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, 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.
Meet the Expert
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic & clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai in NYC.
- Gervaise Gerstner, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in NYC.
- Richard Firshein is a leading expert in integrative and precision-based medicine and the founder of Firshein Center in NYC.
What Are Detox Footpads?
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 had leached 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 medical problems, including high blood pressure. They claimed the pads could make your headaches, depression, and insomnia go away, and that they could even help you lose weight.
Do Detox Foot Pads Work?
There are no proven benefits to using detox foot pads. When NMS Labs conducted a study for ABC News analyzing the used pads from a group of eight participants, they found no toxins, heavy metals, or the like. What they did find was that the darkening of the pads was caused by the wetness of 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."
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."
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."
Who Should Avoid Detox Foot Pads?
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, eliminating stress, trying 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." And of course, it is always important to make an appointment with a qualified physician if you are ill or have any symptoms that could point to an illness.
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.
The Final Takeaway
There is no evidence to support the efficacy of detox foot pads for treating medical problems or detoxifying the body. Though they are generally harmless for most if you are looking to treat any illness or symptoms that could indicate an illness, make an appointment with a qualified physician instead.
Federal Trade Commission. At FTC's request, judge imposes ban on marketers of detox foot pads. Updated November 4, 2010.