Hygiene Tips

Hygiene tips in everyday language.

Foot Odor and Smelly Feet


Foot odor, also known just as smelly feet, is an unpleasant smell that affects the feet of people and can cause very embarrassing problems.


Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The main cause of smelly feet is foot sweat. The sweat excreted by the numerous glands in the feet is odorless by itself but if it is left unwashed it can create a beneficial environment for bacteria that produce malodorous (bad smelling) substances.

Since the bacteria that produce the bad smell are found naturally on our skin, bad smell is increased with factors that increase our sweating. Constrictive shoes and socks made out of materials such as polyester, which does not allow adequate air ventilation both affect sweating which in turn affects foot odor. This is especially true if the footwear is worn for extended periods of time.

Also, neglecting to wash your feet and not changing your socks regularly will most certainly increase the potency of the bad smell from your feet.

Finally, diet, temperature, hormones and certain medical conditions can affect perspiration, which affects foot odor indirectly, or even directly affect foot odor.


Prevention and treatment of smelly feet

There are many ways to prevent bad feet odors and treat smelly feet. Several healthcare products are available to help you extinguish bad foot odor including foot powders, lotions and sprays.

However, probably the most effective and definitely the cheapest method to extinguish bad foot odors is with sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. Baking soda will create a hostile environment for the bacteria responsible for smelly feet. You can use a few pinches of it inside the sock and the shoe to keep the bacteria at bay, you can apply sodium bicarbonate directly on the feet or you can submerge your feet in water in which you have added a few pinches of baking soda. It really works!

While using baking soda to extinguish bad foot odors make sure you do not overdo it! If you use it for extended periods of time or in great quantities you run a risk of killing all the bacteria from the skin, leaving the way open for harmful fungi to develop instead!

To prevent smelly feet make sure to air your feet adequately through the day and avoid wearing footwear and socks when and where you don’t need to. Also, cotton and wool socks (compared to socks made from synthetic materials) allow for more air ventilation to the feet which prevents bad foot odors. Socks should be changed regularly, preferably at least once per day to prevent bacterial growth on them.


In extreme cases of foot sweating and malodorous feet smell, caused by medical conditions such as hyperhydrosis, doctors may suggest an invasive treatment to cut the nerves responsible for sweating in each foot. This is irreversible and should be avoided and only considered as a last resort to your smelly feet problems.

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