Be it your spouse, that annoying co-worker or that poor unfortunate soul at the airport security line or you yourself, nobody can afford to stand the stench of smelly feet. If you’re in a situation where you need to think twice about taking off your shoes in public, it’s time you do something about your smelly feet. Sticky, sweaty or smelly – not pleasant at all! Dr. Erika M. Schwartz, DPM, FACFAS, American Podiatric Medical Association points out, “The feet have about half a million sweat glands, and this can lead to a whole lot of sweat.” She adds, “When you wear socks and shoes, the sweat gets trapped inside. Bacteria and fungus can thrive in this type of warm, moist environment and can produce odour.”
Causes of Smelly Feet:
Smelly, stinky feet could be a persistent problem for many and this sure causes a lot of discomfort and embarrassment, to the extent of impacting our social lives. In scientific terms, this condition is called as Bromodosis and it is at its worst in summer season. It usually starts in childhood, if unattended, goes till your adolescence and further on, if nothing is done about it. Smelly feet are basically caused due to excessive sweating produced by the sweat glands present in the foot area. Lorraine Jones, a famous podiatrist, says, “Your feet sweat into your shoes all day so they get damp and bacteria start to grow. The bacteria continue to breed once you've taken your shoes off, especially if you put them in a dark cupboard.”
Who are most prone to Smelly Feet?
- Teenagers, menopausal women and pregnant women are most commonly affected. This could be a result of hormonal changes that produce excess sweat.
- Obesity and stress are also common culprits that cause excessive sweat in people.
- Certain health conditions like heart disease, poor circulation, diabetes, athlete’s foot and other fungal foot infections.
But here’s the good news. You can keep away this problem with these 5 tips -
5 Ways to Keep Smelly Feet Problems at Bay
- Maintain Good Hygiene
Something as simple as maintaining a daily routine for foot hygiene can take care of stinky feet. This includes using an antibacterial soap to wash your feet daily, not to forget the areas in between your toes. Also ensure you use vinegar-dipped cotton balls to dab between the toes after a shower while drying your feet. You can also use an antibacterial foot scrub to treat sweaty feet, but avoid this if you have eczema or broken skin. You must also prevent build-up of toenail fungus and trim and clean your nails regularly. Use a foot file to take away hard skin. This is to prevent bacteria that breed in dampness, when skin is soggy.
- Use Vinegar Generously
Vinegar disinfects the feet, thus eliminating bacteria that cause rotten smell. Wash your feet with soap and water before soaking, and then keep your feet in a potion called vinegar soak. Apart from this, make some changes in your lifestyle. Here are some tips –
- Wear shoes made from breathable material such as canvas or leather, avoid plastic.
- At home, staying barefoot is best.
- Wear wool socks or breathable cotton socks.
- Keep Rotating Footwear
One of the ways to avoid stinky feet is to keep rotating your footwear. You could use two to three pairs of shoes alternatively to ensure your shoes are thoroughly dry before you wear them. This actually prevents a skin condition called as pitted Keratolysis.
Some practical tips:
- Choose well-fitted leather shoes – these allow your feet to breathe, unlike cloth shoes which soak up the sweat.
- Women can choose flip flops or peep-toe or open-toed sandals as much as possible.
- Go barefoot whenever possible, be it at home, friend’s hangout place, office, etc.
- Use detachable insoles, but ensure you frequently remove them in order to dry them properly.
- Check your Diet
In the words of the Founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine, Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld, “for those patients who are willing to be more proactive, changes in lifestyle and diet can be very helpful in controlling foot odour. Diets high in refined carbohydrates will often serve as food for bacteria and fungus in the body, giving rise to discharge phenomenon. One such discharge is to expel these bacteria and fungus into the skin to slough off with dying skin cells.” Eliminating certain foods such as refined carbohydrates can reduce inflammation to a certain extent. You could rather choose anti-inflammatory foods that include healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and protein.
- Finally, Wear Fresh Socks, ALWAYS!
Ensure you keep changing your socks every day or preferably more than once if your feet sweat excessively. Never ever think about wearing the same pair of socks for two days continuously, even though your feet didn’t sweat as much the previous day. This is because your socks would have already absorbed some bacteria via moisture and that is sure to spread further to cause that irritating stench. Some practical tips –
- Prefer wearing socks made from natural fibres – wool or cotton
- Some sports socks come with ventilation panels – these absorb moisture, allowing your feet to breathe
- Stay away from synthetic fibres - they don’t absorb sweat nor do they let it evaporate. This results in damp feet, attracting bacteria instantly.
Top 5 Practical Home Remedies for Smelly Feet
- Apple Cider Vinegar Bath – Mix one part vinegar in two parts water. This reduces odour causing bacteria, thanks to its strong antifungal effects.
- Tea Soaks – Use 4-5 teabags (regular/mint) in one quarter water. Make tea the regular way, let it cool. Keep your feet soaked for about 20 minutes.
- Salt Wash – Pour quarter cupful of Epsom salt into 4 capfuls of water. Soak for 15 minutes. Since salt is well known to kill fungi and improve overall skin health, it helps prevent skin odour and diseases.
- Lavender Oil – Lavender oil keeps your feet thoroughly moisturized and works by killing bacteria, thanks to its antibacterial properties. You could rub some of it on feet or soak your feet in a large water mixed with lavender oil.
- Orange Peel – Leftover orange peels work wonders in the case of smelly feet! Place them in your footwear for the next 24 hours and witness the difference. Voila! These act as natural antibacterial agents. Apart from leaving your shoes with a fresh citrus fragrance, they have the wonderful ability to absorb stinky odours.
Newspapers arrest bacterial growth by absorbing moisture present in the footwear. So if you want to dry your shoes overnight, take off the insoles, dry them separately and stack old newspapers in your shoes. Sage is a popular herb that treats excessive sweating and is considered a favourite by menopausal women. So try a fresh Sage supplement to reduce foul odour in your feet.