Smelly feet are a common condition that affects both adults and children who wear shoes frequently. The odor is produced by bacteria and/or fungus that grows in the shoes and attaches to the skin. When mixed with sweat, this produces an unpleasant smell. Hygiene is critical in preventing smelly feet. Feet should be washed daily with soap and water, and clean, dry socks should be worn. Synthetic materials used in shoes can produce smelly feet when mixed with sweat and bacteria.
Good foot hygiene is essential in keeping bacteria levels at a minimum. Wearing thick, soft socks made of cotton and other absorbent materials is advised. Other preventive measures that can help include avoiding nylon socks or plastic shoes and wearing shoes made of leather, canvas, mesh, or other breathable materials. Fungal infections should also be checked for between toes and on the soles of the feet. In case of redness or dry, patchy skin, it’s best to get treatment straight away.
It’s not only your shoes and sweating that cause smelly feet. The feet and hands contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body, with roughly 3,000 glands per square inch. Excessive sweating of the feet or hyperhidrosis can be hereditary and affect men primarily. In general, you can take preventive measures such as changing your socks and shoes regularly, bathing your feet in lukewarm water with a mild soap, and practicing good foot hygiene.
To treat foot odor, you can soak your feet in strong black tea for 30 minutes a day, once a week. The acid in the tea has proven effective in killing bacteria while closing pores, thereby keeping your feet dry for longer. Add two tea bags per pint of water and boil for 15 minutes, then add two quarts of cool water. Soak your feet in the cool solution, or you can choose to soak your feet in a solution of one-part vinegar and two parts’ water.
Persistent foot odor can signal a low-grade infection or severe hyperhidrosis. In such cases, see Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM, who may prescribe a special ointment. When prescribed, apply it to the feet at night, then wrap your feet with an impermeable covering such as kitchen plastic wrap. For those with severe cases of hyperhidrosis, a form of electrolysis called iontophoresis can be effective but requires training to administer. In worse cases, surgeons may opt to cut the nerve that controls sweating, which recent technological advancements have made safer. Nonetheless, increased sweating in other areas of the body may be observed.
In conclusion, foot odor is prevalent and can be a source of embarrassment and physical discomfort. Preventative measures such as good foot hygiene and soaking your feet in black tea or vinegar can help. Persistent foot odor may require a medical evaluation to rule out low-grade infections or severe hyperhidrosis that may need more specialized treatment.