will be able to help you decide which treatment options are best for you. Most cases require a change in footwear and socks, and your doctor may also recommend the use of foot powders or a change in your hygiene habits. For more severe cases, topical medications such as Drysol (a prescription strength antiperspirant) are used. Occasionally, other methods such as botox are used. Botox stops the signals that are sent from your nerves to your sweat glands, resulting in dry feet. These are just some examples of how you can treat your sweaty feet. Your doctor will recommend the best way to treat your particular case.

Tips to Prevent Sweaty Feet

If you don’t want to have sweaty feet, there are several things you can do to prevent the problem, including:

  • Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe, and avoid shoes made of rubber.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after bathing or otherwise getting them wet. Use a hairdryer to ensure that they are dry, apply and antiperspirant to the bottom of your feet.
  • Wear synthetic socks instead of nylon, or 100% cotton.
  • Use anti-fungal foot spray or foot powders.
  • Wash your feet daily.
  • Wash your shoes regularly.
  • Change your socks at least once times per day.
  • Rotate your shoes and allow them to dry out between uses.

Finally, if you are suffering from sweaty feet, talk to your podiatrist about the problem. Feet that sweat excessively and are not treated properly can lead to additional problems like itchiness, redness, odors, and burning sensations. These are symptoms of athlete’s foot, but they may also be symptoms of the first stage in the cycle for nail fungus.

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Medical References:

  1. The Dermatology Blog, Seven Steps to Stop Sweaty Feet, http://thedermblog.com/2008/05/07/seven-steps-to-stop-sweaty-feet/
  2. StopSweats, Sweaty Feet, http://www.stopsweats.org/types-of-excessive-sweating/sweaty-feet/
  3. American Medical Association "Family Medical Guide" 4th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004) 123; 1073

This page was last updated on December 17th, 2014



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