Finding the Best Compression Socks for Sweaty, Smelly Feet

Sweaty feet are a part of life. Whether you’re a runner, a hiker, or a casual sock-wearer who’s found themselves exasperated by sweaty, smelly feet at the end of the day… good news, solutions exist!

Why do we get sweaty feet in even the best-quality socks? Simply put, there are numerous factors at work. Yes, temperature and humidity play a role in how sweaty and smelly your feet can get. So does your choice of shoes. But, there’s also a key element to look into: the material of your socks.

In this article, we’ll explain why you should double check the fabric of your socks to avoid getting smelly, sweaty feet. We’ll also cover the benefits of wearing compression socks to improve your comfort, no matter the weather conditions, and give you some top tips for keeping your feet happy and healthy.

OPen toed compression socks

What Causes Sweaty Feet?

Before looking into the best socks for sweaty feet, we need to first understand why feet can get so sweaty and smelly in the first place. Sweat is a normal process whereby our bodies get rid of excess moisture and regulate our body temperature. However, sometimes, it can be too much - usually, in the case of a specific health condition.

Hyperhidrosis - i.e., excessive sweating - affects around 5% of the global population. It causes sweating to occur even when you wouldn’t expect it, like when it’s cooler outside. It can also be linked to other conditions such as hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland). 

Of course, you can simply get sweaty feet from heavy exercising, where blood circulates more heavily throughout the body, including the feet. This is even more the case when you run since you’re using your feet a lot. Your shoes may also cause sweating, especially if they’re not well-ventilated and don’t allow the skin to breathe and moisture to escape the shoes and socks.

Finally, you could be sweating a lot when you’re nervous or under stress. And you could get sweaty feet as a side effect of illnesses, for example when you have a cold and high fever. But, these are all slightly easier to manage or adjust for than a severe condition like hyperhidrosis.

Health Implications of Sweaty Feet

Most of the time, sweating from your feet is not a dangerous condition. Yes, you get smelly and uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t develop an illness from it. One of the key dangers for runners and hikers or long-distance walkers is developing blisters because of sweaty feet, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.

However, in cases of extremely sweaty feet, there are a few complications to be aware of.

Nylon compression socks

Athlete’s Foot

This is a fungal skin infection that develops in humid, sweaty environments. It usually starts between the toes, with feelings of itchiness that can develop into a rash and scaly skin. It’s not only caused by sweaty feet - you could also get it from contaminated towels or floors in a gym or other public space. 

You can treat athlete's foot relatively easily with over-the-counter creams, but if it gets steadily worse, you should see a doctor. 

Bacterial Infections

The next level up from athlete’s foot are bacterial infections that can develop on your feet and in or under the toenails as a result of keeping the feet in a sweaty, dirty environment for a long time. 

If you have a cut or graze on the skin, coupled with the sweaty conditions, this can also become infected. You should always try to clean and dry your feet regularly when you’re doing multi-day walks or expeditions, or if you generally suffer from sweaty feet on a regular basis. This will reduce the risk of infections getting worse.


Bromodosis is the medical term for bad smelling feet. This is caused by a build-up of bacteria and sweat, left untreated and/or uncleaned for a period of time. Having a good hygiene routine for your feet and using some antibacterial treatments and special antiperspirants can help deal with this.


Finally, excessive, profuse sweating is called hyperhidrosis. This can be a hereditary condition or it can come about in combination with a different primary illness or condition. However, it is not completely clear what causes hyperhidrosis in the feet.

How to Choose the Best Socks for Sweaty, Smelly Feet

There may be different levels of sweaty and smelly feet, but they all have one thing in common: excessive humidity and lack of air circulation around the feet, leading to sweat and bacteria proliferation. Here are the key characteristics of socks that will reduce your sweating.

Moisture-Wicking Materials

The first requirement for socks that keep feet dry is that they’re made from moisture-wicking materials. This means that the fabric allows moisture to evaporate from the surface of the skin, instead of getting trapped between the sock and the skin. The best moisture-wicking materials include merino wool and moisture-wick nylon. 


In addition to removing moisture from the surface of the skin, you will also want air to circulate in and out of the sock. This means choosing breathable fabrics and ensuring that the way the socks have been woven allows for air to go through the fibers. Linen, cotton, bamboo, and merino wool are known for their breathability. 


One bonus of good-quality socks that keep your feet dry and happy is that they also provide adequate cushioning. This means that the soles of your feet don’t just rub against the interior of the shoes, possibly causing blisters and getting hotter. A nice, soft layer under the foot, sometimes made with reinforced padding, can make a huge difference on a hot day.

Odor Resistance

Finally, the right socks for smelly feet are made from materials that are resistant to foot odor. You need socks that dry quickly and don’t retain the bad smells. Some materials, such as merino wool, are naturally antibacterial and odor resistant, not allowing bacteria to grow on your skin and cause the embarrassing odors in the first place.

Two woman high fiving while hiking

Benefits of Compression Socks for Sweaty Feet

Good foot hygiene and the optimal choice of fabrics can help reduce sweating and smelliness. Go one step further and optimize your comfort levels and blood flow by wearing compression socks, and your feet will be happier than ever before. Here’s why

Improved Circulation and Blood Flow

Graduated compression socks are tighter around the ankles and feet, reducing pressure as they climb up the lower legs towards the knees. This stimulates blood flow upwards, reducing the risk of getting swollen ankles and feet, and keeping your muscles relaxed and feeling light. It’s an added bonus if you’re on your feet all day and are battling heat and humidity, as well.

Reduced Swelling

Compression socks boost your feet and lower legs’ well-being by preventing the formation of edema or varicose veins. With lighter, more energized feet, you will feel a boost of vitality. What’s more, less swollen feet don’t rub against the edges of your shoes and are less likely to get even hotter and less comfortable when it’s warm out. 

Increased Comfort

Wearing compression socks for sweaty feet means that your feet will swell less, they’ll get less heavy, and they won’t ache so much in extreme heat and humidity. If you suffer from hyperhidrosis especially, these extra elements of comfort reduce the extent of foot care you have to engage in every day. And, as mentioned above, avoiding swollen feet also makes them less sweaty and uncomfortable in your shoes.

Improved Temperature Regulation

An optimized blood flow allows your feet and whole body to better regulate temperature. This can lead to less sweating!

cotton compression socks

The Best Compression Socks for Sweaty Feet

Wearing socks in the most appropriate materials for your activity levels and health conditions is key to reducing the incidence of sweaty, smelly feet. This is why we recommend moisture-wicking fabrics like merino wool and/or moisture-wick nylon, but there are a few extra options, too.

Merino Wool Hiking and Running Socks

This naturally antibacterial and moisture-wicking fabric is also great for temperature regulation. Merino wool keeps your feet dry and cool in the summer, without making them too hot and uncomfortable in hiking boots in the winter. Moreover, merino wool is great at absorbing moisture from heavily sweating feet and releasing it into the air. These compression socks stay dry and lightweight on your feet as a result, all while keeping your ankles and lower legs free of swelling and aches.

Moisture-Wick Nylon Socks

Whether you want a pair of compression socks for everyday wear or need to exercise in them, moisture-wick nylon is a great choice as they are lightweight and keep your feet dry. Nylon moves seamlessly with your feet and legs so you won’t even feel you’ve got socks on!

Open-Toed Compression Socks

For those cases where you just need to keep your toes breezy, you can still benefit from compression with open-toed socks and tights. These are great if you suffer from a fungal infection or when you just want a bit more fresh air. 

open toe compression socks

Tips for Maintaining Fresh and Healthy Feet

Beyond choosing the best socks for your sweaty feet, you can also prevent complications by applying a good foot hygiene routine and following some of the tips below.

Wash Your Feet Regularly

Caring for your feet and for your socks is essential at all times, but even more so when you’re struggling with sweaty, smelly feet. After every wear, you should wash your compression socks and let them air dry as per our guide here.

You also need to take extra care washing your feet. Shower regularly and use an antibacterial soap.

Dry Them Completely

Whenever you apply any treatment or bandage to your feet, they need to be 100% dry. This is also true for everyday hygiene. Drying your feet well with a clean towel will remove any moisture before you enclose them in shoes and they start sweating. Start with a clean slate!

Choose the Right Footwear

Shoes made from synthetic materials are less breathable, so should be avoided. We also recommend steering clear of really tight-fitting shoes, as they’ll only cause your feet to rub and get hotter, while also swelling and feeling like the shoes are even tighter still! Sometimes, sandals or open-toed footwear could be your best choice to get maximum breathability and comfort. 

Use Foot Powder or Antiperspirant

For extra help with smelly feet, you could use a foot powder or special antiperspirant. Antiperspirants block the sweat ducts and can be prescribed for hyperhidrosis treatment. They need to be applied on clean, dry feet, at the start of the day. 

At night, put on an antifungal foot powder or spray after cleaning your feet to treat any complications and to keep them dry. You can also opt for medicated insoles that act as a deodorant. 

You should also take care to trim your toenails and keep them clean and tidy, in order to avoid the onset of fungal infections. Finally, make sure you’re always wearing a fresh pair of socks at the start of the day to keep those feet happy!

man with cotton compression socks

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