Smelly Feet and Foot Odor

The feet and hands contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body, with roughly 3,000 glands per square inch.  When we sweat/perspire we produce not only moisture, but also a variety of natural skin oils. 

Why do feet smell: 1) The interaction between the perspiration and the bacteria that live on our skin generates the odor. 2) since we are a shoe wearing society, there is a tendency for perspiration and skin oils to accumulate in our shoes.  3) eventually, the bacteria that live on our skin also colonize the inside of our shoes. 4) if we tend to wear the same shoes, day after day, they never get to dry out sufficiently, and essentially turn into an incubator for whatever was carried into the shoe.  5) if one tends to wear shoes without socks, the situation is made worse.  A sock is meant to absorb the day's perspiration, then get washed.  Without socks, all the perspiration of the given day is deposited within the shoe, and accumulates from day to day.  That aromatic  brew of accumulated moisture, skin oils, and your own particular mix of bacteria, then resides in the shoe, and awaits for your bare foot to join the party.  Even if your clean foot, fresh from the shower, goes into a shoe like that, it is likely to smell, when it comes out.

 Excessive sweating, that can lead to sweaty feet,  can also be caused by an inherited condition, called hyperhidrosis, in which excessive sweating of the hands and feet occurs all the time.

In general, smelly feet can be controlled with a few preventive measures and the  Practice of good foot hygiene, to keep bacteria levels at a minimum.

  • Always wear socks with shoes.
  • Change socks and shoes at least once a day.
  • Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Give your shoes at least 24 hours to air out between wearing.
  • Avoid wearing nylon socks or plastic shoes.  Socks should be absorbent, but not necessarily only cotton.
  • Bathe the feet daily, and dry thoroughly.  This means do more than let shower water run off your body and onto your feet.  Wash your feet with soap and water, as you would wash your hands before meal. 
  • Dust your feet frequently with a baby powder or foot powder, it will help absorb additional moisture.
  • Periodically, mist the inside of your shoes with a surface disinfectant such as Lysol.  Do this in the evening so that the disinfectant can evaporate overnight.  This last recommendation may not be for everyone, people with multiple skin allergies should be cautious.


Treating Foot Odor

If a severe and persistent odor is still present, or comes back, despite ongoing good foot hygiene, you may have a foot infection.  You should contact your podiatrist, who is familiar with the types of infections and bacteria, that are frequently implicated in this condition.


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