How Wet Socks Cause Fungal Infections: Banish Water-Loving Cotton to Keep Your Feet Fungus Free!

Today we want to talk to you about a very serious issue: the socks in your drawer! These trusty companions accompany your feet each day, but how much thought have you really given them lately? Your mother probably buys them for you as Christmas gifts and you just assume that smelly feet or fungal infections are par for the course in this world. However, the type of socks we wear can be a contributing factor to athlete’s foot fungus and toenail infections.

foot fungus socks

Are your socks contributing to foot fungus?
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Fungus and Water

By nature, fungus needs lots of water to live. Most fungi lack efficient long-haul-transport systems to carry water and nutrients — like the xylem and phloem other plants have — so they really depend upon a moist environment to supply their immediate needs. Not surprisingly, the tropics tend to see more fungal outbreaks than temperate zones.

Mold growth takes just 24-48 hours’ exposure to a food source and water, says the Virginia Health Department. You might say, “But I change my socks every day!” Consider this, though: when your socks are allowed to absorb moisture, your shoes become wet. Furthermore, wet shoes worn all day become even wetter. It can take several days for wet shoes to dry completely. In the meantime, you’ve got one heck of a fungal colony on your hands — or should we say, feet. 

There have been many studies conducted on the nature of fungi growth. Probably one of the most applicable is a controlled study conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Laurence Irving. Approximately 1,000 men were given sandals and allowed to wear them as much or little as they wished. Some men gave up on shoes and wore sandals only, while others continued wearing shoes all day. Within a month, the number of men with dermatophyte fungus on their feet dropped from 30 to 3 percent, while the shoe-wearing men continued to suffer the usual rate  of foot fungus.

Why Are Socks Made of Cotton?

As you may have heard, the worst type of socks you can wear are cotton socks. Why? The simple answer is that cotton absorbs more water. The scientific answer is that cotton is a naturally occurring polymer with a molecular structure that contains negatively charged OH ion groups, which attract other water molecules. In fact, cotton can absorb about 25 times its weight in water!  So why are socks made of cotton if they absorb water and contribute to foot fungus, you ask? The answer is not surprising: cotton is CHEAP!

wet cotton

Cotton can absorb up to 25 times its weight in water, which spells bad news for foot fungus sufferers.
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Advances in Sock Material Technology

Over the years, the market has seen the introduction of many other sock materials that absorb far less water than cotton. Nylon, for instance, has a molecular structure with fewer opportunities to bond with water, so it only absorbs 10% its weight in water. Polyester is just a type of man-made plastic, so it does not absorb water at all; but this makes the fabric very uncomfortable to wear unless it is woven with another type of material. Acrylic can absorb some water, but also releases moisture quickly — wicking it to the surface and allowing the fabric to “breathe.”

Despite these advances, rates of foot fungus have remained stable. According to the makers of DryMax socks, “wicking fibers are hydrophilic — meaning that their negative and positive molecular surface charges attract moisture.” So that means that the continual skin-to-sock contact will create an ideal fungal environment. Keep in mind that toenails do not perspire, so it’s really the sock fabric that absorbs the water and keeps it close enough to toenail fungus to allow the colony to flourish.

sock material

Comparing sock fibers. Drymax comes out on top!
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To solve this conundrum, Drymax socks are made with two layers of material. The super hydrophobic (moisture-hating) material squeegees sweat off the skin into the hydrophilic (moisture-attracting) layer, so moisture will not remain near the foot.

How To Prevent Fungal Infections

To prevent fungal infections, we recommend:

– Choosing smarter sock material.

– Thoroughly drying the feet with a towel after showers.

– Bringing a change of socks to throw on halfway through the day.

– Alternating shoes to allow for complete drying between wears.

– Using the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer to kill up to 99.9% of the fungus in your shoes within 45 minutes.

With these steps and a little care, you can easily prevent the spread of fungal infections!

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