Have you ever noticed your feet smelling bad? If you say no, you’re probably lying. Let’s face it. We’re all human, and we’ve all been turned away by the stench of our own feet at some point. You get home after a long, hard day at work, kick off your shoes and…run straight to the shower because you can’t stand the distinct, cheese-like aroma that your tootsies are emitting. So what exactly causes this nauseating smell, and how can you avoid it in the future?
What causes foot odor?
The primary cause for that oh-so-familiar foot odor is poor ventilation and sweat build up. As you go throughout your day in your non-breathable shoes, your feet begin to sweat. Instead of that sweat drying up and dissipating, it sticks around, lingering and cultivating a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. One particular bacteria, brevibacterium, is responsible for the potent cheesy stench that your feet develop after a day spent in your non-porous shoes and is actually used in the creation process of a few types of fancy cheese such as Munster.
Rather than blaming the sweat for your foot odor, blame the bacteria and fungi that thrive on the sweat and multiply, creating an odor that could literally knock someone’s socks off. High stress, emotional disturbances, tight socks, and poorly defined shoes can all contribute to the growth of bacteria and the smell.
Believe it or not, the stench wafting from your feet can actually tell you a lot about your health. Clearly, if it smells like cheese or “off” vinegar or cabbage, you likely have a bacteria buildup. But did you know that a grape or bread-like odor could actually be one of the first signs of a fungal infection? If you notice that the scent of your feet has changed to something unusual, consult with your doctor to rule out a potentially dangerous fungal infection.
How to get rid of foot odor
Wear breathable shoes
If you have a job where you wear dress shoes made of leather or another non-breathable fabric, consider buying a pair of breathable shoes that look similar to fit into the dress code of your office but still allow air to get to your feet.
Change up your shoes
When you wear the same shoes each day, they don’t have time to dry out, creating the perfect, moist environment for the stinky bacteria to live in. Even if you have breathable shoes, they can still retain moisture, especially if you are wearing them all day every day. Try rotating between a few pairs of shoes to give your feet and your shoes a rest.
As the weather cools down, you are likely starting to trade in your sandals for more season-appropriate shoes like tennis shoes and boots. If you notice an uptick in your foot odor throughout the summer, it is likely linked to the sudden foot-trapping that your feet are going through. Always wear clean, absorbent socks and change them once per day, especially if you notice them getting damp and stinky. Natural fibers like cotton work the best to keep moisture at bay. Changing your socks twice daily will also help protect your shoes and keep them from absorbing the sweat. After all, it’s much easier to wash socks than shoes.
Clean your feet well
How often do you simply let the water and soap run over your feet in the shower without actually scrubbing them? You’d be surprised how many stinky foot issues can be solved by improving your extremity hygiene and giving your feet a good scrub with soap every day. Be sure to dry thoroughly (especially between your toes) with a towel after you wash them, as any lingering moisture could lead to bacterial growth.
Other ways to prevent foot odor:
- Use a pumice stone to remove dry, dead skin
- Clip your toenails often to keep them short and clean under them with a nail brush regularly
- Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to your feet every night with a cotton ball to help dry them out
- Go barefoot indoors when possible
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Junk food can impact and increase foot odor
- Attempt to cut stressors out of your life
- Try an over the counter foot deodorant or antiperspirant
Here’s to better smelling feet!