Smelly feet, technically known as “bromhidrosis,” are a fact of life, especially in winter when you have been in socks and shoes all day. Simply washing and drying your feet, while helpful, won’t necessarily take care of the problem. That’s because foot odour is caused by bacteria that breed in wet or moist environments on and around the feet; once your feet start to sweat again, the odour may reappear–especially if you slip them back into the same footwear that contributed to the smell to start with.
Can home remedies get rid of the foul odour?
There’s very little scientific evidence to support the use of home remedies for foot odour or for any other foot condition. Some strategies might work for some people, even if those strategies aren’t proven. However, certain remedies require caution because they involve potentially caustic substances, such as bleach. And in all cases, it’s important to focus not only on the feet, but the environment. This means shoes, socks and surfaces with which the feet come into contact.
Here’s a look at some popular home remedies for foot odour:
Antiperspirant deodorant: The ingredients work the same way on the soles of the feet as they do when applied under the arms, so although no studies support its use, some people do find applying underarm deodorant to the feet reduces odour.
Baking soda/corn starch: Both do reduce foot odour for many people, although again, there is no research to support their efficacy. Remember to change your socks and shoes after applying it. Adding either to your shoes may help absorb additional moisture where germs can breed.
Disinfecting shoes: Using a household cleaning/disinfecting agent in your shoes could help because the bacteria responsible for foot odour often live in shoes.
Salt soak: No clinical research suggests this soak is effective in preventing foot odour; however, salt has a drying effect on the skin and, by reducing moisture, it may have some benefit. People who use this approach say kosher salt is made of larger crystals than regular table salt, and tends to dissolve better in water.
Lemon juice mixed with water: Several studies show that lemon juice has antibacterial properties. It is also an astringent that can help to remove dead skin from the feet. No studies specifically show this approach prevents foot odour, but many people find it helpful.
Talcum powder: Like baking soda, talcum powder helps absorb excess moisture that can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Scented powder can also disguise odours in shoes and on the feet. Again, there are no studies confirming this, but no harm in trying.
Tea soak: The tannic acid in tea acts as an astringent, meaning it cleans and dries the skin and contracts the pores. However, if you put clean feet back into dirty socks and shoes, the odour is likely to recur.
Many articles on the Internet give specific formulas for using these approaches. But since there is no clinical evidence that they are effective, keep in mind that what works for one person might not work for another.
The best year-round strategy for preventing foot odour and other foot conditions is to keep your feet and footwear clean; change socks daily or more often if you are active; rotate shoes every few days; and inspect your feet daily for signs of sores, cuts, cracks and itchiness between the toes, which could indicate athlete’s foot.
If foot conditions persist or if you have diabetes or another condition that affects blood flow to the feet, see The Podiatrist. We have an extensive range of products that can help you with foot odour.
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What if you feet sweat and burn profusely? You wash them every day and change socks/shoes several times a day. You have tried every athlete’s foot remedy at doctor’s advice, and nothing works. What could this be?
This is a common problem seen during the winter months, especially in teenage boys. The hormones are working overtime, they are in thick socks and lace-up shoes for school and their feet are getting wet from the rain . Not to mention when they are playing rugby or soccer- the socks and boots get soaked.
Plantar hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessively sweaty feet. It is a common problem and rarely linked to any underlying disease.
It can be a significant problem, interfering with a person’s quality of life. Sweaty feet can become a breeding ground for bacteria and lead to significant foot odour as well as fungal skin infections that lead to a burning sensation of the feet.
The skin of the human foot can make more sweat per square inch than the skin of any other part of the body. This is because the skin of the foot has more
sweat glands per square inch than the skin of any other body part.
Moisture accumulation is most commonly associated with heating of the foot and poor ventilation of the shoe. In addition, it is normal for dead skin cells
to exfoliate or slough from the skin constantly.
The skin of the feet is no different from the skin of the rest of the body except that dead skin cells from the feet accumulate with sweat in a closed area. In this environment, fungi and bacteria that are usually present are able to grow and thrive. This overgrowth can lead to foul odours and burning.
Most foot fungi reside on the soles of the foot and between the toes. This is where one would expect most of the burning to be localized. Burning and itching of the feet is most likely due to skin infection with fungi.
This is more severe than the fungi simply being on the skin surface and is commonly referred to as athlete’s foot or Tinea Pedis. The skin can look relatively normal to the untrained eye.
Consider seeing a podiatrist to verify the diagnosis. For many there will be benefit from weeks of treatment with topical anti-fungal medication. Some will need prescription oral anti-fungal agents.
Stinky feet are caused by overgrowth of bacteria. Interestingly, a skilled diagnostician can identify the type of bacteria from the smell. Cheesy smells are linked to specific types of bacteria, vinegarlike smells to others and rotten garbage smells to yet other bacteria.
Some people report that a change in diet, while not affecting sweating, can reduce foot odour. They recommend a diet lower in processed carbohydrates and
higher in complex carbohydrates and higher in proteins.
Common measures should be taken to treat excessive sweating of the feet:
• Wash the feet daily with warm water and an antibacterial soap. Dry the feet thoroughly with a dry and soft cotton towel, especially between the toes.
• Use a shoe spray designed to reduce the smell and accumulation of bacteria and fungi. In severe cases, a trial of an underarm antiperspirant sprayed or
applied to the feet is reasonable.
• Use foot powder to dry the feet. • Wear thick socks, so they can absorb and wick away the moisture and help ventilate the feet.
• Use 100% cotton or 100% wool socks. Avoid, synthetic socks and stockings (polyester or nylon) as they can worsen the problem.
• Change socks several times a day.
• Wear shoes with adequate ventilation. Avoid plastic or nylon shoes. When not wearing shoes, let them air out in an area where dry air is circulating.
Serious problems that can cause excessive sweating and burning of the feet include diabetes with diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. A
physician can easily exclude these diagnoses.
Please consult a Podiatrist or other medical professional before undertaking any self diagnosis or treatment.