Summer is weeks away, so get ready to get sweaty. Running around in the heat means perspiration is bound to happen—on your face, under your arms, and in other, ahem, less visible places. But what if you've got sweaty feet 24/7, regardless of the temperature outside or how much you've exercised? According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, 3 percent of the population has hyperhidrosis, a.k.a. excessive sweating. It’s more common in younger individuals than older people, and more men than women suffer from it—but it can happen to anyone. (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.)
People with overly sweaty or smelly feet tend to know they have this problem when they are young, says S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., an aesthetic dermatologist and CEO and founder of Miami Skin Institute. But what do you do when your toes are slimy and your soles are moist (besides opt for flip flops whenever possible)? And why does it happen? Read on to find out how to combat sopping socks and soggy shoes.
What causes it?
“Hyperhysrosis, a hereditary condition, is an overproduction of sweat," says Jacqueline M. Sutera, doctor of podiatric medicine. "[It’s caused by] being nervous, warm weather, fever or illness, infection, certain fabrics or material, and dye in socks." If an external factor like exercise doesn't explain your damp kicks, Mom and Dad might be to blame. “The tendency to have sweaty feet above normal levels when not exercising is a genetic one,” says Jegasothy.
What can you do about it?
Depending on the severity of sweat, you have a few options, says Sutera. Tea soaks, which involve literally letting your feet soak in cooled tea, have tannins that temporarily shrink sweat glands. “Over-the-counter sprays and powders can act to dry the skin and manage odor,” she says. One option: Klima Surefoot Foot Spray ($24.95, amazon.com). “There are also prescription anti-perspirants that work like the underarm ones to temporarily decease sweat production.” (Ask your doctor if you're interested in the Rx route.)
Are your socks and shoes causing the problem?
Shopping the aisles of the drugstore can help, but a quick dresser drawer run-through may alter the physical state of your feet, too. “Changing your socks to a more breathable fabric, like cotton or new moisture-wicking technology, [helps],” says Sutera. Champion Double-Dry socks could do the trick ($15, amazon.com). “Wearing closed-toe shoes can encourage sweating, especially in warmer weather. When possible and appropriate, opt for breathable fabrics and natural materials with openings.” Jegasothy suggests leather and canvas shoes, which tend to wick away sweat just like athletic wear, and are usually better than synthetic materials. A good option? Birkenstock Slide Sandals ($120, amazon.com).
Are there any procedures that help?
For more severe cases, there are a few options for treatments than can help. Miradry, an ultrasound procedure that is performed frequently over time, may decrease greatly the amount of sweating which occurs on the palms and soles. Botox is another option—“Botox in the feet can temporarily block sweat production for three to six months,” says Sutera—as is a surgical procedure that involves cutting the nerve that controls the sweat reaction. Keep in mind that Botox injections are usually better when done earlier age (i.e., in your twenties) because younger sweat glands are more easily ablated than mature ones. If you're ready to try a treatment, see your M.D. to find out which option is best for you.