Having smelly feet can be embarrassing and annoying. Foot odor is caused by bacteria breaking down sweat and shedding skin cells inside shoes and socks. While some foot odor is normal, excessive or persistent bad smells from your feet can indicate bigger problems. Luckily, there are many things you can do to reduce or prevent foot odor.
1. Wash Your Feet Daily
Washing your feet daily with soap and water is one of the easiest and most effective ways to combat foot odor. Be sure to scrub between the toes where bacteria tends to accumulate. Finish by thoroughly drying your feet, especially between the toes. Dampness leads to more bacteria growth.
2. Change Socks Frequently
Sweaty socks are a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria. Change your socks at least once a day, or more often if you sweat a lot. Opt for socks made from moisture wicking fabrics like wool or synthetics. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row to allow them to fully dry out.
3. Use Antiperspirant or Foot Powder
Applying antiperspirant or foot powder can help absorb sweat and reduce odor. Look for powder formulas containing antibacterial ingredients like zinc oxide or tea tree oil. Sprinkle powder into shoes and socks or spray antiperspirant directly onto feet and let dry before putting on socks.
4. Treat Common Foot Problems
Issues like athlete’s foot, excessive sweating, and nail fungus can lead to increased foot odor. See a podiatrist to identify and properly treat any underlying foot problems you may have. Treating the condition causing odor will go a long way in reducing smell.
5. Wear Breathable Shoes and Socks
Wearing closed-toe shoes and socks that lack breathability traps sweat and encourages bacterial overgrowth. Choose leather or mesh shoes and look for socks made with moisture wicking wool or synthetic blends. Rotate your shoes so you aren’t wearing the same pair two days in a row.
6. Disinfect Shoes
Leaving sweat and bacteria inside your shoes causes them to retain odors over time. Remove shoe insoles and wash with antibacterial soap and hot water. Spray the inside of shoes with a disinfectant or thin layer of rubbing alcohol and let air dry completely to kill odor-causing germs.
7. Soak Feet in Vinegar Water
White vinegar is naturally antibacterial and can help eliminate foot odor. Mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water and soak feet for 15-20 minutes daily. For particularly smelly feet, soak them twice a day. Just be careful with vinegar around open cuts or sores on feet.
8. Practice Good Foot Hygiene
Proper foot hygiene limits bacterial growth that causes odors. Trim toenails straight across monthly. Use a pumice stone or foot file to remove thick calluses where bacteria can hide. Moisturize feet daily to prevent cracks and exfoliate dead skin cells.
9. Consider Clinical Strength Antiperspirants
For excessive foot sweating, clinical strength antiperspirants can be more effective than regular drugstore versions. Look for antiperspirant made specifically for feet and containing aluminum chloride. Apply nightly for 1-2 weeks until sweating is reduced. Use cautiously and discontinue if irritation occurs.
Making adjustments to your foot hygiene routine, footwear choices, and treatment of any underlying conditions can go a long way towards reducing foot odor. Still, some people may deal with persistent smells caused by hyperhidrosis or chronic conditions. In that case, speak to your doctor about possible medical treatments to curb excessive sweating and bacteria growth. With consistency and patience, you can get your stinky feet back to smelling fresh.