By Dr. Roman Burk,
Recently we had a birthday party for my teen son. We had around six or seven teen boys over to play some games, football mostly, and then sleep over. They had a great day of play, and when it came time to wind down we had them all come into the living room to watch a movie. They set up their sleeping bags and started to get comfortable, it was at this point that shoes started to come off. Shoe by shoe my home began to smell more and more like a locker room. It was so strong it could make your eyes water! The only escape was my bedroom at the far end of the house. In fact, stinky feet has become such a problem in my house, my wife hung up a sign as you enter our house that says “Absolutely no cleats in the house!” That’s because the hard-used pairs of cleats reek worse than rotten eggs!
Have you ever had such a problem? Perhaps your spouse or children come home from a long day of work or play, and remove their shoes and release a pungent odor into your home. Maybe you yourself are having a problem with stinky feet? The good news is that although foot odor can be overwhelming, and maybe a bit embarrassing; it is usually harmless and easy to treat.
What Causes Stinky Feet?
Stinky feet, foot odor or bromodosis, can affect anyone. The main cause of foot odor is sweat mixed with bacteria on your skin. The feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body. Unlike other parts of the body, these glands secrete sweat all the time, not just in response to exercise and heat.
Most of the moisture secreted by the sweat glands on your feet will evaporate before it can attract bacteria. However, shoes and socks that allow for minimal evaporation are the perfect places for the sweat and bacteria to mingle. At first, the bacteria will stick to the shoes and socks, but after a period the bacteria will stick to the skin and grow in the moist warm atmosphere and the result is; stinky feet.
The main causes of sweaty, stinky feet include:
- Wearing the same shoes every day. Especially if your sweat soaks into the shoes and you wear them again before they can dry.
- Not keeping the feet clean.
- Hormonal changes can cause feet to sweat more, so teenagers and women going through menopause or a pregnancy are especially prone.
- Certain medications, drugs, or alcohol.
- A condition that causes you to sweat more than normal called hyperhidrosis.
How to Prevent Stinky Feet
Keeping your feet clean and dry and not wearing the same pair of shoes every day is the number one way to prevent foul foot odor. Your shoes need to air out at least 24 hours before wearing. You should also wear clean socks every day.
Ways to eliminate persistent foot odor include:
- Spray feet with an antiperspirant. You can use a regular underarm spray, or one specialized for feet.
- Wear socks that are specially made to prevent foot odors and keep feet dry or socks made with natural, breathable fibers such as cotton and wool.
- When you are at home, go barefoot, if you can safely.
- Use a disinfecting spray on your shoes.
- Sprinkle baking soda in your shoes to eliminate odors.
- Wash your shoes or insoles. Some shoes and insoles are washable, make sure that they are completely dry before you wear them.
- Prevent sweating by wearing shoes that aren’t too tight.
- Use medical insoles which have a deodorizing effect.
- Toenails should be kept short and clean, and hard skin on the foot should be removed with a foot file. Hard skin on the feet becomes soggy when damp, opening it up to odor causing bacteria.
When to See a Doctor About Your Stinky Feet
The above tips will usually help prevent stinky feet. However, if you have tried the things above and you still have stinky feet then we recommend you come see us. Keep in mind that some infections, like athlete’s foot, can also cause your feet to smell. Usually, this can be treated with an over the counter antifungal treatment that you can purchase at any pharmacy.
If you have a severe and persistent case of foot odor, then give us a call. Our friendly foot doctors will help you find a solution for stinky feet that will fit your needs.
Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.