Sweaty Feet

Most of us have suffered from foot perspiration and odour from time to time, yet for some people, sweaty feet are a persistent problem which can be embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Sweaty feet is a complaint known as Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, and has a lot to do with how the sweat glands in this part of the body work. With 250,000 sweat glands, feet do tend to sweat more than other parts of the body. But with a daily hygiene routine, few people should suffer from the embarrassment that it may cause.

Sweat glands in the feet

There are more sweat glands per inch in our feet than anywhere else in the body, and their function is to keep the skin moist and therefore supple. They secrete all the time, not just in response to heat or exercise as elsewhere in the body.

Possible causes

Sweaty feet can be caused by stress on the foot. This may be due to a structural problem, or because the foot is under strain or tired, for example, when you've been standing on your feet all day.

Hot weather can make matters worse, although sweaty feet is a winter, as well as a summer, problem. It can also be an inherited condition.

In adolescents, sweaty feet are probably caused by over-active sweat glands triggered by changing hormonal levels in the body. As the sweat glands on the soles of the feet (and the palms of the hand) respond mostly to emotion, mental or emotional stress is a common cause.

What to do

Simple hygiene such as washing feet once or twice daily with warm water and soap and dry thoroughly. Change socks daily using natural fibres cotton or wool. Spraying the feet once or twice daily with surgical spirit and allow to air dry.

Footwear

Careful consideration of footwear and socks is essential. Well-fitting shoes made of leather, which allow your feet to 'breathe', are best.

As a lot of sweat is absorbed by insoles or the uppers of shoes, don't wear the same pair every day, and allow them to dry out before wearing them again. Detachable insoles are also a good idea. Socks that absorb moisture well, like wool, cotton, or wool/cotton mixture, will also help. Always wash your socks before using them again.

Other problems

An added problem that often accompanies sweaty feet is foot odour. This is caused by bacteria on the skin breaking the sweat down, which releases an offensive smell.

This can usually be prevented with careful hygiene, or medicated insoles which can have a deodorising effect. Wash your feet with an anti-bacterial soap such as Hibiscrub. There is also a greater risk of minor skin infections, through athlete's foot, or blisters.