Why Your Feet Stink

Smelly shoes

Most people accept that feet are on the shortlist of body parts (along with, say, the armpits) that are likely to produce a detectable smell every now and then. However, some people can clear a room just by taking off their shoes. Does that describe someone you know? Does it describe you?

Let’s break it down a bit. Your feet rely on sweat glands—around a quarter million of them—to stay lubricated. In fact, your feet can produce a pint of sweat or more per day! Sweat itself is odorless, but when bacteria on the feet snack on it, they produce an isovaleric acid byproduct which does produce a strong smell, vaguely reminiscent of vinegar or nasty cheese.

Now, for most people, excessive foot odor isn’t a big problem most of the time, because the sweat evaporates too fast for the bacteria to get in a good lunch, or call in more of their friends. But if the bacteria get time to feast, your feet will start to really stink.

The major culprit here in most cases is ventilation, or more accurately the lack of it. If the sweat on your feet usually has nowhere to go—it gets trapped inside thick socks and shoes or boots that don’t breathe—then you can expect bacterial colonies to grow and odor to increase. Switching to breathable footwear and giving your feet a chance to air out regularly will help over the long term.

There are other possible contributing causes, of course. Poor hygiene is a big one—you should be washing your feet daily. If you’re wearing the same pair of shoes every day, that could also be a factor; rotating pairs would give each a chance to air out between uses. Certain conditions (like athlete’s foot) can cause smelly feet, too. Finally, some people just naturally sweat more than others.

Lots of home remedies exist for foot odor, and often making a few simple lifestyle changes (as well as judicious application of antifungal powder) will be enough to reduce odor to undetectable levels. If you find yourself still struggling, however, the team at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute will be happy to take a closer look (and if necessary, a closer whiff). To schedule an appointment in Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX, give us a call at 512-593-2949.

Posted on September 13, 2016 and filed under Skin Care.