The Surprising Reason Why You Might Want to Wash Your Feet Before Bed

Photo: Guille Faingold/Stocksy
Everyone has their own rules when it comes to the world of "washing." I, for one, will never, ever wash my face in the shower (derms back me up on this). There are also those (including moi), who wash their hands before washing their face. Then, there are those who insist on washing their feet before they get into bed.

While I'm diligent about the two former practices, I've never quite been a washing-feet-before-bed kinda gal. Apparently, it's not just for hygienic purposes—it can also be the quickest way to cool the F off (bringing your body down to the best sleep temperature).

Experts In This Article
  • Emily Splichal, DPM, board-certified podiatrist and human movement specialist, and global leader in barefoot science and rehabilitation at the Center for Functional and Regenerative Podiatric Medicine
  • Erin Casperson, director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda

Your feet are a "cooling hotspot"

In Ayurveda, washing your feet is one of the staples of keeping your body temperature down, because the feet are associated with the elements of fire, according to Erin Casperson, director of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. You know how you take off your sneakers after a long, hot day and feel instant relief? "This is because you are releasing excess fire from the body," she explains.

So when you wash your feet, you're essentially throwing water onto the fire. "The theory behind washing your feet is that you are then cooling the fire element in the body," says Casperson. "If you're basking in sun by a body of water, place a chair close to the water’s edge and soak your feet. You'll be amazed at how cool it keeps your body."

Also, your feet are a cooling hotspot because they're home to key circulation points in your body, says Emily Splichal, DPM, a New York-based podiatrist. "Placing your feet in cool water or a cool washcloth on the inside of the ankle can cool the entire body because of the easy access to circulation in these regions," she says. "They're referred to as pulse points, as they provide quick system effects that include cooling the body down or warming the body up."

So, what's the connection between this and sleep? One 2013 study in the Journal of Caring Sciences found that a 20-minute foot soak before bed helped people fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. Another more recent trial, published 2016 in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, linked daily foot bathing to better sleep quality, especially for people who had poor sleep quality to start with.

How to wash your feet before bed

Casperson recommends simply sitting on the edge of your bathtub and running cool water over your feet, or soaking them for a few minutes in a smaller foot tub. The shower will work too. Just make sure you don't neglect the soles of your feet.

To up the ante, throw in some cooling oils. "A great cooling agent is peppermint oil, aloe, and cucumber," says Dr. Splichal, who also recommends using something like Bliss Aloe Leaf & Peppermint Foot Cream ($15.29, Amazon) as it combats odor on top of exfoliating, moisturizing, and cooling your body down.


It's not safe to soak your feet every night if you have diabetes, per the American Diabetes Association. While you should clean your feet every day, soaking can potentially lead to dry skin, burns, or more serious foot complications.

Other benefits of nighttime foot washing

Establishing a nightly foot routine means you'll reap the health benefits of washing your feet, which go beyond more peaceful slumber. In fact, the benefits of soaking your feet include:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased circulation
  • Reduced pain or discomfort in the lower extremities, including the lower back, hips, and legs

Having clean feet at night is also nice because "the feet are the closest proximity to the ground, which means they easily pick up dirt and bacteria when walking around," says Dr. Splichal. In other words, your fresh-n-clean sheets will thank you for sudsing up your tootsies before you slip into bed.

"With so many sweat glands, the feet should be washed daily to cleanse sweat and odor," Dr. Splichal adds.

Ain't that the truth. Well, now I have to add "bedtime foot care" to my nighttime routine.

—reviewed by Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH

Looking for more ways to optimize your zzzs? Do some bedtime yoga, try listening to bedtime stories for adults, or whip up a bedtime smoothie.

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