If you watched TV in the '00s, you likely saw commercials and infomercials for detox foot pads and maybe even knew of a few people who bought them up, hoping to rid their bodies of toxins by simply wearing the pads on their feet at night. Although years later there's still no reliable evidence to support these foot pads, you can easily find them online with a mix of positive and negative reviews. So the question remains: Are detox foot pads just a hoax, or do they actually work? To find out the truth, we reached out to two dermatologists, Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Gervaise Gerstner, MD, as well as Richard Firshein, an expert in integrative and precision-based medicine. Keep reading to find out what these experts have to say about detox foot pads.
What Are the Claims?
The theory behind the pads is that when placed on the bottom of the feet, they absorb toxins, heavy metals, metabolic wastes, parasites, and even cellulite from your body as you sleep. By morning, the once white foot pads would appear darkened, which would supposedly signify that the pads leach toxins from your body overnight. The more you use these pads, the less dark the pads become over time.
Some companies selling the detox foot pads went so far as to claim these pads could treat a host of other problems, including high blood pressure. They claimed the pads can make your headaches, depression, and insomnia go away, and they could even help you lose weight.
Do Detox Foot Pads Work?
According to a study by NMS Labs, a national laboratory that performs toxicology testing, no toxins, heavy metals, and the like were found on the used pads. What they did find was that the darkening of the pads was caused by the wetness of the feet during the night. When placed in steam, the pad darkened in the same way.
"To my knowledge, there is no scientific data showing that detox foot masks have any true effect on the body," Zeichner explains. "The only detoxifying organs in the body are the liver and the kidneys, which both filter the blood. While the skin does release sweat, it is not truly a detoxifying organ in the same way."
Meet the Expert
Joshua Zeichner is a board-certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic & clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai in NYC.
Gerstner adds, "The idea is the foot pads can help detox the body—removing chemicals, toxins, or wastes. There is no scientific data to back this up."
Meet the Expert
Gervaise Gerstner is a board-certified dermatologist and the assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in NYC.
In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission ordered a federal judge to ban the makers of the Kinoki Foot Pads (a specific brand of detox foot pad) from selling a wide variety of products. According to the FTC, the makers "falsely claimed to have scientific proof that the foot pads removed toxic materials from the body."
Are There Any Risks?
If you've accepted the fact that you won't see any detoxifying results from the foot pads and still want to use them, by all means. All three doctors agree that the detox foot pads, although ineffective, are harmless to try. "So long as you do not develop an allergy from applying the foot pads and they do not cause too much damage to your pocketbook, then there is little downside to trying one if you are interested," Zeichner says.
What to Try Instead of Detox Foot Pads
"If someone really wants to get to the root cause of an illness or their symptoms, I would recommend looking at their diet, eliminate stress, try to improve sleep habits and seeing how they can improve their gut biome," Firshein says. "Fasting is another way to jump-start the detox process."
Meet the Expert
Richard Firshein is a leading expert in integrative and precision-based medicine and the founder of Firshein Center in NYC.
Because there are no proven health benefits to using detox foot pads, the product is merely an overnight foot mask. But even in terms of a foot treatment, Gerstner says there are better options. To help tired, sore feet, she recommends soaking them in Epsom salt soaks or magnesium bath salt soaks, and if you have dry heels, exfoliating with a foot pumice and glycolic cream.