Having smelly feet can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem. The odor is often caused by sweat mixing with bacteria on your feet. Luckily, there are several effective methods you can use to help prevent and treat smelly feet.
Simple Prevention Tips
Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to prevent foot odor:
- Wash feet daily – use antibacterial soap and scrub well between the toes. Dry thoroughly, especially between toes.
- Rotate shoes – don’t wear the same pair two days in a row, allow them to dry out fully between wears.
- Wear breathable socks – cotton, wool, and moisture-wicking socks allow ventilation. Avoid non-breathable fabrics like nylon.
- Use antibacterial foot powder – helps absorb sweat and inhibit bacterial growth. Reapply after exercise or removing shoes.
- Wear open footwear when possible – allows air circulation. Go barefoot at home regularly.
- Clip toenails – keeps bacteria from accumulating under long nails.
- Exfoliate regularly – removes dead skin cells so less for bacteria to feed on. Use a pumice stone or foot scrub.
- Treat hyperhidrosis – prescription strength antiperspirants, iontophoresis, Botox, and medications can reduce excess sweating.
- Treat athlete’s foot – antifungal creams combat fungus infection on feet.
Keep Feet Dry
Moisture is the main factor that allows odor-causing bacteria to multiply rapidly on the feet. Here are some effective methods for keeping feet dry:
- Change damp socks – socks trap moisture against the skin. Carry extra socks when active.
- Use drying powder – sprinkle on feet and in shoes regularly to absorb moisture. Look for ones with zeolite or activated charcoal.
- Alternate shoes – rotate 2-3 pairs so each can dry out fully between wears.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks – helps pull sweat away from skin and allows it to evaporate. Bamboo and wool socks work well.
- Avoid plastic shoes – shoes made with plastic and rubber hold sweat in and don’t breathe. Choose leather, mesh, canvas, etc.
- Use shoe/insole sprays – products with anti-microbial ingredients help block odor. Spritz shoes and insoles regularly.
- Allow shoes to air out – take out shoe insoles/footbeds to dry fully after each use.
- Use a foot dryer – these handy devices blow heated air into shoes to dry them out overnight.
Some simple home remedies using natural ingredients can also be effective at combating foot odor:
- Baking soda foot soak – helps neutralize odors and reduces bacteria. Mix 1⁄4 cup in basin of water.
- Apple cider vinegar foot soak – contains antibacterial properties that fight odor. Mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water.
- Essential oils – oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, thyme, and mint have anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. Add 5-10 drops to foot soak.
- Activated charcoal powder – absorbs odors and sweat. Mix with water to form paste and apply to feet. Let dry then rinse.
- Salicylic acid – softens thick calluses where bacteria can hide. Apply medicated salicylic acid pads regularly.
- Sage tea soak – has antibacterial properties. Steep 2 bags in 2 cups hot water, cool, and soak feet 15-20 mins.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, foot odor can be managed with proper hygiene, moisture control, and over-the-counter products. However, if you have severe, persistent odor accompanied by skin changes like scaling, cracking, or unusual discoloration, see your doctor. This could indicate an underlying medical condition like hyperhidrosis, athlete’s foot, eczema, or bacterial infection. Rarely, smelly feet can signal health problems like diabetes or peripheral artery disease. Your doctor can determine if other treatment is needed.
By being proactive and making smelly feet prevention part of your daily routine, you can stop foot odor in its tracks and keep your feet fresh. Consistently addressing moisture control, bacteria growth, and skin care will help you put an end to embarrassing foot odor.