If you suffer from unusually sweaty feet, you know how uncomfortable and embarrassing this condition can be. Your shoes and socks end up damp no matter the weather, and you may worry about foot odor. Excessive foot sweating, called hyperhidrosis, has many potential causes. The good news is that lifestyle changes, over-the-counter treatments, and prescription medications can help you manage this bothersome problem.
What Causes Excessive Sweating of the Feet?
Your feet contain more sweat glands per square inch than any other part of your body. While sweating is an important bodily function for temperature regulation, some people’s feet produce way more moisture than necessary.
Hot weather and exercise that raise your core temperature can trigger sweating. But nerves and hormones also play a role. The sympathetic nervous system directs your body’s fight-or-flight response. Part of this response involves sweating to cool you down. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine and hormones like epinephrine also activate sweat glands.
People with hyperhidrosis appear to have overactive sweat glands due to the nerves or hormones constantly telling them to produce moisture. Doctors don’t fully understand why this happens. Contributing factors can include:
- Genetics – Hyperhidrosis runs in families, suggesting a genetic component.
- Being overweight – Carrying excess weight puts you at higher risk for heavy sweating.
- Infection – In rare cases, a foot infection can cause temporary excessive sweating.
- Medications – Certain prescription drugs as a side effect.
- Anxiety and stress – The body’s fight-or-flight response produces sweat along with other symptoms.
Because your feet sweat the most of any body part already, hyperactivity in those glands becomes very apparent. The excess moisture has no where to evaporate, trapped inside your shoes.
Physical Effects of Sweaty Feet
Walking around all day with wet feet can cause a variety of problems, including:
- Skin maceration – Excess moisture soaks the skin between the toes, making it white and soggy. This can lead to skin breakdown.
- Athlete’s foot – The fungus thrives in the warm, moist environment created inside shoes and causes scaling, redness, and itching.
- Blisters or calluses – Friction from skin rubbing on shoes due to moisture and lack of evaporation results in thick, painful areas of skin.
- Foot odor – Sweat itself is odorless initially. But bacteria feeding on it release unpleasant-smelling waste products.
Managing Sweaty Feet
If you want to gain control over your foot perspiration, start with these self-care tips:
- Wear moisture-wicking socks – These pull sweat away from your feet to keep them drier. Change socks halfway through the day.
- Use antibacterial foot powder – The powder will help absorb moisture and prevent odor-causing bacteria growth.
- Alternate pairs of shoes – Letting shoes completely dry out between wears prevents bacteria and fungus growth.
- Go barefoot when possible – Allowing your feet to air out helps evaporation occur.
Over-the-counter antiperspirant sprays or wipes can also reduce sweat gland activity when applied daily, especially before bed. Look for aluminum chloride as the active ingredient. Urea creams can also hydrate and exfoliate peeling skin.
For stubborn cases unresponsive to self-care, make an appointment with your doctor. Prescription antiperspirants contain higher aluminum chloride concentrations than OTC products. Antifungal medications treat athlete’s foot infections contributing to moisture. Botox injections temporarily block nerve signals to the sweat glands.
For severe, untreatable cases, a surgery called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy destroys a section of the nerve pathway triggering excess foot sweating. This procedure must be performed very carefully however. Damage too far along the nerve can cause compensatory sweating in other areas of your body instead of the feet.
Don’t resign yourself to perpetually soggy feet and shoes. Implement self-care strategies supplemented with medical treatments if necessary. Getting excessive foot sweat under control offers welcome relief most people take for granted. Your feet – and nose – will thank you!