Can Male Hormones Cause Smelly Feet?

It’s no secret that men’s feet tend to smell worse than women’s. But why is that? Research suggests that male sex hormones, particularly testosterone, play a role in causing increased foot odor in men.

During puberty, rising testosterone levels cause adolescent boys’ sweat glands to grow larger and produce more sweat. The feet have a high concentration of sweat glands, making them prone to sweating excessively during this hormonal change. When the feet are ensconced in shoes and socks all day, the resulting hot, moist environment enables odor-causing bacteria to rapidly flourish.

Throughout adulthood, testosterone continues to stimulate sweat production in the feet and other areas. Men generally have greater quantities of the skin bacteria that break down sweat compounds into the smelly substances characteristic of foot odor. Having larger feet and heavier body composition compared to women can also make men’s feet sweat more profusely.

Other male hormones may also be involved. A study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that applying androstenedione (a precursor to testosterone) on the armpits of participants increased odorous steroid content in their sweat. Androstenone, derived from testosterone, is one chemical considered responsible for the stereotypical locker room smell. This indicates a direct link between male hormones and body odor.

Can anything be done to combat the foot odor resulting from male hormonal activity? Proper hygiene is key. Wash feet daily with soap and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. Change socks frequently to keep feet dry. Use an antibacterial soap or disinfectant when washing socks and avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row. This helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

Wearing moisture-wicking socks and breathable shoes or sandals can also help reduce excessive foot sweating. Replace insoles regularly. Use a spray or powder antifungal/antibacterial treatment inside shoes and socks to help control bacteria and odor.

See a doctor if you have abnormally smelly feet to rule out potential medical conditions like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or athlete’s foot.

While fluctuating testosterone and androgen levels may make men more prone to stinky feet, practicing good foot hygiene can keep this common problem in check. Smelly feet are rarely a serious medical issue. But being proactive reduces embarrassment and improves comfort. Paying attention to foot odor and making simple changes can help you put your best foot forward, smell-wise.