Health spas and alternative health businesses are increasingly offering foot detoxes as a way to remove toxins and heavy metals from the body. However, there is no scientific evidence to confirm that they work.
People claim that it is possible to detox the feet using a range of techniques, including ionic footbaths, foot soaks, and scrubs.
In this article, we look at the science behind a foot detox and detail some of the most popular detox methods.
What is a foot detox?
Advocates claim that a foot detox removes toxins and heavy metals from the body through the feet.
Supporters of this method claim that a foot detox may also benefit a person by:
- balancing the body’s pH
- reducing swelling
- boosting mood
- relieving stress
- increasing immunity to illness
- aiding weight loss
- improving heart health
- destroying harmful microorganisms
The manufacturers of the IonCleanse, which is one of the most popular foot detox systems, claim that it uses charged particles called ions to create an ionic field that cleanses and purifies the body. The system ionizes water molecules, separating water (H2O) into H+ and OH- ions.
These ions then attract and neutralize toxins and heavy metals of the opposite charge, supposedly pulling them out through the bottom of the feet.
The theory is that users will feel relaxed and refreshed after using this system. The manufacturers advise people to do a foot detox for 30 to 60 minutes each week.
It is possible that the water in the bath will change color during the detox, which some people believe means that the detox is taking place. However, changes in the color of the water are usually due to sweat and dirt from the feet. They may also occur when people add salts to the bath water or when metals in the bath corrode over time.
Other types of foot detox method, such as foot masks and scrubs, do not rely on ionic charges to work. Instead, they simply remove impurities from the surface of the skin.
Proponents say that a foot detox offers many benefits, but the most credible one is that they provide a relaxing experience. Many people enjoy a warm foot soak, especially if they add extra salts and essential oils to the water. Foot soaks can increase circulation, clean the skin, and relieve aches and pains.
What the research says
There has been very little scientific research on the effectiveness of foot detoxes. As a result, most evidence is purely anecdotal.
A small 2012 studyTrusted Source with six participants tested the ability of the IonCleanse to remove toxic elements from the body. The researchers collected water samples before and after 30-minute sessions, both with and without feet in the bath. They also collected urine and hair samples from the participants.
After testing each of the samples, they concluded that the foot detox bath does not reduce toxin levels in the body. Toxins did not leave the body through the feet, and the system did not stimulate detoxification through the liver, kidneys, or hair either.
The authors of this study also dismiss earlier research by the Center for Research Strategies, which has links to the IonCleanse manufacturer. They state that this prior research may be unreliable due to poor-quality reporting, imprecise scientific methods, and the potential for conflict of interest.
The Center for Research Strategies had reported that ionic footbath sessions led to a reduction in the levels of aluminum and arsenic in the participants’ blood. However, they found no change in the levels of mercury, cadmium, or lead.
Ionic foot baths are available at alternative healthcare centers. At-home versions are also for sale online.
However, many people use alternative methods to detox their feet. The most popular types of foot detox include:
- Foot soak: A standard foot soak is a simple form of a detox bath. It involves immersing the feet in warm water. Some people add Epsom salts or a few drops of essential oil to the water.
- Foot masks: A clay foot mask may clean and soften the feet. People typically apply the foot mask for a set period before washing it off.
- Foot scrubs: Regular foot scrubs may clean and detoxify the feet. They may also reduce foot odors and remove dead skin cells. The accompanying foot massage can relax the muscles and reduce tension.
- Foot pads: Special detox foot pads cause the feet to sweat. Some people believe that this process draws out the toxins.
- Acupressure-based techniques: Using special massage techniques to apply pressure to specific points in the feet can encourage relaxation. Some people also think that acupressure aids detoxification.
Popular recipes for detox soaks, scrubs, and masks include:
1. Epsom salt foot soak
To make this foot soak, add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a footbath containing warm water. Soak the feet for 20–30 minutes. Avoid using Epsom salts if there are any open wounds on the skin.
2. Apple cider vinegar soak
Some people drink apple cider vinegar to encourage detoxification. To make a detox bath using apple cider vinegar, add 1 cup of the vinegar to a tub of warm water and soak the feet for 20–30 minutes. Vinegar may also deodorize the feet.
3. Baking soda and sea salt soak
Dissolve 1 cup of sea salt and 1 cup of baking soda in a warm footbath. Soak the feet in it for 30 minutes.
4. Bentonite clay foot mask
Foot masks may help soften the skin.
To make a clay mask, mix the following ingredients in a bowl:
- 3 tbsp of bentonite clay
- 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
- 3 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
Add more clay or vinegar as necessary to achieve a thick paste. Apply this mixture to both feet and allow it to dry. Wash the paste off after 30 minutes and pat the feet dry with a towel.
This mask may be especially helpful for people with foot odor or fungal infections.
5. Olive oil foot scrub
To make a hydrating foot scrub, mix:
- 1 cup of Epsom salt
- a half-cup of olive oil
- 5 drops of lemon essential oil
- 2 drops of peppermint essential oil
Apply some of the scrub to each foot and gently massage the mixture into the skin, paying attention to the sole and the areas between the toes. Rinse the scrub off and pat the feet dry with a towel.
Foot detoxes are popular alternative health treatments that may relax a person, soften the skin, and treat minor foot complaints.
While there is no evidence to support the use of these treatments for detoxification, they are unlikely to be harmful to most people.
Some people should avoid foot detoxes or speak to a doctor before using them. These people include:
- pregnant women
- those with pacemakers or electrical implants
- people with diabetes
- anyone who has open sores on their feet
People who would like to try a foot detox can use ionic detox baths or foot soaks, scrubs, or masks.