Feet are the foundation the body stands on and sweaty feet make getting around comfortably more challenging. Many times, people who deal with excessively sweaty feet are suffering from a condition called primary focal hyperhidrosis - a condition that causes an overproduction of sweat. Luckily, hyperhidrosis is not dangerous, but it does come with some unique issues, especially when someone has plantar (foot) hyperhidrosis. The skin of the feet is densely populated by eccrine sweat glands and the bottom of the foot actually has more sweat glands than the top, so sweaty feet can affect a person’s ability to walk comfortably. Some of the other practical challenges that come along with sweaty feet include soaking, staining and destroying shoes, difficulty wearing sandals or open toed shoes, problems walking barefoot, and a need for especially absorbent socks. Sometimes, the effects of sweaty feet can actually be detrimental to a person’s health as excessive exposure to moist conditions can cause discomfort, maceration, athlete’s foot, warts, and bacterial infections. That is why it is imperative that people with plantar hyperhidrosis take care of their feet. One of the simplest, but most effective, ways this can be done is by wearing the proper type of socks.
The type of material socks are made from determines how they are able to handle moisture. Traditionally, most people wear cotton socks. Cotton is a natural fiber and it makes one of the best types of clothing for people with excessive sweating to wear, but this is not true when it comes to socks. Cotton is very absorbent, so it holds on to moisture produced by sweaty feet which becomes a problem when feet are trapped inside of shoes. This keeps feet wet which causes skin break down and allows for bacterial growth. Instead, it is better to use moisture wicking materials that will keep moisture away from skin and protect feet from a damp environment. Wool is a natural fiber, like cotton, but it is able to keep feet dry while absorbing sweat. In fact, one study looked at the impact sock material had on foot health and found that out of wool, cotton, and acrylic fibers wool had the best impact on foot health. Wool also has antibacterial properties that can inhibit the growth of bacteria - the cause of another sweat condition, called bromhidrosis, that causes stinky sweat. Merino wool is a good choice of material for socks as it is less scratchy than regular wool but it still has water resistant and moisture wicking properties. It comes from sheep indigenous to New Zealand and parts of Australia that produce wool that is finer than other breeds of sheep and therefore softer.
Synthetic fabrics that use modern moisture wicking technology are also a great option for people with sweaty feet. Polyester is known for being stifling when it is used to make shirts, but it makes surprisingly good sock material. This is because polyester is quick to dry, durable, and easy to clean. It is fairly breathable compared to other synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester is even better when mixed with other fibers. Several brands, including Nike, use a polyester blend for their athletic socks which are advertised as being moisture wicking. Modern science has spawned even more synthetic fibers that can be especially helpful for people with sweating issues. Some of these new and improved fibers include certain polyester blends like Coolmax, or completely new types of fibers, like Olefin, that were specifically designed for sweaty feet. Both of these materials are able to quickly move moisture away from feet so that they stay dry and healthy. Scientists have also figured out how to make these synthetic fibers antibacterial so they also keep bacteria to a minimum. Most socks marketed towards people with sweaty feet use one of these synthetic fibers and they are very effective at keeping feet comfortable and dry.
Whether you choose to go with a natural fiber, like wool, or a synthetic fiber, like Olefin, your feet will thank you. Remember, the most important aspect of sock material is that it is able to keep moisture away from your skin so that feet are not damaged by damp conditions. While finding socks for sweaty feet is difficult, there are many great options on the market. If you find that using the right type of sock material is not enough, then it may be time to look into medical treatments for sweaty feet. There are many things you can do to manage your sweat and stay dry.
- Laing, R. M., Wilson, C. A., Dunn, L. A., & Niven, B. E. (2015). Detection of fiber effects on skin health of the human foot. Textile Research Journal, 85(17), 1849-1863. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.