If you’ve ever taken off your shoes at the end of a long day and been greeted by an offensive foot stench, you’re not alone. Smelly feet are a common problem that can cause embarrassment and discomfort. The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis, but most people just call it stinky feet. What causes this foot funk and what can you do to get your feet smelling sweet again?
What Causes Stinky Feet
There are several contributing factors that can cause or worsen foot odor:
Sweat – One of the main culprits is sweat. Your feet contain a high concentration of sweat glands and produce quite a bit of sweat throughout the day. When your feet are confined in closed-toe shoes and socks all day, that sweat doesn’t have a chance to evaporate which creates a warm, moist environment ideal for bacteria growth.
Bacteria – The bacteria naturally present on our skin thrive in the warm, damp environment inside shoes and socks. As they rapidly multiply, they start breaking down sweat into acids, resulting in unpleasant foot odor. Certain types of bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis, are more prone to causing foot odor.
Fungal infections – Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also contribute to foot odor by changing the environment on the feet to allow more bacteria to grow.
Poor hygiene – Infrequent washing and properly drying feet gives odor-causing bacteria more time to grow and produce smelly byproducts.
Hyperhidrosis – People who suffer from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) are more prone to having sweatier-than-average feet and therefore, smellier feet.
Certain shoes & socks – Closed-toe shoes, especially those made of non-breathable materials, and thick socks trap sweat and heat against feet, accelerating bacterial overgrowth.
Medical conditions – Some medical conditions like diabetes and poor circulation can increase foot sweat, making odor more likely. Fungal nail infections can also aggravate foot odor.
Solutions for Smelly Feet
While stinky feet can be embarrassing, the good news is this condition can be managed with a few simple foot care tactics:
Wash & dry feet daily – Make sure to wash your feet with antibacterial soap and dry them thoroughly every day, especially between the toes where moisture gets trapped. This helps wash away bacteria and keeps them from multiplying out of control.
Try antibacterial socks – Wearing moisture-wicking antibacterial socks can help prevent odor by inhibiting bacteria growth and keeping feet drier. Change socks mid-day if excessive sweating is an issue.
Use foot powder – Dusting antibacterial foot powder inside shoes and on feet helps absorb moisture and prevent fungal issues while controlling bacteria overgrowth.
Alternate your shoes – Rotating different pairs of shoes from day to day allows them to fully air out and dry to prevent odor-causing bacteria from accumulating inside.
Wear moisture-wicking shoes – Choose breathable shoes and avoid plastic, rubber, and non-breathable materials that trap sweat and heat inside. Natural materials like leather allow better airflow. You can also add insertable shoe deodorizers.
Disinfect shoes – Using UV shoe sanitizers or ozone treatments can help destroy bacteria lurking inside smelly shoes between wears. Removing footbeds to wash separately keeps odor from embedding in shoes.
Try prescription antiperspirants – Excessive foot sweaters can get prescription-strength antiperspirants from their doctor to better control sweat and odor. These are often aluminum chloride-based.
See your doctor – If sweat and odor persist despite good foot hygiene, see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues. Prescription-strength treatments are available.
While dealing with stinky feet can be annoying, having a good foot care routine in place can help you step out with confidence. Pay special attention to washing and drying feet daily, wearing proper moisture-wicking shoes and socks, using antibacterial products, and disinfecting shoes regularly. With some consistent foot TLC, you can keep your feet fresh all day long.