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Foot Detox: Real Deal Or Myth? What The Research Says About This Trend

Emily Rekstis
April 21, 2022
Emily Rekstis
Contributing writer
By Emily Rekstis
Contributing writer
Emily Rekstis is a freelance writer who has worked at Harper's Bazaar, Self, And UsWeekly. Her bylines appear in Healthline, Byrdie, Women's Health, MyDomaine, BuzzFeed, The Cut, Allure and many more.
April 21, 2022
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In the world of well-being, there's nothing more appealing than a healthy detox to keep your body running in peak form. But rest assured: Your body actually has its own detoxification systems; many, however, look for ways to give these pathways added support. 

To be sure, there are certain practices we can incorporate into our daily routine to help our body (more on that later). But the wellness space can also be filled with false promises and gimmicky cure-alls if you're not careful. One of these rituals that's grown in popularity is the foot detox. As appealing as removing toxins through a foot soak sounds, does this purported detox approach actually do all it claims to do? It almost sounds too good to be true! We took a deep dive into the science behind a foot detox so you don't have to.

What is a "foot detox"?

Let's start by going through what exactly a foot detox is. Foot detoxes claim to remove toxins, impurities, cellular waste, and heavy metals from the body through the feet. These are offered in both spas and through at-home tools. 

The most popular of these is the ionic foot detox, which is a physical bath that you buy to soak your feet in. The machine sends out a low-voltage electric current to charge the atoms in water molecules that are meant to attract and neutralize negatively charged toxins. Some of these even advertise that if the water changes color it means that the detoxification is working. 

There are also detoxifying adhesive pads that you stick to the bottom of your feet that claim to draw out the metals and toxins while you sleep. Many point to the fact that the pads change colors by morning as evidence of the toxins exiting the body. 

These tools can also come with a decent price tag: Many at-home foot detox basins are north of $100, and several foot pads on the market hover around $20 to $30.

Does it work?

The short answer is no, foot detoxes do not work. A 2012 study collected water samples from a 30-minute ionic foot bath session and urine samples and found that there did not appear to be any evidence that toxic elements were released through the feet1. Any reported changes after a foot bath are purely anecdotal.

Additionally, any detoxification in the body happens via its natural pathways (primarily through the detoxification organs, of which there are many, but the main ones are the liver and kidneys) and does not happen through the feet. "'Detox' simply means metabolizing key compounds to remove them from the body. This process happens automatically and consistently at the cellular level. Daily bowel movements, sweat secretions, and urination are indicators that we are removing toxic substances," explains Deanna Minich, Ph.D., CNS, FACN, IFMCP, functional-medicine-trained clinician and author of Whole Detox, about the body's detoxification process.

If you want to support your body's natural detoxification process, you should look to adding certain nutrients to your diet such as antioxidant-rich veggies and fermented foods. And well-rounded lifestyle habits can help support your body, such as moving your body regularly and getting sleep.

You can also leverage targeted, supplemental nutrients and bioactives such as glutathione (a tripeptide that helps clean up cellular debris), selenium (an essential trace mineral that supports several organs), milk thistle (a botanical with anti-inflammatory and liver-supportive actions), and potent antioxidants like NAC and vitamin C (fights free radicals).*

Benefits of a foot bath.

Just because you can't remove toxins through your feet via a foot detox doesn't mean you can't enjoy a relaxing foot soak! In fact, foot baths have been proved to have pretty impressive benefits—detoxing just doesn't happen to be one of them:


Better sleep & improved mood.

A 2016 study showed that a nightly foot soak helped people sleep better throughout the night. Another one from 2013 found that participants' energy levels improved when they received a twice-daily hot foot soak, while another study with elderly people showed that a regular foot soak may possibly reduce stress.


Salt baths for skin. 

There are a variety of beneficial foot baths you can incorporate into your self-care routine. There's an Epsom salt bath, which will help relax the body while soothing the skin. A 2005 study found that Dead Sea salt was effective for reducing dry skin and irritation, and the magnesium in that likely had a significant role


Apple cider vinegar soak for exfoliation

There's also an apple cider vinegar soak, which helps improve foot odor and skin health thanks to its plethora of skin benefits (read up here). Our favorite? It can prepare your feet for an at-home pedicure with a soft chemical exfoliation for the skin and toenails. 


 Acts as a self-care care ritual

To further encourage beneficial results from a foot soak, healer and author of Ritual Baths Deborah Hanekamp recommends setting intentions before the bath, bringing in nature through flowers, salts, and herbs, and sealing in moisture post-bath with oils. 

The takeaway.

If you really want to bind, neutralize, and clear out toxins, there are all kinds of habits you can do to help support your body's natural detoxification process daily—from adding target nutrients to your diet and supplement ritual to simply working up a sweat.* But at the end of the day, it's your amazing detoxifying organs, the kidneys and liver (and lungs, gut, lymphatic system, skin, etc.), doing all the real work. 

With that being said, if you are looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy a spa-like experience at home, a nice foot soak just might be your self-care ritual. And that's OK! Just don't expect to detox your body while doing it. 

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
Emily Rekstis author page.
Emily Rekstis
Contributing writer

Emily Rekstis is a freelance writer, editor and content creator. After serving as the beauty assistant at Harper's Bazaar and Self magazine, she went on to cover celebrity beauty and fashion as UsWeekly's Style Editor. Consistently curious and always willing to learn, she indulges in her variety of interests writing about everything from beauty trends to health habits to design tips for publications like Healthline, Byrdie, Women's Health, MyDomaine, BuzzFeed, The Cut, Allure and many more.