Having smelly or stinky feet can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem. Foot odor is very common and caused by sweat mingling with bacteria on the skin. Luckily, there are many simple strategies you can use to get rid of foot odor and improve your overall foot hygiene.
Daily Hygiene Habits
One of the best ways to combat foot odor is developing good daily hygiene habits. Make sure to wash your feet every day with soap and water. Pay close attention to cleaning between the toes where sweat and bacteria can easily build up. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. Dampness promotes bacterial growth which causes odor.
Trimming your toenails regularly will also help improve foot hygiene. Long toenails can collect debris and harbor bacteria. Use clean nail clippers to trim toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. File down edges with an emery board or nail file.
Moisturizing your feet daily will also help. Using a foot cream, coconut oil or petroleum jelly keeps feet from getting too dry and cracked which can lead to bacteria growth. Change your socks daily to avoid bacteria buildup from sweat. Wear moisture wicking socks to help keep feet dry. Alternate between a few pairs of shoes throughout the week to allow them to fully dry out between uses.
Using a foot scrub or exfoliator 2-3 times a week will slough off dead skin cells. This removes bacteria that can cause odor. Pay special attention to scrubbing the heels and balls of the feet. Follow up with a foot moisturizer after exfoliating. Soaking your feet in an epsom salt bath can also soften skin and draw out impurities.
Advanced Treatments and Products
While daily hygiene habits are most important, you can also use specialized products to combat stubborn foot odor. Antiperspirants, deodorants and antibacterial soaps made specifically for the feet can help neutralize odor and reduce sweating. Apply these products after washing and drying your feet.
Medicated foot powders containing zinc oxide or baking soda can kill fungi and bacteria. Lightly dust them on your feet and in your shoes and socks to absorb moisture and neutralize odors. Odor-eating insoles and UV shoe sanitizers can help reduce bacteria buildup inside shoes.
To treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot that contribute to foot odor, use an over-the-counter antifungal cream. Prescription oral antifungal medications may also be needed for severe or recurring fungus infections. See your doctor if you don’t see improvement with topical creams.
Soaking your feet in a vinegar solution can help eliminate odor. The acidic vinegar kills bacteria and freshens feet. For a foot bath, mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water. Soak feet 10-15 minutes then rinse. For an easy homemade foot spray, fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Spritz on clean feet whenever you notice odor.
Essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, thyme and lemon have antibacterial properties that can fight foot odor. Add several drops to foot baths or use in a foot rub. Baking soda and activated charcoal make great homemade deodorizers too. Place containers around shoes and socks or make into a paste to scrub feet.
Preventative Care and Lifestyle Tips
Practicing good foot care day-to-day is the best way to avoid issues with foot odor. Here are some preventative care and lifestyle tips that can help:
- Change socks at least once daily or anytime they get damp
- Alternate pairs of shoes to allow them to fully air out and dry
- Wear moisture wicking and breathable socks like cotton, wool or bamboo
- Avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row
- Use shoe inserts and insoles designed to fight odor
- Dust feet and shoes with medicated or baking soda powder
- Clean shoes periodically with antibacterial spray or UV light
- Clip toenails straight across and file edges smooth
- Exfoliate feet 2-3 times a week with scrub or chemical peel
- Apply antiperspirant or deodorant to feet if excessive sweating
- See a doctor for any fungal infections or excessive sweating
- Keep feet protected with shoes at gyms, pools, showers
- Choose socks made of natural fibers and change frequently when exercising
- Maintain good blood circulation for feet through exercise, stretching, massages
Making foot hygiene a regular part of your routine is key for preventing odor issues. Addressing any medical conditions contributing to foot odor can also help. With diligent care, you can successfully keep your feet fresh, clean and odor-free.