Feet can take a person from point A to point B, but they are subject to aches, pains, and smells along the way.
While most people will experience a case of smelly feet from time to time, some people live in fear of taking their shoes off.
The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis. The good news is that there are many treatments available to reduce the incidence of the condition.
Fast facts on smelly feet
Here are some key points about smelly feet. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- The underlying reason for most cases of smelly feet is bacteria and moisture.
- Smelly feet are not usually a medical concern, but they can affect a person's relationships with others and cause self-consciousness.
- People naturally have bacteria that live on the feet.
- When the bacteria rid themselves of wastes from breaking down oils and dead skin cells, bad smells can result.
Socks and shoes can cause foot sweating, which can worsen smelly feet. There are several steps a person can take to reduce the incidence of smelly feet related to footwear:
Wearing socks at any time can help with smelly feet. Socks, especially those made from sweat-wicking materials, can absorb sweat and reduce odors.
They can also easily be changed, reducing the odors that may otherwise linger inside a person's shoes.
Shoes that have some breathability can help to reduce the incidence of sweating and moisture. People can look for shoes that have mesh panels, which allow for breathability.
Shoes made from plastic (such as "jellies") are almost guaranteed to contribute to smelly feet because they are not breathable and promote foot sweating.
3. Alternating shoes and socks
Allowing shoes time to fully dry out between wears can help to cut down on particularly smelly feet.
Wearing one pair of shoes one day, then another pair the next day, can give the shoes enough time to dry.
A person may also wish to keep an extra pair of socks on hand to change into during the day. This can help to cut down on sweating and smell.
4. Replacing insoles
A person can also switch out their shoe insoles with odor-reducing or antibacterial insoles.
Another option is to purchase an anti-bacterial or disinfecting spray to use on the insoles. However, this option is not usually as effective as allowing the insoles of the shoes to dry out fully.
A range of insoles is available for purchase online.
Excellent foot hygiene is a key factor for treating and preventing smelly feet. This includes washing the feet on a daily basis with antibacterial soap, paying close attention to the areas between the toes.
Other home remedies include:
5. Exfoliating the feet
Using a scrub or pumice stone can help to remove dead skin cells that bacteria like to feed on.
A person that has especially smelly feet may wish to use a pumice stone 2-3 times each week to avoid buildup. Pumice stones are available for purchase online.
6. Salt soak
Soaks are potentially useful as part of an exfoliating routine or just on their own.
Prepare a bowl or tub of warm water and dissolve one-half cup of Epsom salts in it. Soak the feet for 10-20 minutes and then dry the feet thoroughly.
7. Vinegar soak
Add 2 parts warm water and 1 part vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar are both suitable) to a tub and soak the feet for 15-20 minutes.
However, a person should not use a vinegar soak if they have any cuts, sores, or scratches, as the vinegar has the potential to irritate open areas of skin.
Another remedy is to use an antiperspirant on the feet. Although traditionally used for the underarms, applying antiperspirant to the feet might reduce the incidence of sweating.
If necessary, a doctor can write a prescription for stronger antiperspirants suitable for the feet. Another option is to use cornstarch, which is highly absorbent.
Sometimes, despite a person's best efforts, they cannot rid their feet of a strong smell. When this is the case, they may wish to see a doctor about their smelly feet.
One treatment option is a process called iontophoresis. This is an approach that involves delivering a mild electric current through water to the skin to reduce the incidence of sweating feet.
Another option that is used in some instances is the injection of botulinum toxin or Botox. This medication is injected into the feet by a means known as plantar injections.
However, these injections can be especially painful. The results usually last somewhere between 3-4 months, and a person will require subsequent treatments.
Botox has also been used for excessive underarm sweating.
According to the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, an estimated 16 percent of adults aged 21 and above have reported a problem with foot odor.
However, if a person suddenly experiences a new onset of smelly feet, they should inspect their feet for signs of sores or cuts that could be infected.
A person can put a mirror on the floor and examine the bottom of the feet to look for any abnormalities. If their feet do have signs of wounds, a person should see their doctor. If they do not, they can try over-the-counter and at-home measures to reduce the incidence of smelly feet.
If a person's smelly feet and excessive sweating cannot be controlled using home remedies, prescription treatments are available. A person should not suffer or feel self-conscious due to their smelly feet.