Smelly feet (also known as bromodosis) are a common issue that in most cases don’t cause much medical concern. That being said, if you notice that your feet have an unusually unpleasant odor, it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. If you can’t take your shoes off without sending people running for the exit, here are some potential causes to keep in mind.
Why Do Feet Smell?
The most common cause of stinky feet is sweat. Over 250,000 sweat glands are located in the feet, and most people’s feet perspire much more than other parts of the body. When you’re wearing shoes for long periods of time, the sweat gets trapped and the lack of ventilation can lead to some pretty funky socks at the end of the day.
The accumulated moisture from foot sweat also creates a comfortable environment for bacteria to thrive. There are many types of bacteria that feed off of your sweat, creating a foul odor as a byproduct. This dark, damp environment is also an ideal home for bad-smelling fungus, known as athlete’s foot.
Other Contributors to Foot Odor
Smelly feet are a common problem and can affect anybody, but there are certain factors which can make foot odor more likely. People who sweat excessively (a condition called hyperhidrosis) are more likely to have bromodosis. While hyperhidrosis itself isn’t necessarily cause for concern, it can be a symptom of a variety of health issues. Unusually sweaty feet are also more common in women and adolescents who are going through hormonal changes.
While the aforementioned contributors are often beyond your control, there are also lifestyle factors that can affect your likelihood of developing foot odor. Spending a lot of time on your feet or wearing shoes that are too tight or need to be replaced can be components. Hygiene is also key – if you’re not regularly washing your feet, they’re more likely to have a funky smell.
How to Treat Smelly Feet
In most cases, the solution to bromodosis is pretty simple and painless. Here are some things that you can do yourself to combat foot odor:
- Practice Foot Hygiene: Wash your feet daily, drying them thoroughly afterwards. It’s important also to keep your toenails trimmed and file off any dead skin in order to give bacteria and fungus fewer places to grow.
- Wear Clean Socks & Shoes: It’s important to wear a fresh pair of socks every day, if possible one made of a moisture-wicking material to keep your feet dry. Wearing the same pair of shoes every day may also mean they don’t have sufficient time to dry out in between uses, so you may want to consider alternating your footwear from day to day.
- Avoid Memory Foam: There are plenty of shoes and insoles on the market today that incorporate memory foam in their structure. Memory foam often traps moisture like a sponge causing unpleasant shoe and foot odors.
- Go Barefoot at Home: While you shouldn’t venture out into the world without shoes on, it’s not a bad idea to go without them when you can. Going barefoot in the comfort of your own home, especially while sleeping, can help keep your feet dry.
- Soak Your Feet: If your feet are persistently pungent, an epsom salt foot soak may do the trick. Soak your feet in a tub or basin with warm water and epsom salts for 20-30 minutes once or twice a week to remove excess moisture from your skin and reduce foot odor. You can also try warm water soaks with white vinegar. As a natural odor neutralizer, daily white vinegar soaks can help fight unpleasant foot odor. As an added bonus, this may also be helpful for easing foot pain and reducing stress.
Got Stinky Feet? A Podiatrist Can Help.
If foot odor is an ongoing problem for you, Weil Foot and Ankle is here for you. A podiatrist can identify the root causes of your foot odor and help guide you to the right solution, whether that’s passing on hygienic methods, suggesting remedies, or helping you manage an underlying medical condition. Visit our appointment portal to set up an appointment!