It’s no secret that changing into a clean pair of socks feels great, but according to podiatrists, Nicholas’ tip about afternoon sock changes could also be beneficial for your foot health.
“People typically think about the shoes they’re going to wear if they have a long day on their feet ahead of them, and their choice in sock is not usually the first thing that comes to mind,” says Brad Schaeffer, DPM, board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon at Central Park SOLE, and star of TLC’s My Feet Are Killing Me. “However, socks can have a substantial impact on pain relief when they provide breathability, cushioning, and compression.”
How often should I change my socks?
It’s not just about the smell: Your sock-wearing habits can directly affect your overall health.
Podiatrist Yolanda Ragland, DPM, CEO and founder of Fix Your Feet, says that poor foot hygiene can lead to skin infections that can become systemic (meaning, it gets in your bloodstream and works its way throughout your body). Fungal infections like Athlete’s foot are smelly and itchy; when you repeatedly scratch at the surface of the skin, the skin barrier can become broken, allowing the infection to worsen.
“Not changing your socks can be disastrous—it’s like not changing your underpants,” says Dr. Ragland.
Dr. Schaeffer and Dr. Ragland agree that changing your socks out every day is typically enough to ward off the Athlete’s foot, blisters, and foot odor that can come from wearing socks too long. If you’re prone to sweaty feet, are on your feet all day, or use compression socks for health reasons, however, they recommend changing them more frequently.
Benefits of changing your socks in the middle of the day
1. Better compression
Over the course of the day, our socks stretch. While compression socks are great for improving circulation and preventing swelling, they can lose their “squeeze” just like normal socks.
If you wear compression socks for health reasons, Dr. Ragland says a midday swap could help contain foot swelling. “A fresh pair will fit snugger than the ones they may have been wearing for a few hours, which could have lost some of its elasticity during the day,” she says.
Even if you don’t have poor foot circulation, functional podiatrist and Naboso founder Emily Splichal, DPM, says that good compression socks can provide a world of relief for people who stand on their feet all day. “Prolonged standing can lead to lower leg and ankle swelling as well as foot pain,” she says. If possible, Dr. Splichal recommends swapping your daily work socks for moisture-wicking compression socks like the CopperJoint Copper Compression Socks or Naboso Knee High Recovery Socks.
2. Reduced risk of fungal infections
Our feet—especially when wet—are breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus, according to Dr. Schaeffer. Even if you don’t think that your feet sweat, Dr. Schaeffer insists that changing your socks out is crucial for warding off infections.
“Your feet contain around 250,000 sweat glands and can excrete as much as half a pint of moisture a day,” say Dr. Schaeffer. That’s… a lot!
If you’re already dealing with Athlete’s foot, using an antifungal product like Dr. Scholl’s Instant Cool Athlete’s Foot Treatment Wipes or Foot Treatment Spray during your afternoon sock change can help keep the fungus contained and even ward off future flare-ups.
Alongside Athlete’s foot, unchanged, sweaty socks can lead to onychomycosis, aka nail fungus. In conjunction with frequent sock swaps, topical gels like Fix Your Fungal Nail can stop this fungus in its tracks, says Dr. Ragland.
3. Odor control
The nose knows: Wearing socks for a few days in a row can be a smelly endeavor. Luckily, a fresh pair of moisture-wicking socks can help cut down on fungus and odor, says Dr. Ragland.
“Socks that are going to be worn for long periods of time should be moisture-wicking or at least absorb the moisture in the feet,” adds Dr. Ragland. “The best natural fiber sock for moisture-wicking absorption is merino wool. However, if you’re looking for a vegan alternative, Coolmax socks are an excellent go-to option.”
If you’re someone who likes to slip off their shoes underneath your desk at work, trust us: Your co-workers will thank you for the lunchtime wardrobe change.
4. It feels pretty great
Standing all day can lead to sore feet, swollen legs, and muscular fatigue, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Taking breaks when possible can help prevent symptoms of overuse.
A midday sock swap gives tired, strained feet an opportunity to breathe and stretch outside of the tight confines of your shoes. And slipping on a clean pair can also give you a helpful mental reset, and a sense of starting fresh from the ground up.
Before lacing your shoes back on after changing your socks, try this five-minute foot mobility series to help your feet tackle the second half of the day: