If you suffer from smelly feet, you know how embarrassing and frustrating it can be. Smelly feet are often caused by excessive sweat, bacterial overgrowth, or not washing properly. The smell comes from bacteria on your skin breaking down the sweat. Luckily, there are many things you can do to make your feet stop smelling.
Wash Regularly and Use Antiperspirant
One of the easiest ways to combat smelly feet is to simply wash and scrub them regularly. Wash your feet at least once per day using warm water and soap. Make sure to gently scrub between the toes and around the heels where sweat and bacteria tend to accumulate. Don’t forget to dry thoroughly after washing—moisture breeds odor-causing bacteria.
Using an antiperspirant made for feet can also help prevent excessive sweating which leads to odors. Apply it before bed so it can act overnight when sweating is common. Look for antiperspirant formulas that contain ingredients like aluminum chloride or zinc oxide that stop perspiration naturally. Reapply daily for the best effects.
Soak Them to Kill Bacteria
Foot soaks are an excellent way to kill odor-causing bacteria. Look for soaking products containing antifungal ingredients like tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil. You can also make your own footbath using a basin with warm water, salt, apple cider vinegar, or antiseptic. Soak feet 15-30 minutes per day, focusing on the areas between toes. After soaking, remember to scrub and rinse feet well. The soaks immediately lower bacterial levels while also removing dead skin cells.
Dry Properly After Bathing or Exercise
Since dampness encourages bacteria growth leading to foot odor, it’s very important to dry your feet properly. After washing your feet or taking a bath or shower, be sure to thoroughly dry in between toes where moisture gets easily trapped. You can use a hair dryer on a cool setting to ensure no areas stay damp.
Likewise, if your feet get sweaty during exercise or sports, be diligent about drying with a towel before putting shoes and socks back on. Bring extra socks when playing sports so you can swap out sweaty socks for dry ones. Choosing moisture-wicking athletic socks can also help keep feet dry.
Use Moisturizing Creams and Foot Powders
Very dry, cracked feet are prone to odor because bacteria can accumulate in the crevices. To prevent this, regularly apply a moisturizing foot cream daily to keep skin smooth and hydrated. At night, apply a thicker, exfoliating foot cream or ointment then wear socks so it can fully absorb while you sleep.
When feet aren’t dry enough for creams, turn to foot powders. These extremely moisture-absorbing products prevent sweat-related odors. Sprinkle the powder inside shoes and socks or directly on feet before getting dressed. Some powders contain anti-fungal ingredients as an added odor combatant. Be sure to apply after bathing when feet are fully dry for best results.
Change Socks and Shoes Daily
Like moist feet, wearing the same socks and shoes two days in a row allows odor to build up inside them. Make sure you allow shoes 24 hours to fully dry and air out before wearing them again by alternating pairs. Putting balled up newspapers inside shoes absorbs moisture overnight.
For socks, change them at least once daily. Opt for socks made from moisture wicking fabrics like cotton blends. Avoid completely non-breathable socks that lock in sweat and heat. The best socks allow some ventilation while still absorbing sweat. Have multiple backup pairs readily available in case you need to change them after getting sweaty or wet.
Disinfect Shoes Regularly
The inner lining of shoes absorbs foot odor, transferring bacteria back to your feet when worn again. Disinfect the inner surfaces of shoes by wiping them with antibacterial wipes every few days when you take them off. Remove shoe inserts and spray both insert and interior with antibacterial shoe spray designed to kill bacteria and freshen odors. Doing so prevents odor recurrence when you put your shoes back on.
You can also toss shoes in the washer periodically if the material allows. Place them in a mesh bag first for washing then air dry. Freezing shoes for 12-24 hours likewise kills bacteria — just remove inserts first and don’t freeze leather or rubber.
See a Podiatrist
Your podiatrist can assess your feet to pinpoint any underlying causes of persistent odor like nail fungus, excessive sweating conditions, or skin infections between the toes. They may prescribe clinical-strength antiperspirants for sweating or antifungal medications for infections. In some cases, Botox injections can treat extreme sweating that doesn’t respond to other antiperspirants.
Additionally, podiatrists can recommend customized shoe inserts called orthotics that are designed to keep your feet properly aligned inside shoes and prevent sweating in spots that lead to odor. These help eliminate causes of smell at their root. Professional pedicures at a reputable salon can also slough away dead skin on feet prone to excess bacteria growth.
By thoroughly cleaning feet, wearing proper footwear, addressing excessive sweating, and establishing a consistent hygiene routine, most people can successfully combat issues with smelly feet. Pay attention as well to potential dietary triggers like too much meat, alcohol, or caffeine that elevate body odor. Stay vigilant even when you think you have foot odor handled — once you let up on your regimen, smells may quickly return. But ultimately, fresh smelling feet are possible with consistent care and smart foot hygiene habits.