What are sweaty feet?
Sweaty feet is a common condition occurring when feet sweat excessively and inappropriately, sometimes causing an unpleasant odour.
What causes sweaty feet?
It is a natural process for the body to sweat. The body is covered with over 5 million sweat glands and the foot contains 250,000 sweat glands alone.
Each sweat gland secretes moisture and salts onto the surface of the skin to cool it down. This explains why we sweat more during hot weather and exercise.
Sometimes the sweat glands of the feet are overactive and produce more sweat than is necessary to cool the feet at that time, this is known as excessive sweating.
It may occur simply in response to feelings of anxiety or stress or as part of a medical condition such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, menopause or obesity.
These medical conditions are likely to produce excessive sweating in other areas of the body as well as the feet.
What are the signs and symptoms of sweaty feet?
- Moist and wet feet
- Continually damp or wet socks
- Excess moisture on the feet creates a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi which break down to give off an unpleasant odour
- Excessive fungi can cause peeling and sogginess between the toes (see Athlete's Foot). Fungi can also spread to the nails (see Fungal nail infections)
- Excessive bacteria can colonise the skin leading to conditions such as pitted keratolysis where the skin has a pitted, punched out appearance
- Soft corns may develop between the toes
- Ingrown toenails are more likely to develop in sweaty feet, especially in teenagers (see Ingrown toenails)
- An inability to wear loose sandals and a tendency to slip on tiled or polished floors
- Other areas of the body may be affected - most commonly are the hands, armpits, hands and scalp
- Embarrassment and distress
Treatment & Prevention of sweaty feet
The symptoms of sweaty feet can be minimised by following a simple daily hygiene routine -
- Wash or shower feet daily; more often in hot weather or following exercise
- Use an antibacterial soap to help reduce build up of bacteria on the skin
- Dry feet thoroughly with a towel paying particular attention to the spaces between the toes
- Use specialised sprays and creams to keep the feet dry and conditioned. Your podiatrist, pharmacist or GP can advise which product is best for you
- Dab surgical spirit between the toes to reduce any sogginess
- Avoid footwear and hosiery made of synthetic materials. Leather shoes and cotton socks both allow your feet to breathe
- Change socks daily and try and alternate footwear daily, particularly trainers
- Insert removable medicated insoles into your shoes and remember to replace them regularly
Your podiatrist or GP can advise on the most suitable treatment for you.
What can a Podiatrist do?
- A podiatrist can advise on foot hygiene, footwear and sprays and creams most suitable for your feet
- They are able to spot any signs of infection that may have developed
- A podiatrist can treat soft corns and ingrown toenails that may have developed as a result of sweaty feet
When should I seek medical care?
A podiatrist, pharmacist and GP can all advice on how to treat sweaty feet. If you have an infection and are concerned seek medical advice as soon as possible.