Why do feet sweat and what is behind it?
Sweaty feet are a concept for all of us – especially the negative side effects such as an unpleasant feeling in the shoe or the associated odor development. However, sweaty feet have worse effects during sports, which leads to “slipping back and forth” in the shoe. The result is blistering and thus the athletic performance is significantly impaired. Where this problem comes from and what can be done about it, we would like to explain in this blog post.
To begin, however, first some facts about sweating. The skin is the largest organ system of the human body and is permeated by thousands and thousands of sweat glands. The density of these glands is highest on the hands and especially on the feet. You can easily observe this in a self-experiment: Just wear latex gloves for a longer period of time, then you will quickly notice that your hands become sweaty, because the pores on the hands clearly secrete moisture.
The sole of the foot alone has around 370 eccrine sweat glands per square centimeter, making it even more dense than the palms of the hands, which have around 360 glands per square centimeter. However, the sweat glands have an extremely important task: by releasing moisture, our body is protected from overheating, as sweat has a cooling effect. In addition, the moisture on the palms of the hands and feet increases grip and adhesion to smooth surfaces, which in turn helps with gripping or walking barefoot.
Under average temperature and stress conditions, i.e. at about 21°C, a person sweats six liters within 24 hours. In the process, 250ml of moisture is secreted from the soles of the feet alone, which means 10.4 ml of sweat per hour. Under stress, i.e. during heavy physical work or intensive sports, the situation is completely different. Here, the amount of moisture “sweated out” is more than double – that is, up to 15 liters per day! In terms of feet, we are talking about 26 ml per hour – so per foot 13 ml per hour. For example, a marathon of more than three hours results in a well-filled shot glass! Due to the “packing” of our feet into shoes, which are mostly made of hardly breathable materials, partial overheating of our feet occurs. The body tries to control and regulate against this through the sweating described above.
For these reasons, when buying shoes, it is immensely important to make sure that the foot has enough space in the shoe and that the materials used are, above all, high quality and breathable. The feet must be able to “breathe” – and that’s not just figuratively speaking. However, the reality unfortunately looks somewhat different. Most shoe manufacturers rely on lower quality and breathable materials for cost or profit maximization. In addition, there are fashion aspects, such as shoes tapered in the toe area, which additionally takes away the necessary space from the feet.
When it comes to material, genuine leather is always mentioned as the savior against foot sweat and for a good climate in the shoe. This view is also correct, but we must add that in such a case we are talking about high-quality and natural leather. Because not all leather is the same. Very often, leather types are used in shoes that are produced under the worst conditions in emerging countries or the 3rd world. Cheap leather is produced, in which toxic chemicals are stored, which can pass into the skin of the wearer and are extremely harmful to the human organism. So not only do the people who make it or the environment in the countries where it is made suffer from these leathers, but so do the people who wear the shoes.
The same applies to shoes made of synthetics. Here, unfortunately, very often cheap and low-quality materials are used, which also carry pollutants – the effect is the same. Pollutants from the material can enter the human organism, especially during perspiration, and cause damage.
But there are alternatives:
Vegetable (vegetable) tanned, pollutant-tested leathers.
which are sustainably produced in Europe and at best in Germany. Leathers in which the raw material, i.e. the animal skin, has already been produced sustainably and the necessary attention has been paid to animal welfare. Leather, with an untreated, open surface, ensures natural breathability and is thus able to absorb foot moisture, providing an incomparable climate in the shoe.
The same applies to synthetics and textiles. Here, too, there are alternatives that are manufactured under strict conditions, are tested for harmful substances and are therefore harmless to health. Especially in the field of sports shoes, you should definitely pay attention to this, because as mentioned above, the feet sweat the most under stress and are therefore also the most sensitive at peak performance.
These alternatives are, of course, more expensive than the cheap solutions. However, two aspects should always be in the foreground when buying shoes: On the one hand, one’s own health and, on the other, one’s commitment to people and nature. Very often, it is younger, unknown brands that deal much more intensively with the topic of healthy ecological alternatives and sustainability. As a consumer, you should always be critical of this topic and inform yourself.
Which alternatives there are in the shoe area and which effective approaches there are for better foot and shoe climate we deal with in our coming blog article –
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