How to Get Rid of Stinky Feet
A 5-step plan for curing foot odor
If you have smelly feet, you know it: Every time you let your dogs out (that is, take off your shoes), a stench wafts out.
The official term for stinky feet is bromhidrosis. It goes hand in hand with sweaty feet, aka hyperhidrosis. Together these two foot conditions cause a lot of people embarrassment and grief. According to a 2014 report from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), of the nearly 80 percent of Americans who complain about foot problems, sweaty, odiferous feet bothered 32 percent.
“Smelly feet usually are caused by bacteria and fungus that thrive because the shoe’s moist environment doesn’t allow air to circulate,” explains Ami Sheth, DPM, a podiatrist in Los Gatos, California. Bacteria that normally live on feet multiply in sweaty conditions and feast on dead skin cells and oils, giving off a waste product that produces odors.
According to kidshealth.org, for 10 to 15 percent people with smelly feet, the stink is really bad, thanks to the bacteria Kyetococcus sedentarius. These bugs give off volatile sulfur compounds that smell a bit like rotten eggs.
Excessively sweaty feet often are handed down (no pun intended) from generation to generation. Both stinky and sweaty feet are more common in men than women and occur more often in young adults than older people, according to the APMA.
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Tweens and teens tend to have especially funky feet. “Kids have smelly feet for the same reasons adults do, but because their hygiene isn’t that good, the problem is compounded,” notes Sheth. “Hormonal changes can increase the sweat level for young people,” adds Louis DeCaro, DPM, a podiatrist in West Hatfield, Massachusetts. The tendency some kids have to wear the same pair of socks three days straight doesn’t help.
Bromhidrosis isn’t a health problem, but it won’t win you any popularity contests if you take off your shoes around other people. Take these simple steps to control food odor.
Clean up your act
Use an antibacterial soap on your feet during your daily shower daily, advises the APMA. Be sure to wash between your toes and dry your feet well with a clean towel. Teach kids to do the same.
Take a powder
Cornstarch, foot powder, antifungal powder and even plain baby powder can absorb moisture on feet, says Sheth. Powder also can help mask odor. Rub powder on dry feet and sprinkle a bit into your socks as well. You might also try a spraying the insides of shoes with antiperspirant, suggests DeCaro.
Sock it to 'em
The right socks can make a big difference in foot odor. “Synthetics tend to be occlusive and don’t allow for air movement,” says Sheth. Socks that are 100 percent cotton will absorb sweat and hold it, leaving feet soggy and prone to blisters, fungus and odor. Sheth recommends socks made from a wool blend or a cotton/polyester blend as well as sports socks and those designed for hiking. Be sure to change socks as often as needed, especially after working out.
Flip your footwear
Try not to wear the same pair of shoes day after day. “Alternate them to give them a chance to air out completely,” recommends Sheth. She also suggests setting smelly shoes in direct sunlight. “The heat dries them out and UV light is known to kill fungus and bacteria.” For good measure, you also can spritz the insides of shoes with a disinfectant spray. And if shoes or insoles are washable, by all means toss them in the laundry. Make sure they’re thoroughly dry before wearing them.
Keep your shoes to yourself
This is especially important for kids who love to swap clothing. Discourage them from walking in each others’ shoes. The same goes for towels. Sharing either could transfer bacteria from one person’s feet to another, according to kidshealth.org.
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