Foot Odor Causes: What to Do When Your Feet Stink — 2023

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There are few things as embarrassing as foot odor. You enter a room and everyone starts making faces… you can’t help wondering whether it’s because of your stinky feet or something has been hanging out too long in the garbage can. 

embarrassed by foot odor

While stinky feet are not exactly a life-threatening issue, it does make you feel less hygienic. It can be detrimental to your social life, to say the least. But do not let this dishearten you. 

We’ve got your back. Or in this case, we’ve got your smelly feet. Here is some  in-depth insight into what causes foot odor and how you can deal with it.

What Leads To Foot Odor?

Our feet are one of the hardest working parts of our body somewhere just next to our tongue and hands. You stand, walk around, run, and every single movement you take most probably involves moving your feet unless you are doing a headstand. 

So, it is quite normal for your feet to get sweatier than the other parts of your body. After all, each foot has 250,000 sweat glands working hard to cool them down via perspiration. Your feet alone can produce almost a 500 ml cup of sweat daily. Gross!

While your sweet sweat is normally odorless, it attracts bacteria. Bacteria have a nasty habit of living in dark, damp places like your sweaty feet.

Unfortunately, perspiration and bacteria are not exactly a pleasant combination. These bacteria that make your feet their home will start feeding on your dead skin cells and skin oils and release waste. And it is this organic waste that creates the stinky smell. 

stinky shoes

The one major culprit that accounts for the nastiest foot odor is the bacteria that goes by the name Keytococcus sedentarius. These bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds in addition to the usual organic acid waste and make your feet smell something similar to a rotten egg or a cheesy smell. Nasty, right?

smelly feet

So, it is not exactly correct to say that your feet smell bad but it is just that it houses some bacteria that produce the smell. There is a technical name for the condition and is called bromodosis. And the usual cause of bromodosis, the excessive sweating, is medically termed hyperhidrosis. 

Foot odor can be remarkably higher in teens and pregnant women as their hormonal changes may make them sweat more. People with hyperhidrosis and those who are living a stressful life are also more prone to foot odor due to excessive sweating. 

Additionally, poor hygiene remains to be the major cause for smelly feet and sometimes all it requires is a good wash or change of socks that help in making your feet smell better. 

Treating Your Foot Odor

Now let’s first remember one thing. Foot odor is a common problem. It is nothing to be scared or feel ashamed of and there are multiple treatment options available. 

foot odor

Let’s start with some simple habits that can help you avoid sweaty feet and thus, cut down on the growth of bacteria in your soles. 

Wash Your Feet Regularly

This goes without saying. Try to clean your feet every day. Give your feet the luxury of a nice little dip into hot water and some scrubbing. Scrubbing helps clear off dead cells which is the major attraction bacteria find to settle in your feet. Remember to dry your feet once you finish washing them. 

Here are some good ways to go about the scrubbing:

  • Use mild antiseptic solutions or soaps. Scrub your feet at least once a day with a scrub brush. The best time could be your morning or evening shower. Make sure you dry your feet completely after the wash.  Pay more attention to the gap between the toes as this is usually where it remains damp after a wash. 
  • Once or twice a day, you can apply methylated spirits to your feet, especially in the gap between your toes to help dry the skin and keep it odor-free. Do not try this though if you have broken skin around your toes and feet.
  • Clip your toenails and clean them regularly. A good spa day once in a while could help. 
  • Make sure to scrub off that hard soggy skin with a foot file. 
foot odor

Pamper Your Feet With Homemade Soaks

Some easy home remedy soaks that can help wash your feet include:

  • Salt soaks

Pour in half a cup of Epsom salt in a bowl of warm water and soak your feet for 10 to 20 minutes. Then, dry them completely. 

  • Vinegar soak

Add 1 part of vinegar to 2 parts of warm water in a tub and soak your feet. Avoid this remedy though if you have any blisters or cracks in your feet. 

Wear Dry Socks

Try a day with just sneakers without socks and we are pretty sure you will be amazed at how much a good pair of socks helps in keeping your feet lovely. Socks can absorb moisture and keep your feet sweat-free and dry. 

They are an excellent way to avoid sweaty feet and can also be cleaned easily compared to shoes.  Especially socks make of good quality cotton, wool, and some special knits can absorb more sweat and let your feet breathe. 

smelly socks

Invest in good socks, wash them regularly, and keep them in a place easy to remember in the morning. And do wear fresh socks every day, not the same old damp ones that you wore yesterday and the day before. That won’t help you win friends.

Always wear socks when you are wearing close-toed shoes. If you have an exhausting workday, make sure to carry an extra pair of socks to change into when your first pair of socks get damp. It may be tempting to just slide into those sneakers without socks for quick trips, but your feet (and neighbors) will pay the price.

Get The Right Shoes

When you wear shoes that are too tight, you may sweat a lot more than normal. So, wear shoes that are comfortable and make your feet feel airy.  Bottom line, know your shoe size and wear shoes that fit correctly.

Here are some more pointers you need to consider when you purchase your next pair of shoes:

  • Avoid shoes made of plastic as they don’t let your feet breathe. Leather shoes are especially good at letting your feet breathe as they allow good air circulation. 
  • Get shoes made of materials that allow the foot to breathe. Shoes with mesh panels are good as they allow air circulation. 
  • Get washable shoes or shoes that have soles that can be washed. Washing the soles is a great way to kill off any bacteria and make your shoe smell fresh and good. Shoes that have replaceable soles are also a good choice. You can take them out for washing regularly or replace them with medicated deodorant insoles. 
  • Using the same shoes over and over again can make them smellier. Have at least two pairs of shoes that you can switch and wear on alternate days. And make sure you always wear dry shoes and dry socks. Damp footwear is untouchable if you want a stink-free foot. 
stinky feet

Go Barefoot

Sometimes it can be a good idea to take a stroll, especially in the night without wearing shoes or any tight footwear. You can also be barefoot when at home and wear shoes when you are in social situations.

You can also choose to wear open-toed slippers or sandals on hot days to let your feet stay dry. 

 Let your feet feel the open air and get some good vibes. But make sure to clean your feet after the little adventure and don’t take too much of a long walk as that can again invite bacteria to your feet. 

Avoid Sharing Footwear And Towels

Sharing is great unless it involves getting a possible infection or stinky smelling bacteria. Try to avoid sharing personal items like footwear and towels with other people as bacteria from their feet could transfer to your feet. 

Topical Creams

You can try over the counter topical creams that you can apply to kill off bacteria and keep your feet smelling good. Anti-fungal sprays and medicated foot powders are also available and you can use them on your feet regularly to control bacterial growth. You can also use antiperspirants and anti-deodorant sprays for immediate relief. 

Best Products for Foot Odor

We aren’t going to leave you high and dry with those smelly feet–or should we say low and damp? No! We’ve got you covered with a curated list of home treatment for those stinky tootsies.

Foot Spa Treatment

Foot Soak for Stinky Feet

You already know we’re big fans of foot soaks here at Aid Foot Pain. When you’re contemplating a foot soak for the dual purposes of relaxation and combating foot odor, we love these Tree Foot Soak Salts. Give them a try and you’ll see why they’re a consistent best-seller.

Deodorant Spray for Foot Odor

Do your shoes need a quick pick-me-up to control odor? GIve them a squirt or two of this great-smelling foot deodorant spray and you’ll be on your way in no time.

Sneaker Deodorizer Balls for Smelly Feet

We have to admit–these are pretty cute. And what could be easier? Just pop one of these deodorizer balls into each shoe, let them sit overnight (or longer) and enjoy a better-smelling shoe. Win-win for everyone.

Odor-Eating Insoles for Stinky Feet

Tried and true, Odor-Eaters Insoles are a solid choice for food maintenance. Cheap, easy to use and effective. They can’t miss.

If Nothing Works – Visit a Podiatrist

Home remedies are all good and fine as long as they work. As mentioned before, it may not be life-threatening, but foot odor can make you feel self-conscious and lower your confidence levels and self-esteem. 

If your foot odor problem is too severe and needs extra care, do seek the help of a podiatrist. Podiatrists are doctors specializing in foot care to take good care of your feet. They know a lot better than what a simple Google search can teach you. They can prescribe stronger medications, better soaps, and suggest certain lifestyle choices to help you have good smelling feet.