The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis. It’s underlying cause - bacteria and moisture. Feet have sweat glands (about 250,000 actually) and the moisture caused by the sweat creates bacteria. In order to remove waste, bacteria breaks down dead skin cells and oils; it is this breakdown that can cause foot odor.
The good news is that there are ways to fight foot odor. We’ve listed them below. Keep in mind that while it may seem like foot odor is a problem specific to the summer months, the truth is, foot odor can happen any time of year, so if you do suffer from smelly feet, these tips are good to practice all year long.
- Wash your feet regularly. Wash your feet at least once a day. If need be, try an antibacterial soap. It’s also important to thoroughly dry your feet, especially between the toes.
- Keep your footwear clean. Air out your footwear overnight, and alternate between different pairs of shoes to give the moisture in the shoes enough time to evaporate. Bacteria love moisture! Socks should be changed every day too. You might even consider carrying an extra pair of socks with you so you can change your socks midday.
- Wear the right type of shoes. Avoid shoes that are tight and may retain moisture or shoes that don’t have ‘breathability’ such as those made from plastic. Shoes that don’t ‘breath’ promote sweating and therefore foot odor.
- Wear the right socks.Use socks with a moisture wicking system such as Orthofeet's BioSoft socks. These types of socks absorb moisture so it doesn’t remain on your feet and cause bacteria to grow.
- Alternate or replace insoles. Insoles that are worn out or used repeatedly can become smelly just like shoes and socks. If you can, wash and dry them and use a different pair of insoles while they are drying. If your insoles aren’t washable, or you just need a new pair, you should get a new pair of quality insoles such as Orthofeet’s orthotic insoles.
- Powder and Clip. Regularly powdering your feet with an antibacterial foot powder can not only kill the bacteria of your feet that cause foot odor, but it will also help deep your feet dry. Clipping your toenails so they don’t grow to long and cleaning them regularly also helps eliminate foot odor, as bacteria can get trapped under the toenails if they are too long or unclean.
- Soak your feet. Foot soaks aren’t just for soothing your feet. They can help remove foot odor too. A soak made from warm water mixed with juice from one lemon or even with vinegar is very effective at eliminating foot odor. Just make sure that you don’t have any open cuts or sores beforehand as the lemon and vinegar can exacerbate pain from the wounds. And don’t forget to dry your feet well when you’ve finished soaking.
- Exfoliating dead skin. A good way to remove the dead skin cells that bacteria like to feed on is to use a pumice stone or a good scrub on your feet. Exfoliation can be done as part of the foot soak regimen. Done together they are very effective at controlling foot odor.
- Use an antiperspirant. Some people also apply an antiperspirant or deodorant spray to their feet. They work the same way on your feet as they do on your underarm and can help reduce the incidence of sweating.
*Note - If you suddenly experience smelly feet, be sure to check your feet for signs of cuts or sores that might be infected, or for fungal infections such as athlete's foot. Both types of conditions can cause your feet to smell. If either of these conditions do exist, it is important to see a doctor right away for treatment.