Why Do My Feet Smell Like Ammonia? Causes and Treatments

It’s not uncommon for feet to have an odor, but if your feet smell particularly pungent like ammonia, it could point to an underlying issue. Ammonia is a gas with a very potent smell that is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. This distinct scent is familiar to many as a cleaning product. So why would your feet give off such an unpleasant odor? There are a few possible explanations.

Excess Sweat

One of the most common reasons for smelly feet is excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis. Sweat itself is odorless, but when your feet sweat more than usual, the moisture creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. The bacteria feed on the sweat and dead skin cells on your feet, producing ammonia as a byproduct of their metabolism.

This excess bacteria growth paired with moist feet makes for prime conditions to generate that noxious ammonia odor. Those with hyperhidrosis may notice the smell is stronger at the end of the day after feet have been confined in shoes and socks all day. Quick fixes like changing socks frequently can help, along with using antibacterial foot powder and wearing moisture wicking socks.

Fungal Infection

A fungal infection on the feet may also be to blame for feet smelling like ammonia. Athlete’s foot is the most common type of fungal infection that affects the feet. It’s caused by tinea fungi that grow on the skin, leading to redness, scaling, itching and blisters on the feet. The infection thrives in the warm, moist environment shoes provide.

As the fungus multiplies, the breakdown of the dead skin cells and bacteria on the feet produces an ammonia-like odor. Antifungal creams and powders along with keeping the feet clean and dry can help treat athlete’s foot and related fungal infections that may be the source of smelly feet.

Bromodosis

Bromodosis is the medical term for foot odor, and it can also cause feet to smell like ammonia. This condition is linked to sweaty feet, but other factors are at play as well. Bacteria and fungi on the skin break down sweat as well as dead skin cells. This produces ammonia, which is the culprit behind that potent odor.

Wearing occlusive shoes and socks creates the ideal environment for bromodosis to occur. Allowing the feet to breathe regularly without shoes and keeping feet clean and dry can help prevent severe odors. Using antibacterial soap, soaking feet, applying foot powder and wearing moisture wicking socks are other ways to combat bromodosis.

Poor Hygiene

Ammonia-smelling feet may simply come down to poor hygiene. When you don’t properly clean your feet, sweat, dead skin and bacteria build up. This creates pungent foot odor over time, including the smell of ammonia.

Developing better foot hygiene habits can make a big difference. Wash feet daily with antibacterial soap, use a pumice stone to keep feet smooth and exfoliate dead skin, change socks daily and consider sock alternatives like natural fibers. Also, alternate pairs of shoes to allow them to fully dry out before wearing again. These simple adjustments can prevent unwanted foot odor.

Get Fresh Feet

Having ammonia-scented feet can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. In most cases, a few simple self-care steps can freshen up your feet. Focus on keeping feet clean and dry, wear breathable socks and shoes and apply foot powder or antifungal cream as needed. But if the ammonia smell persists despite your best efforts, see your podiatrist or dermatologist for an evaluation. With the right treatment plan, you can kiss smelly feet goodbye.