Peeling off your sneakers after a walk or workout and finding soggy, sweat-soaked socks can be annoying. While it’s normal for your feet to perspire, especially in the warm weather, if the slippery feeling is hindering your ability to enjoy your favorite exercise routine—or if the odor is making you self-conscious—you might want to consider upgrading your shoe game with a more breathable pair.
Choosing the right footwear is also important to your well-being—non-breathable shoes may cause or exacerbate health ailments such as athlete’s foot or nail fungus, especially if you have a condition like hyperhidrosis that causes excess perspiration, Miguel Cunha, DPM, a sport podiatrist and the founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City, tells SELF. “What’s important is that you pick shoes with proper ventilation.”
What to look for when buying breathable shoes
If you struggle with sweaty feet, the most important area of the shoe to consider is its upper (where it rests against the top of your foot). “Hot air rises, so [the heat] is going to go up, and if it’s ventilated on the top, you’re usually okay,” Jay Spector, DPM, an Atlanta-based sport podiatrist and former president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, tells SELF.
You’ll want to look for an upper made of lightweight mesh—some shoes use synthetic polyester and nylon, while others feature natural materials like eucalyptus fiber. In any case, the fabric should be “designed to wick away moisture from the skin so that it can evaporate,” says Dr. Cunha. This helps your body stay cool and minimize sweat.
And remember, wearing shoes with good airflow can only go so far if you’re not pairing them with moisture-wicking, breathable socks—say, ones made of synthetic polyester or Merino wool. “I’m a marathon runner and I wear a brand called Balega. You would think, after running for four hours, that they’d be dripping in sweat, but they’re not,” Dr. Spector says.
The best breathable shoes
We curated expert-approved breathable shoes that offer adequate ventilation for even the sweatiest workouts. We also leaned on winners from our SELF Certified Sneaker Awards and selected top-rated brands like Hoka, Brooks, New Balance, and Ryka.