Foot Odor—Dealing with Embarrassing Scents

It may take a few minutes to notice the smell, but once you or others do, it’s embarrassing for everyone. You slip off your footwear and then, wafting through the air, is that unpleasant scent of old shoes and smelly feet. For anyone who struggles with foot odor, you understand how embarrassing social situations where you must remove your shoes can be. Fortunately, you don’t have to be doomed to suffer from odorous lower limbs and footwear.

The Source of Odor Problems

The sour scent clings to your feet and your footwear. It is caused by sweat mixing with the bacteria on the surface of your skin. According the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management (AAPPM), your feet have roughly 3,000 sweat glands per square inch. Your lower limbs can sweat a pint of moisture every day.

Perspiration itself has no smell, but it mixes with the bacteria that naturally occurs on your skin. The microorganisms are there to help dispose of waste, especially any proteins and amino acids that you excrete in your sweat. As the bacteria gets caught up in the moisture and begins breaking it down, they release an odor. Your socks and shoes are perfect places for the sweat and microorganisms to mix, trapping the odor in your socks and shoes. The more your feet sweat, the worse the problem becomes. Then when you slip off your shoes, you and everyone around you can smell the result.

Improving the Smell

Eliminating foot odor is two-fold: you need to reduce foot sweat and get rid of the build-up in your shoes. Wash your feet every day with soap and water, then dry them completely. Try to let your feet “breathe” in open air with your shoes off frequently, too. Dr. Victoria Melhuish may recommend products you can use to help reduce sweating as well. Over-the-counter products like antiperspirant deodorant can work. For excessive sweating, however, you may need medical creams or ointments. Therapies like iontophoresis may also help.

Wear moisture-wicking socks and change them daily as well. You may need to use multiple pairs of socks throughout the day if activities make your feet sweat excessively, like they can for athletes. Choose breathable shoes that let air circulate around your feet. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes multiple days in a row—they need time to dry out between uses. Wash out your footwear periodically to eliminate the built-up moisture and bacteria. For daily improvement, sprinkle odor-eating products like baking soda or kitty litter into your shoes for the night, then shake it out in the morning. Newspaper, orange peels, and odor-eaters that you get at pharmacies also work well.

You don’t have to let smelly feet keep you embarrassed to remove your shoes at a friend or neighbor’s house. Foot odor is unpleasant, but there are things you can do about it. Here at Sierra Foot & Ankle, we can help you find the best solutions to eliminate the smell and let you enjoy your feet again. Contact our Carson City, Nevada office for an appointment or more information by calling (775) 783-8037 or by filling out the online contact form.