Few foot problems are as common—or as embarrassing—as odor. All feet will smell from time to time, but when you can clear a room just by taking off your shoes, it may be time to do something about it.
Why Feet Stink
For your feet to produce a foul odor, they need two things: sweat and bacteria.
Sweat is no problem. You have about a quarter million total sweat glands lubricating your feet, and they can produce a pint of sweat (or more) each and every day.
Although sweat itself has no smell whatsoever, it provides a source of nourishment for various types of bacteria that live on your body. When they break down and digest it, they produce an acidic byproduct that carries a distinct (and stinky) odor.
Some of this is, of course, unavoidable. You can’t stop your feet from sweating, and you can’t get rid of all your bacteria (nor would you necessarily want to). That said, the problem usually occurs when too much sweat stays on your feet for too long, giving the bacteria ample time to feast. Some people simply sweat more than others and that can be part of the issue, but usually the biggest factor is lack of ventilation, commonly a result of wearing socks and shoes that don’t let the feet breathe.
Odor Prevention Strategies
A number of simple lifestyle adjustments can help you deal with sweat and bacteria more effectively.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash feet at least once per day with soap and water, drying thoroughly (including between the toes). Give your feet a little time to dry out (at least 5-10 minutes) before slipping back into socks or shoes.
- Choose footwear that lets your feet breathe. This includes socks made of moisture-wicking fabrics, as well as shoes with breathable uppers (such as leather or mesh).
- Change socks as often as you need to. For most people this would be daily, but those whose feet sweat profusely might need a clean change of socks more than once per 24 hours.
- Get a shoe rotation going. Yesterday’s shoes may still be carrying yesterday’s dankness the next morning. Rotating between at least two pairs will allow each at least a full day to air out.
Other Odor-Removing Strategies to Try
Certain powders, sprays, or other products applied to the feet or in shoes can help mitigate foul odor. The simplest and probably cheapest method in common use is sprinkling a little baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in your shoes to eliminate some of the offending bacteria.
Other products that may help include using a zinc and castor oil cream on feet after bathing, or using an over-the-counter disinfecting spray in shoes. Antifungal powders and creams may be advisable, since sweaty feet can often lead to further infections such as fungal nails or athlete’s foot.
If sweaty and smelly feet remain a chronic issue despite attempts to treat or prevent it, please stop by North Austin Foot & Ankle Institutes for an evaluation. After an examination, we may be able to make more specific recommendations. Additionally, we may prescribe stronger medications, powders, or creams that have a little more oomph that what you can find over the counter.
Don’t live in fear of taking off your shoes! If you need help getting your foot odor under control, please dial (512)-593-2949 and make an appointment with Dr. Keith McSpadden in either Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX.