Having sweaty and smelly feet can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable problem. Excessive foot perspiration, also known as hyperhidrosis, along with the growth of bacteria and fungi, can cause unpleasant foot odor. Luckily, there are many effective ways to manage this issue. With some easy lifestyle changes and proper foot hygiene, you can get your sweaty feet and foot odor under control.
Look for Underlying Causes
First, try to identify any underlying causes for your excessive foot sweating and odor. Certain medical conditions like hyperthyroidism, menopause, and anxiety disorders can trigger increased perspiration. Some medications may also contribute. Discuss any medications or health issues with your doctor, as treating an underlying condition could alleviate the sweating. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also lead to foot odor, so get any rashes checked out.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Wear socks that wick moisture away from your feet to help keep them dry. Look for socks made from synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or Coolmax. Avoid socks made of non-breathable materials like plastic and rubber, which trap in sweat. Well-ventilated cotton socks also help absorb sweat. Make sure your socks are not too tight around your feet. Give your feet a break at home by going barefoot when possible to air them out. Having several pairs of socks on rotation gives each pair time to fully dry before wearing again.
Use Absorbent Foot Powders
Sprinkle antifungal and antibacterial foot powder inside your shoes and socks to help soak up moisture and prevent odor. Look for powders containing ingredients like zeolites, a mineral that absorbs moisture. Tea tree oil powder can help control bacteria and foot fungus due to its antimicrobial properties. Arrowroot powder also absorbs sweat while soothing irritated skin. Avoid using talcum powder, as this can get slippery and promote fungal growth when wet.
Apply Antiperspirant Spray
Using a dedicated antiperspirant spray on your feet can help curtail sweating. Look for a spray containing aluminum chloride, which helps block sweat glands. Apply antiperspirant spray to clean, dry feet before bed to reduce sweating overnight. Make sure to thoroughly wash and dry your feet first so the antiperspirant can penetrate effectively. Reapply twice a week or as needed. Be aware that some antiperspirants contain alcohol, which could dry out your skin with frequent use.
Soak Feet in Vinegar Water
The antimicrobial and mildly acidic properties of white vinegar make it great for controlling foot odor. Add 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water in a tub or foot bath. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes daily to inhibit bacteria growth and deodorize. The vinegar soak will also help soften thick calluses. Rinse your feet afterwards and thoroughly dry between the toes where moisture gets trapped. Do not add vinegar to cracked or bleeding skin.
Use Antibacterial Soap
Wash your feet daily with antibacterial soap, focusing on between the toes and around the nails where sweat and bacteria buildup. Avoid harsh deodorant soaps, which could strip away natural moisture and dry out your skin. Look for soaps containing antibacterial ingredients like triclosan or fragrance-free cleansers. Avoid bar soaps which can harbor bacteria. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. Applying a thin layer of antiperspirant gel or spray after bathing can further curtail sweating.
Try Over-the-Counter Medications
For severe foot sweating and odor issues, over-the-counter antifungal creams, powders, and sprays can provide relief. Look for topical treatments containing miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate to reduce fungal growth between the toes. Deodorant foot creams and wipes can also quickly freshen feet during the day. Products with antibacterial ingredients like tea tree oil help combat odor-causing bacteria. Use any medications according to package directions. See your doctor if OTC remedies do not resolve the problem after a few weeks.
Regular pedicures at a salon can keep your feet looking and smelling fresh. A pedicure provides an extensive cleaning and grooming of your feet. The nail technician will clip and file your nails, scrub away calluses, and thoroughly clean your feet. Getting ingrown toenails treated will prevent infection and odor. Some pedicures even include a soothing foot bath. Be sure the salon properly sterilizes all instruments and foot baths to avoid fungal or bacterial infections. Avoid shaving calluses yourself, as this can damage skin. See a podiatrist for any callus removal.
Change Socks and Shoes
Rotate your shoes daily to prevent fungus or bacteria buildup inside. Wear moisture-wicking socks with different pairs of well-ventilated shoes. Leather or canvas shoes work well. Avoid shoes made of non-breathable materials like rubber, nylon, or vinyl. Do not wear the same shoes two days in a row to ensure they fully dry out. Remove shoe insoles to air out between wearings. Disinfectant sprays can help destroy bacteria and odor inside shoes. Replace insoles regularly. Consider shoe antiperspirants to minimize sweat. Discard old worn-out shoes that cannot be deodorized.
Try Magnetic or Copper Insoles
Inserting magnetic or copper insoles into your shoes may help reduce sweating and odor. Magnetic insoles aim to ionize blood flow in the feet, making your feet release less sweat. The enhanced blood circulation may also inhibit bacterial growth. Copper insoles work similarly by purportedly emitting copper ions, which have antimicrobial effects. However, there is limited research on the efficacy of these insoles for hyperhidrosis. Further studies are still needed.
Practice Proper Foot Hygiene
Maintaining proper foot hygiene is key to controlling odor. Wash and scrub your feet daily, cleaning between the toes. Clip toenails regularly. Apply foot cream daily to prevent cracked skin which can harbor bacteria. Let your feet air out when possible. Change socks at least once during the day, especially after exercise when feet sweat more. Consider carrying extra socks in your bag so you can swap them mid-day. Always fully dry damp or sweaty feet. Going barefoot in public places can expose feet to bacteria and fungus, so wear shower shoes or sandals when possible.
See a Doctor for Severe Cases
For severe, untreatable sweaty feet and odor, make an appointment with your doctor. They can assess for underlying causes and prescribe stronger treatments like:
- Prescription oral medications to reduce sweating. These include anticholinergics, beta blockers, tranquilizers, and low dose antidepressants.
- Iontophoresis, which uses electrical currents to minimize sweating. Multiple treatments per week are usually needed.
- Botox injections to temporarily block sweat glands. Effects last about 6 months.
- MiraDry microwave technology to destroy sweat glands.
- Surgery to remove sweat glands from the armpits and hands/feet.
Do not try any drastic measures like chemical peels or nerve removals at med spas without medical supervision. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment plan for your hyperhidrosis and foot odor.
In most cases, sweaty smelly feet can be managed with some simple self-care steps. Practicing good hygiene, moisture control, and using antimicrobial treatments can combat odor and keep your feet fresh. But if excessive foot sweating and smell persist despite your best efforts, be sure to see a podiatrist or dermatologist for personalized treatment. With the right plan, you can successfully get your sweaty feet and foot odor under control.