If you suffer from excessively sweaty and smelly feet, you’re not alone. Many people deal with this embarrassing and uncomfortable issue on a regular basis. But why do some people’s feet perspire and give off such a strong odor? There are a few key reasons.
Sweat Glands in the Feet
Your feet contain more sweat glands per square inch than any other part of your body. You have about 250,000 sweat glands in your feet, and when they are overactive, it leads to heavy sweating. The sweat itself doesn’t smell, but when your feet sweat profusely, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
Bacteria Causes the Odor
There are over 250 strains of bacteria that live and feed on your skin. These bacteria start breaking down the sweat and dead skin cells on your feet, producing isovaleric acid as a byproduct. This acid causes the characteristic foul smell that we associate with smelly feet and locker rooms. Certain bacteria like Bacillus subtilis are more prevalent in sweaty areas and emit stronger odors as they digest and ferment sweat.
Wearing Closed Shoes Makes It Worse
Wearing tight, closed shoes and socks for long periods prevents ventilation and causes sweat to accumulate. Moisture gets trapped next to the skin of your feet, allowing odor-causing bacteria to rapidly multiply inside your shoes. Fungi and yeast may also start to grow in this warm, damp environment. When you finally take your shoes off, a blast of built-up odor is released. Going barefoot when possible can help keep feet drier.
Other Contributing Factors
Some other things that can make the problem of sweaty smelly feet worse include exercise, hot weather, poor hygiene, wearing unbreathable materials like rubber boots, fungal infections like athlete’s foot, stress and anxiety, being overweight, wearing worn out shoes, and conditions that cause excessive sweating like hyperhidrosis. Genetics can also play a role in how much your feet sweat.
Preventing and Reducing Foot Odor
While you may not be able to fully eliminate foot odor if you have naturally sweaty feet, you can take steps to prevent smelly feet and shoes:
- Wash feet daily with antibacterial soap and dry thoroughly
- Use foot powder and antiperspirant spray on clean, dry feet
- Wear moisture wicking socks made of material like wool or Coolmax
- Choose well-ventilated shoes and alternate pairs so they can dry out
- Use antifungal spray or powder in shoes when not wearing them
- Consider prescription strength antiperspirants for severe sweating
- Soak feet in a vinegar foot bath to kill odor-causing bacteria
- Apply foot deodorant cream after washing feet
If home treatments aren’t working, you may need to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Prescription strength antiperspirants, iontophoresis treatments, BOTOX, oral medications, or other therapies may be recommended for excessive foot sweating.
While smelly feet can be embarrassing, by understanding what causes feet to sweat and smell and taking proper foot care, you can get relief and feel more confident. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you need help managing sweaty stinky feet. With the right treatment plan, you can outsmart sweat and odor, and keep your feet fresh.