Rubber flip flops are the perfect summer shoe if you’re not really doing anything but trudging across the sand to your beach towel. But when you have to, say, walk a few minutes along the boardwalk to meet a friend somewhere else on the beach, you might experience one of the less pleasant experiences of summer, which is your feet slipping and sliding in rubber shoes thanks to foot sweat. Fun!
Like the rest of your body, your feet may produce more sweat in the summer, says podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, making for potentially unpleasant and stinky experiences.
“As the temperature increases, so does our body’s temperature, and then we sweat to regulate our temperature,” Dr. Sutera says. “Sweating is normal and natural, but when it’s excessive, and when it makes you smell, then that’s when people get very self-conscious.”
On top of increased sweat production, substances like rubber that you may wear more of during the summer don’t absorb sweat. So you could find yourself sloshing around in a pool of your own sweat. (Pro tip: Opt for “a flip flop or sandal that has a textured footbed that can also help your foot not slip as much because there’s a grip,” says Dr. Sutera. A Vionic spokesperson, she recommends Vionic’s Tide II Post Toe Sandal.)
If you think your foot sweating is problematic, there are a few steps you can take. First, some sweat and odor problems do require medical attention, like odor caused by an infection. So if yours have recently become extra stinky, consider making a visit to your podiatrist to rule this out.
But if normal sweat is giving you grief, you’ll want to replace old shoes with new ones, since worn-in shoes can be a breeding ground for the bacteria that actually causes foot odor.
“Foot smell happens a lot because when your foot sweats, like inside a sneaker, it’ll absorb the sweat and then bacteria start to feed on the sweat,” Dr. Sutera says. “[Odor] is actually a byproduct from the bacteria.” Old shoes rife with bacteria can make a sweaty foot problem worse.
If you’ve done an inventory of your closet, and still your feet are sweat factories, Dr. Sutera actually recommends a natural remedy anyone can do at home—with enough tea bags.
How to stop feet from sweating using black tea
There is a substance in black tea called tannic acid that can act on sweat glands to reduce their activity.
“It’s kind of like a natural antiperspirant,” says Dr. Sutera. “What the tannins do is temporarily shrink the sweat ducts so you’re not producing and releasing as much, and that also helps with the odor.”
You won’t find tannic acid in herbal or green tea. It’s gotta be the strong, black stuff. And Dr. Sutera advises that you need a high concentration of the tea in the water for it to be effective.
“You have to brew it in a way that’s so dark and so potent, like it’s not anything that you would ever drink,” Dr. Sutera says. “I don’t know that there’s an exact recipe, but let’s just say you want to make it at least five times stronger than how you would normally drink it.”
Dr. Sutera recommends making a big batch of the super dark tea. Then, you can put a small amount into a tub or basin, and put your feet in there for about 10 minutes a night. You don’t need to cover the whole foot; the tea should just envelop the bottom of your feet, since that’s where the sweat glands are.
Results won’t be immediate. Dr. Sutera says the home remedy takes a few days to work. And it’s also a short-term fix: Once you stop soaking regularly, the glands will resume their normal activity. But she does think it can be effective, and part of a larger foot self-care ritual. From her own experiences with black tea foot soaking, the tea acts as an exfoliant, too. So why not add some essential oils, and finish off the routine with some luxurious moisturizer? Dr. Sutera recommends one “with lactic acid that will help to exfoliate and soften callused skin.”
“People are very conscious of their feet, especially in the spring and summer,” Dr. Sutera says. “Use the momentum of self-care here.”
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