Using Epsom Salt for Feet and Toe Problems

Epsom salt contains naturally occurring magnesium sulfate. It's different than table salt and is not used as a seasoning. Instead, people use it therapeutically in baths to relieve sore muscles and skin conditions, and as a stress relief. In addition, Epsom salts are beneficial for swollen, tired feet and athlete's foot. 

This article explains Epsom salt's benefits and risks and uses for foot therapy.

Feet soaking in a tub of water with rocks in the bottom

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Facts About Epsom Salt and Foot Health

Anecdotal evidence and limited research demonstrate that Epsom salt baths can relieve inflammation and skin conditions. Some researchers have found that magnesium can penetrate the skin through hair follicles.

However, since hair follicles and sweat glands only account for up to 1% of the skin’s surface, the clinical relevance of transdermal (through the skin) absorption is questionable.

Even so, this is promising news since feet often experience symptoms that Epsom salts might treat, including:

Healing Properties of Ingredients

Magnesium is a mineral that your body needs to function correctly. It is crucial for many organ systems, including your muscles and nerves. Therefore, the idea behind Epsom salt baths is that the magnesium sulfate will penetrate the skin and support your skin, muscles, and nerve health. 

Benefits of Epsom Salt for Feet

There is limited research to support Epsom salt for feet. However, many people use it to relieve foot problems, including pain, swelling, odor, and infections. Since it is a low-risk therapy for most people, it doesn’t hurt to try it.

For Infection

Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) is a fungal infection of the feet. It occurs when the feet get overly hot and sweaty and become a breeding ground for infection.

Epsom salt foot baths can be helpful for soothing athlete’s foot, as well as aid in healing toenail fungus. While Epsom salt does not treat a fungal infection, it can help keep the feet clean and dry, which is essential for recovery. As such, it is a good preventive therapy, as well. 

Epsom salts are not a replacement for antifungal treatments. If you have a fungal infection on your feet or toenails, consult with a healthcare provider to receive appropriate medical treatment. Be sure to ask if Epsom soaks are a fitting complement to standard medical treatment.

For Swollen Feet

Swollen feet are a common complaint among many people. They may occur from standing on your feet all day, exercising, injuries, or wearing inadequate footwear. It can also happen due to some health conditions like arthritis, pregnancy, and circulation conditions.

Although there is little evidence to support it, proponents claim that Epsom salts draw out toxins and reduce swelling. Many people use Epsom salt foot baths and find it soothing relief for tired, swollen feet. 

Foot Odor

Feet can get stinky after a long day in hot shoes. Epsom salt baths are an excellent treatment for smelly feet because they clean and dry feet. That also makes Epsom salt foot baths a good way to prevent foot odor. 

Epsom Salt Foot Soak Instructions

To give your feet an Epsom salt bath, follow these steps.

  1. Place a 1/2 cup of Epsom salts in a basin or foot spa.
  2. Fill the tub with warm (but not hot) water.
  3. Place your feet in the tub for up to 15–20 minutes.

Afterward, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly. In addition, make sure to rinse and dry your basin or foot spa so it doesn’t accumulate bacteria or mold. 

Safety Concerns

Epsom salts are generally considered safe. However, if you have some skin conditions, you should avoid soaking your feet in Epsom salts until you consult a healthcare provider. These include:

People sometimes use Epsom salts as a laxative to treat constipation. However, never ingest Epsom salts except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare provider. Be especially careful taking Epsom salts internally if you have kidney disease, are experiencing nausea or vomiting, or are on a magnesium-restricted diet.

Epsom Salt Alternatives 

If you can’t tolerate Epsom salts or you don’t have them on hand, there are some alternatives you can try, including:

These alternatives don’t provide the benefits of magnesium, but they may soothe, clean, and reduce moisture in your feet. 

Finding the Best Epsom Salt for Feet

Remember that Epsom salt is not the same as table salt or sea salt. So, you won’t find it in the baking aisle. Instead, head to the pharmacy or beauty section of the store. 

Epsom salts are typically sold in large bags or containers. That’s because you need a good amount for soaking (less for just your feet than a full bathtub).

Read labels to ensure the product you are considering is magnesium sulfate. If you have sensitive skin, avoid products with added fragrances or additional ingredients.


There is little clinical evidence to support the use of Epsom salt baths. However, anecdotally, many people find relief from sore, swollen, smelly feet with Epsom salt foot baths. As long as you don't have broken skin, burns, or a skin infection, you can use Epsom salts in a foot bath with warm water and soak your feet for 15–20 minutes.

A Word From Verywell

If you have swollen feet, achy joints, or athlete's foot, you may be wondering if Epsom salt baths could help. Epsom salts are generally safe for most people, but as with any therapy, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider for advice before you try it. When looking for a product, head to the pharmacy section. A pharmacist may be a good resource for help selecting a product and instructions on how to use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many times a week should you do an Epsom foot soak?

    You can soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath as needed. Or, for chronic foot conditions or as a preventive measure, soak your feet up to a few times a week.

  • How much is too much Epsom salt?

    More than the directed amount is too much. Read the product label carefully and follow the directions. Talking to a healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance can ensure that you use the proper amount.

  • Can you add apple cider or white vinegar?

    There are plenty of DIY bath recipes that combine the two ingredients. However, when combining any products, it's best to check with a healthcare provider to ensure it's safe in your circumstance.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Farmer’s Almanac. 20 surprising uses for epsom salts.

  2. Chandrasekaran NC, Sanchez WY, Mohammed YH, Grice JE, Roberts MS, Barnard RT. Permeation of topically applied Magnesium ions through human skin is facilitated by hair follicles. Magnes Res. 2016;29(2):35-42. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0402

  3. Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or reality—transdermal magnesium? Nutrients. 2017;9(8):813. doi:10.3390/nu9080813

  4. University of Michigan Health. Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt).

  5. Epsom Salt Council. 5 reasons to soak your feet in Epsom salt

  6. NIH DailyMed. Label: Epsom salt magnesium sulfate.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.