Why do your feet smell?
Having smelly feet can be more than just an annoyance. It can be embarrassing, depending on the occasion, whether at a job interview, a baby shower or even on a first date.
So why do some people’s feet smell so bad?
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that your feet can sweat up to half a pint each day. While you might not generally think about your feet unless there is an issue, they are fundamental to your everyday life, especially if you are an active adult.
Dr. Jill Austin, a podiatrist at Advocate Medical Group in Aurora, Ill., says smelly feet are primarily due to feet sweat. There are 250,000 sweat glands in your feet, and bacteria also live on the feet’s surface. When bacteria combine with sweat, the particles break down, which can cause a “not so sweet” smell.
Dr. Austin offers these tips to keep your feet smelling good:
- Keep your feet clean. In order to eliminate the bacteria and reduce odor, it’s important to wash your feet regularly, one to two times a day, with soap. Sometimes, applying a prescription antibiotic cream or taking a prescribed pill may also be necessary. You should speak with your physician if you are experiencing more severe issues that require this form of treatment.
- Wash your shoes and socks. In order to reduce the moisture in your shoes, Dr. Austin recommends spraying disinfectant inside after you wear them to kill bacteria. This may not work for all footwear and should be tested on a small area to ensure you don’t damage nice shoes. Regularly washing anything you wear on your feet is a key component to getting rid of odor-causing bacteria.
- Choose your footwear wisely. Wearing open shoes like sandals or flip flops allows air onto the feet, which gets rid of sweat and can limit bacteria. If open shoes aren’t possible, leather and canvas are the next best option because they allow your feet to breathe more than other materials. It’s also important to rotate your shoes and let them “air out.” When you wear the same shoes every day, moisture and bacteria is not able to dissipate, says Dr. Austin.
- Cut toenails regularly. When your nails are too long, they can harbor bacteria, which can lead to an unpleasant odor.
- Reduce the moisture content of the skin on your feet. Since sweating is the main culprit in the foot odor battle, reducing the moisture content can go a long way. Dr. Austin recommends using topical soaks or foot antiperspirants every night before going to bed for two weeks. Once the odor has subsided, she says you can reduce these treatments to once or twice a week.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.