Having smelly feet can be an embarrassing and frustrating issue. The odor is often described as a cheesy, vinegary or sour smell. This unpleasant foot odor, medically known as bromodosis, is very common and usually caused by overactive sweat glands in the feet.
Fortunately, there are many simple remedies and good foot hygiene practices that can help eliminate foot odor and prevent it from recurring. With a little diligence, you can successfully treat sour smelly feet.
Wash Your Feet Daily
One of the most effective ways to combat foot odor is to wash your feet daily with soap and water. Use a mild, fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water. Be sure to thoroughly cleanse between the toes where bacteria tends to accumulate. After washing, be sure to dry your feet completely, especially between the toes. Dampness encourages bacterial overgrowth.
Soaking your feet in a basin with diluted apple cider vinegar can also help eliminate odors and neutralize foot bacteria. Do this for about 10-15 minutes daily until the smell dissipates. The mild acidity of the vinegar restores the natural pH of the skin and makes it less hospitable for the bacteria that cause odor.
Regular exfoliation removes dead skin cells and calluses where smelly bacteria can thrive unseen. Once or twice a week, use a foot scrub or pumice stone to slough off this buildup, especially on the heels and soles. This allows fresh air to circulate and exposes the bacteria so you can wash it away.
Moisturize Your Feet
Keeping your feet soft and moisturized prevents cracking and peeling of the skin which can harbor bacteria. Apply a rich moisturizing cream daily, massaging it all over the feet including between the toes. Ingredients like coconut oil, vitamin E and shea butter will deeply hydrate the skin.
Let Your Feet Breathe
Go barefoot whenever possible to allow your feet to breathe. Tight, non-breathable shoes trap sweat and create a humid environment ideal for smelly bacterial growth. Only wear shoes and socks when necessary. Remove shoes as soon as you can to air out your feet. At home, go barefoot or wear open sandals.
Change Socks Frequently
Make sure to change your socks at least once a day, or more often if your feet tend to sweat a lot. Keeping your feet clean and dry minimizes odor-causing bacteria. Choose socks made of natural breathable fibers like cotton, wool or bamboo rayon. Avoid synthetic fabrics which don’t allow ventilation. Bring extra socks when you’ll be on your feet all day.
Use Antiperspirant Spray
Applying an antiperspirant spray to your feet can help control sweating, the main cause of foot odor. Look for a spray containing aluminum chloride as the active ingredient. Spritz or roll it on clean dry feet, especially areas that sweat the most like the soles and toes. The antiperspirant temporarily plugs the sweat glands to reduce moisture. Reapply daily or every few days.
Sprinkle Absorbing Foot Powder
Dusting your feet daily with medicated foot powder can help absorb dampness while fighting bacteria. Look for powders containing ingredients like zinc oxide, talc, bentonite clay or activated charcoal. These materials wick up moisture and control odor. Antifungal powders with miconazole or clotrimazole will also combat fungal infections. Reapply foot powder anytime your feet feel moist.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Wear socks specially designed to wick moisture away from the skin. The liners absorb sweat from your feet and pull it toward the outer layers. This keeps your feet drier and less prone to odor issues. Look for moisture-wicking socks made of coolmax, dri-fit, microfiber or wool fabrics. Change them frequently throughout the day.
Alternate Your Shoes
Rotating between different pairs of shoes allows them to thoroughly dry out between uses. Bacteria thrives in the warm, dark, humid environment inside shoes. Letting shoes air out for at least 24 hours eliminates the bacteria and prevents odor buildup. Have 2-3 pairs in daily rotation and designate comfortable breathable shoes for home use.
Clean Shoes With Disinfectant Spray
Frequently disinfect the inside of your shoes to kill odor-causing bacteria. Remove shoe inserts and loose dirt. Spray the interior surfaces with an antimicrobial shoe spray containing ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus or bleach. Let them air dry completely. You can also put shoes in the freezer overnight to kill bacteria. Just be sure they are dry first.
See a Podiatrist
In some cases, consistent foot odor can indicate an underlying medical issue that needs professional treatment. See a podiatrist if you notice any abnormal changes in your feet such as discoloration, bleeding, cracking, wounds or thick/discolored nails. A podiatrist can diagnose and treat conditions like fungal infections, plantar warts, eczema and diabetes complications which could contribute to foot odor.
Practice Good Foot Hygiene Daily
The key to fresh smelling feet is consistency with proper foot hygiene. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day. Exfoliate and moisturize regularly. Wear clean, dry moisture-wicking socks. Alternate between different shoes and disinfect them. Go barefoot when you can to allow air circulation. Addressing any excessive sweating or skin conditions also helps. With diligent care, you can eliminate unpleasant foot odors.