Feet can take a person from point A to point B, but they are subject to aches, pains, and smells along the way.
While most people will experience a case of smelly feet from time to time, some people live in fear of taking their shoes off.
The medical term for smelly feet is “bromodosis.” The good news is that many treatments are available to reduce the incidence of the condition.
According to the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, an estimated 16 percent of people ages 21 and older in the United States have reported a problem with foot odor.
This article discusses the best tips for getting rid of smelly feet and the outlook for a person with smelly feet.
Fast facts on smelly feet
Here are some key points about smelly feet. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Bacteria and moisture are the underlying causes of most cases of smelly feet.
- Smelly feet are not usually a medical concern, but they can affect a person’s relationships and cause self-consciousness.
- Bacteria naturally live on people’s feet.
- When the bacteria rid themselves of wastes from breaking down oils and dead skin cells, bad smells can result.
People can take steps to reduce the incidence of smelly feet, such as wearing certain footwear, practicing good foot hygiene, trying home remedies, and, if necessary, consulting a doctor for stronger treatments.
Wearing socks can help address smelly feet and reduce the incidence of sweaty feet. Socks, especially those made from sweat-wicking materials, can absorb sweat and reduce odors.
Socks are also easy to change, and doing so may reduce the odors that may otherwise linger inside a person’s shoes.
Wearing shoes that have some breathability can help reduce the incidence of sweating and moisture. People can look for shoes that have mesh panels, which allow for breathability.
Shoes made from plastic, such as “jellies,” are almost guaranteed to contribute to smelly feet because they are not breathable and promote foot sweating.
Alternating shoes and socks
People should allow shoes time to fully dry out between wears to help cut down on particularly smelly feet.
Wearing one pair of shoes one day and a different pair the next day can give the shoes enough time to dry.
A person may also wish to keep an extra pair of socks on hand to change into during the day. This can help reduce sweating and smell.
People can also replace their shoe insoles with odor-reducing or antibacterial insoles.
Another option is to purchase an antibacterial or disinfecting spray to use on the insoles. However, this option is not usually as effective as allowing the insoles of the shoes to dry out fully.
A range of insoles is available for purchase online.
Exfoliating the feet
People can use a scrub or a pumice stone to remove dead skin cells that bacteria like to feed on.
A person who has especially smelly feet may wish to use a pumice stone 2–3 times each week to avoid buildup. Pumice stones are available for purchase online.
People should also wash their feet every day with antibacterial soap, paying close attention to the areas between the toes.
Soaks are potentially useful as part of an exfoliating routine or on their own.
A person can prepare a bowl or tub of warm water and dissolve 1/2 cup of Epsom salts in it. Soak the feet for 10–20 minutes, and then dry the feet thoroughly.
People may also use additional ingredients such as a Listerine foot soak.
Another type of soak is a vinegar soak. A person can add 2 parts warm water and 1 part vinegar (apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are both suitable) to a tub and soak the feet for 15–20 minutes.
However, a person should not use a vinegar soak if they have any cuts, sores, or scratches, as the vinegar may irritate open areas of skin.
Another remedy a person can use is antiperspirant on the feet. Although traditionally used for the underarms, antiperspirant might also reduce the incidence of excessive sweating on the feet.
One treatment option for a person with smelly feet is a process called iontophoresis. This approach involves delivering a mild electric current to the skin through water for 15–40 minutes, depending on the device, to reduce the incidence of sweating feet.
Another option a person may use in some instances is the injection of botulinum toxin, or Botox. A professional will inject this medication into the feet via a means known as plantar injections.
However, these injections can be especially painful and may not be the most effective option. The results usually last 3–4 months, and a person will require subsequent treatments.
People may also use Botox to address excessive underarm sweating.
When to consult a doctor
If a person suddenly experiences a new onset of smelly feet, they should inspect their feet for signs of sores or cuts that could be infected. They can put a mirror on the floor and examine the bottom of the feet to look for any abnormalities.
A person should see a doctor if they see signs of wounds on their feet. Redness, red streaks, and swelling may be signs of infection. A person should consult a medical professional to address this immediately, especially if they have diabetes, as they may experience complications.
If a person does not have any signs of wounds, over-the-counter and at-home measures should reduce the incidence of smelly feet. A person should not suffer or feel self-conscious as a result their smelly feet, and they should seek medical advice.
Most people may experience smelly feet from time to time due to the shoes they wear. But others may have trouble finding a remedy for smelly feet and, in some cases, may experience excessive sweating.
However, many home remedies can reduce the incidence of the condition, including exfoliation, soaks, and antiperspirants. A medical professional can also administer treatments, such as Botox, to help reduce foot odor.