Why Do Some Socks Make My Feet Stink?

It’s a common problem – you put on a pair of socks, wear them for a day, take them off and get hit with an unpleasant foot odor. Some socks seem prone to causing smelly feet, while others don’t. So why do some socks make your feet stink more than others? There are a few potential culprits.


The material your socks are made from plays a big role in foot odor. Natural fibers like cotton, wool and bamboo allow more airflow to your feet. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon trap heat and sweat, creating a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria. Socks made from synthetic materials are more likely to make your feet stink than natural fiber socks.

Tight Fit

A sock that fits too tight on your foot doesn’t allow moisture to evaporate, which leads to increased sweat. The damp, warm environment inside a tight fitting sock encourages bacterial growth and foot odor. Try sizing up if your socks leave marks on your skin or feel constricting. The extra room will let your feet breathe.


Thick, cushioned socks can cause sweaty feet for the same reason as tight ones – lack of breathability. All that extra fabric holds heat and traps moisture next to your foot. For less stinky feet, wear lightweight, breathable socks whenever possible. Save the thick wool socks for cold weather days when you really need the extra warmth.


How often you wash your socks also influences foot odor. Sweat, dead skin cells and bacteria accumulate in the fabric over time. Not washing socks frequently enough allows smell-causing gunk to build up. To keep foot odor at bay, socks should be washed after every wear. Choosing socks made with antimicrobial silver fibers can help inhibit bacteria growth and smelly feet between washes.

Shoe Choice

The shoes you wear with stinky socks also affect odor. Closed toe shoes with poor ventilation concentrate foot odor inside. Bacteria thrive in the hot, humid environment shoes create. Wearing open, breathable shoes can help air out smelly socks and shoes. Alternating pairs of shoes gives each pair time to fully dry out between wears, lowering bacteria levels.

At the end of the day, the best way to keep your feet smelling fresh is wearing breathable, natural fiber socks that fit just right. Wash them frequently, go easy on thick cushioned styles and let your feet air out in open shoes regularly. Finding the right socks for your feet will help you stay comfortable and odor-free all day long.