At the end of a long day, it can feel good to soak your tired, sore or aching feet. Despite all you might have heard about the health benefits of soaking overworked muscles in Epsom salt, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. If you like the sensation of water with added Epsom salt, however, there's no harm in having a soothing soak.
It Won't Help; It Won't Hurt
According to a podiatrist interviewed by the "Wall Street Journal" in 2013, there's no scientific evidence in favor of Epsom salt easing the muscle pain or tension in sore feet. Paul Ingraham, assistant editor of the "Science-Based Medicine" website, agrees. According to Ingraham, no evidence supports the claim that Epsom salt actually eases pain and soreness, and there's no known scientific mechanism by which it could even potentially do so. Ingraham debunks the notion that either "detoxification" or "osmosis" is occurring. Yet many people enjoy how Epsom salt makes the water feel; if you're one of them, there's no harm in adding a half cup to the water in your foot-soaking tub and soaking for 20 to 30 minutes (or until the water cools off). Soaking your feet with or without Epsom salt can be soothing -- but if your foot pain persists, you might need to take other home-care measures.
What's Known to Work
According to the podiatrist interviewed by the "Wall Street Journal," identified only as "Dr. Johnson," elevating your feet, massaging them or stretching them can help relieve soreness. Johnson also notes the importance of prevention; some of the most important measures include wearing well-fitting shoes, avoiding high heels and maintaining a healthy weight.
The MedlinePlus website has additional recommendations for treating your foot pain at home. These include applying ice packs, especially if the pain occurs after an injury; reducing your activity, if possible; and, with your doctor's OK, using over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
When Home Treatments Don't Help
Foot pain has many possible causes, including warts, bunions, stress fractures and arthritis. If rest and home treatments aren't helping, or if your foot pain is severe and intereferes with your daily activities, consult with your doctor. Depending on the cause, your doctor can recommend appropriate treatments to get you back on your feet.