Having stinky feet can be embarrassing and frustrating. Foot odor is caused by bacteria thriving in the warm, moist environment inside shoes and on feet. While you can’t eliminate all foot bacteria, you can take steps to control odor and keep your feet fresh. With some adjustments to your foot hygiene routine and footwear choices, you can say goodbye to smelly feet for good.
Wash Your Feet Daily
Washing your feet daily is one of the best ways to control foot odor. Use a mild soap and warm water to wash your feet, being sure to scrub between the toes where bacteria tends to accumulate. Don’t forget to wash the soles of your feet too. Rinse your feet thoroughly after washing to remove all soap residue. This helps wash away bacteria that cause odors.
Try an Antibacterial Soap
Using an antibacterial soap can help kill odor-causing bacteria on your feet. Look for soaps containing ingredients like triclosan or triclocarban. Tea tree oil soap can also help fight bacteria and foot odor. Rotate between different antibacterial soaps to combat bacteria. While washing with regular soap is effective, antibacterial soaps provide extra bacteria-fighting action to eliminate foot odor.
Exfoliate Your Feet
Exfoliating your feet removes dead skin cells where odor-causing bacteria can thrive. Use a foot scrub or pumice stone to slough off dead skin from your feet a few times per week. Pay close attention to rough areas and thick calluses that can trap bacteria. Exfoliating opens pores to release trapped bacteria and sweat. Just don’t exfoliate so much that you damage healthy skin.
Dry Your Feet Thoroughly
Drying your feet well after washing is crucial. Bacteria multiply rapidly in damp environments. Be sure to dry thoroughly between toes where moisture gets trapped. Use a clean towel each time you wash your feet to prevent bacteria transfer. Going one step further, use a hairdryer on the low setting to make sure feet are completely dry before putting on socks and shoes.
Use Antiperspirant on Feet
Applying antiperspirant to your feet can help control sweat, which contributes to foot odor. Look for aluminum-free natural deodorants if you have sensitive skin. Spray or roll on antiperspirant after washing and drying feet. Reapply antiperspirant on your feet anytime they get sweaty. The antiperspirant will help regulate sweat and reduce odor.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Choose moisture-wicking socks that keep feet dry and comfortable throughout the day. Cotton socks absorb sweat but retain moisture, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. Look for socks made with moisture-wicking fabrics like wool, polyester, nylon, olefin or silk. Change your socks at least once a day, or more if your feet are sweating extensively. Having multiple pairs of moisture-wicking socks aids in odor prevention.
Alternate Your Shoes
Wearing the same shoes every day doesn’t allow them to fully dry out between wears. Bacteria flourish in the damp environment inside shoes. Having 2-3 pairs of shoes in rotation allows them to completely dry out which helps eliminate odor. Alternate shoes each day so you aren’t putting your feet back into a still-damp environment. Look for shoes made of breathable materials that allow ventilation and drying.
Use Odor-Fighting Insoles
Insoles designed to fight foot odor can soak up sweat and inhibit bacterial growth. Look for insoles containing activated charcoal, green tea extract or baking soda. These absorb moisture and neutralize foot odors. Replace insoles every 3-6 months or when they start smelling. Disinfect shoes by wiping out the interior with antibacterial wipes to prevent smells from returning when you put in fresh insoles.
Try Antibacterial Sock Sprays
Antibacterial sock sprays help eliminate odors and reduce bacterial growth. Spritz the spray inside your shoes before wearing and directly onto feet or socks. Look for natural antibacterial sprays with ingredients like thyme, goldenseal or oregano oil. Essential oil sprays also help neutralize foot odors. Reapply sock spray anytime feet get sweaty for ongoing odor protection.
Use Foot Powder
Dusting your feet with foot powder can help absorb moisture and combat odor. Look for powders with antibacterial ingredients like zinc oxide, sodium bicarbonate or arrowroot powder. Talc and cornstarch powders also absorb dampness though don’t fight bacteria. Apply foot powder all over your feet, between toes and even a light dusting inside shoes. Reapply anytime your feet feel damp.
Wear Open-Toed Shoes When Possible
Wear open-toed shoes like sandals or flip flops whenever appropriate. This allows air to circulate around your feet and shoes to dry out fully. Closed-toe shoes trap sweat and create a perfect environment for odor-causing bacteria to thrive. Wearing open-toed shoes prevents this moist environment and lets feet stay fresh.
Give Your Shoes a Break
Giving your shoes a full 24 hours rest between wears kills odor-causing bacteria and lets shoes completely dry out. Keep shoes in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight to prevent bacteria growth during the rest period. Using cedar shoe trees can help absorb moisture and maintain the shape of shoes while giving them a break.
Disinfect Your Shoes
Disinfecting the interior of shoes helps kill bacteria and get rid of odors. Remove shoe inserts and laces before disinfecting. Use antibacterial wipes or spray disinfectant onto the inside of shoes. Treat both uppers and inside soles. Allow shoes to fully air dry after disinfecting before wearing again. Repeat weekly or whenever shoes get smelly.
Soak Feet in Vinegar
Soaking your feet in undiluted white vinegar kills bacteria on skin and nails. The acidic vinegar dissolves hard skin to remove bacteria harboring in calluses and cracks. Add 2-3 cups of vinegar to a basin of warm water and soak feet for 15 minutes. Rinse feet thoroughly after soaking and follow up with a probiotic moisturizer. Soak feet in vinegar weekly to combat odor.
See a Podiatrist
In some cases, consistent foot odor can indicate an underlying medical issue. Issues like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and athlete’s foot contribute to foot odor problems. Visit a podiatrist if you have persistent foot odor that doesn’t respond to hygiene measures. A podiatrist can check for underlying causes and provide prescription-strength treatments. Medical conditions like diabetes and vascular disease can also contribute to foot odor.
Making adjustments to your foot hygiene routine is the key to preventing foot odor. Washing feet daily, exfoliating, using moisture-wicking socks and keeping shoes clean all help reduce bacterial growth that causes stinky feet. Combine these tips with over-the-counter products like antiperspirants, insoles and antimicrobial sprays to keep your feet fresh every day. With diligence, you can eliminate foot odor for good and never have to worry about smelly feet again.