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THE FACTS ON FOOT ODOR & SWEAT:

WHAT IS FOOT ODOR & SWEAT?

Smelly and sweaty feet can be an embarrassing problem, but if you suffer from them you’re not alone. They are common problems affecting adults and children on a daily basis. It’s not unexpected that you may occasionally suffer from sweaty feet. Your feet have over 250,000 densely-packed sweat glands, and bacteria – when aided by the presence of moisture from sweat- are the primary source of stinky feet.

When you have sweaty feet, the excess foot perspiration soaks the lining of your shoes and socks. This creates an environment for bacteria to feed off the dead skin cells from your feet and grow, which causes a bad odor. These bacteria can also spread and thrive inside your shoes, leading to shoe odor.

WHAT CAUSES SMELLY FEET?

Sweaty feet, and the bacteria that feed on it, are the biggest cause of foot odor.

People who wear poorly ventilated shoes, synthetic or non-leather boots, or non-wicking socks made of polyester or nylon may be more likely to have persistent foot odor.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to sweating (also called hyperhidrosis). This means you produce a high level of sweating which may contribute to you experiencing smelly feet year-round and not just in the hot summer months.

HOW TO PREVENT SMELLY FEET?

The easiest way to prevent sweaty and smelly feet is through some simple lifestyle changes:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry: Wash your feet every day with soap and water, and dry thoroughly between your toes.
  • Wear shoes made of natural materials: Leather and other natural fabrics “breathe” better than synthetics.
  • Wear socks made of wool, acrylic, or polypropylene: These fabrics help wick moisture away from your skin.
  • Rotate your shoes: Change them daily to give each pair a chance to dry out before you wear them again.
  • Change your socks often: Changing them daily, or even more, helps keep your skin dry.
  • Change your insoles regularly: If they become moist, bacteria and fungus can thrive in them.
  • Air out your feet: Go barefoot when you can.

HOW TO GET RID OF FOOT ODOR?

Treatments and home remedies for smelly feet include:

You should see a doctor about foot odor and wetness if:

  • It disrupts your daily activities.
  • You suddenly begin sweating more than usual.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to get rid of smelly feet

Having smelly feet is not a disease but usually a matter of poor hygiene coupled with dead skin cells from the foot not being properly exfoliated. There are several ways to help stop smelly feet and prevent foot odor. Here’s what to do for smelly feet:

  • Keep your feet clean by thoroughly washing them every day. Wash between your toes, clean under the nails and use a pumice stone or scrub to exfoliate thickened skin.
  • Avoid wearing the same shoes you wore the day before. Give your shoes a chance to air out. Be sure to air out your feet regularly as well by going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes when you can.
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks to reduce sweat.
  • Use deodorant foot sprays or powders to neutralize and stop foot odor.

How to stop sweaty feet

Your feet have a high amount of sweat and moisture that comes through the skin every day – almost 200 ml per day. There are a number of ways to prevent the feeling of sweaty feet:

  • Wear breathable or open-toed shoes that allow the feet to air out. Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes that don’t ventilate.
  • Choose moisture-wicking socks that draw sweat away from the skin.
  • Use absorbent foot powders or sprays to eliminate sweat.

Some people may feel that they sweat excessively and may need to see their healthcare provider who can advise them on what to do for sweaty feet. This condition is called hyperhidrosis for which there are treatments available including:

  • Prescription antiperspirant – Doctors can prescribe antiperspirants that are indicated for use to control sweating, including sweating of the feet.
  • Botox injections – While Botox is only FDA-approved for excessive sweating under the arms, some doctors may also consider its use in other areas such as the soles of the feet. Botox injections can help prevent sweat glands from activating. Several injections may be necessary to reduce sweaty feet and the results may only last a few months.
  • Iontophoresis – This treatment involves sitting with the feet in a tray of water. Low levels of electrical current then pass through the water. Although it’s not fully understood how the procedure works, it’s believed that the electrical currents can help temporarily block sweat glands. The process needs to be repeated several times a week. Iontophoresis machines are available for use at home.
  • Prescription medications – Oral and topical prescription medications called anticholinergics can be prescribed to help stop the activation of sweat glands.
  • Surgery – Your doctor may recommend surgery to cut the nerves that are responsible for triggering the sweat glands. This is extreme and should be carefully discussed with your physician.

What causes sweaty feet?

The most common cause of foot odor is the activity of bacteria on the feet living on the dead skin cells of the foot and producing odors. To be active, bacteria need a food source and water and so sweat production can help create a favorable environment for bacteria and allow them to proliferate. Heat, stress and exercise can also increase sweat production. Sweat can get trapped in shoes, causing odors to linger on the feet.

How to get rid of foot odor in shoes

There are a number of ways to help eliminate daily bothersome foot odor in shoes:

  • Let your shoes air out after you’ve worn them and try not to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row.
  • Wash your shoes regularly if possible. Check with the manufacturer to determine if your shoes are washable. Shoes can often be washed by hand or in the washing machine using a laundry bag. If you use insoles, remove the insoles and wash them separately. Thoroughly air dry both your shoes and insoles separately, preferably in the sun.
  • Consider using odor-fighting insoles with your shoes to get rid of bad foot odor.
  • Sprinkle odor-absorbing powder on your shoes, insoles and socks to treat smelly feet. You can also use deodorant foot sprays to help get rid of smelly shoes and feet.

Why are my feet always cold and sweaty?

Excessive sweating may be an indication of a condition called hyperhidrosis. While it’s normal for the feet to be sweatier than other areas of the body due to an abundance of sweat glands, some people experience profuse and abnormal sweating. Since sweating cools the body through evaporation, sweaty feet often feel cold to the touch. In some cases, cold and/or exceptionally sweaty feet may be an indication of a medical condition that requires attention. Be sure to see your doctor if your cold and sweaty feet are interfering with daily life or if your symptoms appeared suddenly with no explanation.

Why are my hands and feet sweaty?

Compared to other areas of the body, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet have the most sweat glands. This can cause sweaty hands and feet. Hot weather, exercise and stress can also lead to increased sweat production. Some people find that their hands and feet are always sweaty. This may be caused by a condition called hyperhidrosis which causes abnormal sweat production that’s not always linked to heat, exercise or stress.