Apple Cider Vinegar Foot Soak: 5 Benefits + How To Make One
Foot soaks have long been used as a means of self-care for tired feet. And with the addition of apple cider vinegar—the fermented tonic that's hailed as a natural do-it-all—it may provide even more substantial benefits. Here's what you can expect from an apple cider vinegar foot soak, and how to make one at home:
Apple cider vinegar can help with foot odor.
Due to apple cider vinegar's antibacterial properties, it can help neutralize the odor-causing bacteria on your feet. While it's totally normal and healthy that your body is covered with an array of bacteria and other microbes—collectively called the skin microbiome—sometimes that bacteria can get out of balance. Then when your body produces sweat, the bacteria overgrowth "feeds" on the sweat and produces pungent, less-than-ideal smells.
However, research has shown that apple cider vinegar has significant bacteria-eliminating powers. A 2018 review found that ACV was able to disinfect multiple strains of bacteria1, including many strains commonly found on the body known to be odor-causing, like Staphylococcus aureus.
Apple cider vinegar may help with fungal infections, like athlete's foot.
Another type of overgrowth may result in odor: Fungal overgrowth is actually the cause of tinea pedis, or what's commonly called athlete's foot. It's caused by the overgrowth of fungus like Candida albicans, trichophyton, epidermophyton, and microsporum. Much like how bacteria is a vital part of your skin's microflora, fungus is too. The problem arises when the balance of all these microbes are thrown off. In the case of athlete's foot, these fungi thrive in wet, warm conditions like your feet after being tucked into socks and shoes all day or after a workout.
But as functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, explains, "Apple cider vinegar has also been shown2 to have antiviral, anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, all helpful in supporting your microbiome balance." In a 2018 study, scientists found that the vinegar can inhibit growth of C. albicans3 in a petri dish4. It works by destroying the fungus' cell structure, along with specific enzymes the fungus needs to survive. Though the experiment involves a dish instead of humans, the results are promising.
Prep your toenails for an at-home pedi through chemical exfoliation.
If you want to recreate the salon pedicure experience, a foot soak pre-polish is an easy way to do that. There are many fun foot-soak add-ons you can play around with to achieve different benefits, like Epsom salts for muscle tension or essential oils for aromatherapy.
You can try an apple cider vinegar foot soak to give skin and nails a soft chemical exfoliation—and this gentle chemical exfoliation is more preferable to those potentially harsh pumice stones or sandpaper-like files. Not to mention: Your actual nails need exfoliation, too, to remain healthy and strong.
Apple cider vinegar has natural alpha-hydroxy acid properties5 and therefore may help slough off dead skin cells and encourage cell turnover. Specifically, ACV contains "AHAs like lactic, citric, and malic acids," says board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D. When applied topically, these acids work to "exfoliate the uppermost layers of the skin, revealing skin that appears smoother and more hydrated."
Foot soaks may have full-body benefits.
In general, foot soaks of any kind can relieve stress and tension. Studies show that nightly foot soaks can help relieve anxiety and may even improve sleep quality. One 2016 peer-reviewed study found that a nightly foot soak was able to help patients sleep more soundly throughout the night—these benefits were even greater when paired with a gentle foot rub. Another small human study found that when elderly patients had a twice-daily hot foot soak, their overall energy levels improved. An additional small human study also done with elderly patients found that a regular foot soak may reduce stress and hypertension. And finally, a recent pilot study found that foot baths helped lower levels of cortisol6, the stress hormone, in patients.
Apple cider vinegar doesn't have any mood-altering effects in and of itself, however, but can be a good addition to a foot soak if you are trying to combat any of the above issues while aiming to relieve daily stress.
Great option for those who do not have a bathtub.
This is purely a logistical benefit. While we are believers in the holistic benefits of an apple cider vinegar bath or any type of bath, really—not every home nor apartment has a bathtub for soaking. And for those people, enjoying the many benefits of hydrotherapy seems out of reach; however, given what we just learned about a foot soak's full-body capabilities, you may be able to get many of the benefits in a fraction of the space. Instead of a spacious soaking tub, all you need is a basin that will hold water and fit both of your feet.
How to make your own apple cider vinegar foot soak at home.
There's no exact science to making your own soak. Simply fill your tub, sink, or basin with two parts warm water for every one part apple cider vinegar. (This is a similar ratio for making an acne-clearing apple cider vinegar face toner.) Just be sure to always use organic apple cider vinegar that contains "the mother," as that's what holds all the nutrients.
Then soak your feet for 10 to 20 minutes, rinse with water, and seal in the water with a high-quality moisturizer.
What an apple cider vinegar bath can't do: detox.
You hear a significant amount of anecdotal evidence about how you can pull toxins from the body through your feet. There is no sound evidence to support this, and it has also been debunked in scientific research time and again7.
There are many science-backed benefits of taking a foot soak or apple cider vinegar foot soak, but a full-body detox is not one.
Apple cider vinegar has many uses, from acne to home cleaning—and for feet specifically, it may help with fungal infections, odor, and even nail health. But a foot soak can help in more ways than that: Foot soaks can be quite stress-relieving. Plus, they're so easy to do at home, especially if you do not have a bathtub in your house or apartment.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.