7 Causes of Foot Odor And Helpful Prevention Tips.

Excessive feet sweating

When we say foot odor, you can probably imagine several situations when you felt an unpleasant smell coming from feet and shoes. When it happens occasionally, and the odor is caused by an all-day trip in heavy shoes or a football match, it is understandable, and you don’t need to pay attention to it. But for those who fight against foot odor every day, it is a nightmare. In this article, you will know several causes of foot odor and useful tips on how to prevent smelly feet. But before that, we are going to say a little about how foot odor arises.


Why Do We Have Foot Odor?

Body odor varies from person to person. Some people experience smell mostly in armpits, or other areas, but the most smelly part of the body is usually the feet. There are several factors that affect how much we smell and how fast the smell appear. Before describing them, we need to understand how the body (and foot) odor arise. 

Body odor comes from a reaction between sweat and skin bacteria. The sweat itself is odorless, but when it reaches the skin and meets bacteria naturally occurring on the skin, an unpleasant smell is released.  It means the problem with body odor and stinky feet is usually affected by a disorder in sweating mechanism or by an excessive amount of mentioned bacteria. 

Related: How to Reduce Body Odor? Causes And Prevention Tips.


Causes of Smelly Feet

1. Excessive feet sweating 

What causes foot odor?We already know that foot odor is a result of perspiration and bacterial environment on our skin. The more we sweat, the more we tend to experience foot odor. We have about half a million sweat glands on our feet, and every foot produces about half a liter of sweat per day. The most sweat is produced by the front part of the feet. 

The amount of these glands actually depends on how big the feet are. A young girl with small feet has logically fewer sweat glands than a two meters tall basketball player. Another fact is that an amount of sweat per glands varies from person to person. Genetics, age, sex, and health condition affect how much we do sweat.

People with increased perspiration level on their feet, also known as plantar hyperhidrosis, usually experience foot odor. Besides foot odor, abnormal feet sweating can lead to other complications, such as fungus or skin irritations. If you want to get rid of foot odor and you know that your feet sweat profusely, the first step should be to prevent this sweating. Later we are going to say how to do it.

2. Bacteria

Skin bacteria and foot odor
Staphylococcus epidermidis micrograph

Skin bacteria are a natural part of human flora. These diverse communities of bacteria, also called skin microbiota, are harmless and even beneficial in the fight against microbes. According to one study, skin bacteria help immune cells to get rid of harmful microorganism. But they also play the main role in body odor.

Brevibacteria is considered the main culprit of smelling feet. While ingesting dead skin from feet, amino acid methionine is converted into methanethiol, which is a very unpleasant smelling gas. Propionibacteria and Staphylococcus epidermis are another trigger of foot odor.

3. Fungus

Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is another condition that can cause smelly feet. It is a fungal infection that can be transferred by direct contact with other person or by touching contaminated surfaces such as showers, dressing rooms, or a floor around swimming pools. Treating of this infection will also reduce foot odor.

4. Hygiene

Poor hygiene usually leads to increase body odor, not only in feet. Take a shower every day and during summer and hot days even more. If you tend to foot odor, wash your feet properly with an antibacterial soup a few times a day. Don’t forget to places between fingers, because these are a favorite place for bacteria. There are also many cosmetics specially designed for smelly feet. 

Related: Stop Feet Sweating! Try One of the 7 Best Antiperspirants For Feet.

5. Medications

Some people can notice an increased foot odor when they start to use a new medicament. This is usually caused by a higher level of perspiration caused by the drug. And we know that more sweat usually means higher body odor.

If this is happening to you, visiting a doctor is the best solution. A physician can prescribe an alternative drug without sweating as a side effect. In general, it is tricky to say which medicaments affect excessive sweating because everybody metabolizes medicines differently due to genetics and health condition. But there are some groups of medicaments that are related to profuse perspiration such as antidepressant, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain killers.

6. Diseases and health condition

In the article 14 illnesses that cause sweating, we described how some health conditions and illnesses affect sweating mechanism. Besides Hypoglycemia, Hyperthyroidism, and other diseases, there are also some conditions, such as pregnancy, menopause, that usually lead to increased sweating and body odor.  

7. Wearing

The most obvious cause of foot odor is a lack of feet ventilation due to poor-quality shoes and socks. Those who experience smelly feet should use breathable footwear and change shoes more often. There are also many brands dealing with quality socks made of antibacterial and moisture-wicking fabrics. 


How to Prevent Stinky Feet

How to prevent stinky feetKeeping clean and dry feet is good not only for people with smelly feet but for everybody. Regular foot care is critical, especially for those with a strong foot odor. These tips will help you to prevent foot odor as well as fungal infections and other skin irritations. 

  1. Wash your feet with an antibacterial soap once a day and more often during the summer and after physical activity.
  2. Regularly cut your toenails.
  3. If your feet have hard and dead skin, remove it with a foot file.
  4. Use quality socks. There are several brands producing socks made of antibacterial fabrics. These has also better ability to absorb moisture and keep your skin on feet dry.
  5. Change socks minimally once a day.
  6. Prefer breathable footwear and try to change pairs of shoes once a day. When it is warm outside, consider wearing sandals or other open shoes.
  7. Use a foot odor products designed for stinky feet such as antifungal sprays, foot deodorants, and antiperspirants. In the article Stop Feet Sweating! Try one of the 7 Best Antiperspirants For Feet you can find strong over-the-counter antiperspirant that dramatically lowers sweat on your feet.
  8. Consider home remedies for smelly feet such as baking soda or sage bath.


What is Bromodosis

Bromodosis is a medical term for extreme foot odor. People with this condition have a problem with stinky feet daily, and the smell can be horrible not only for them but also for people around. We don’t need to tell you how bothering is this issue for their social and personal life. Whether you belong to patients with bromodosis, or you just experience foot odor occasionally, you should know possible reasons why this is happening. When you know the real cause, you can better manage it.


When to Visit a Doctor?

When you already tried most of the ways on how to reduce foot odor, but it is still there, you should consider visiting a pediatrician. He/she can make some test to find out the amount of sweat and bacterial activity on your feet. These days, there are several effective treatments for excessive feet sweating. Strong over-the-counter antiperspirants can be very beneficial for foot odor sufferers, but the most recommended treatment is iontophoresis, which is a medical device designed for treating sweaty feet and hands. Here you can find more information about this method. 

4 Comments on “7 Causes of Foot Odor And Helpful Prevention Tips.”

  1. I never thought being an athlete could cause so much smelling for one’s feet. Wow! This is great to know of. Though I must say, I think the reason an athlete’s feet can stick so badly is due to constantly wearing the same pair of kits without properly taking care of them. Being a football player myself, anytime I’m done with a match, I dread removing my kits due to the smell. However, I learnt some few tips that would help counter that through this post. Thanks

    1. You are right, RoDarrick! A proper shoe care and regular change of shoes are the first things you should do If you want to reduce foot odor. Many people with excessive odor usually try some treatment, such as deodorants, antiperspirants or iontophoresis, but they underestimate a common habits and hygiene.

  2. Hi

    What an interesting article on foot odor and tips on how to prevent them. I personally do not suffer from bad odor from my feet but one friend of mine has such a strong smell that a cheese factory will not smell as bad. It must be difficult if your feet small bad and am sure these people are searching high and low to find a cure to their problem. Your article goes into depth about this dreadful condition. I will pass it to my friend, who will more than likely get some benefit from it.

    Thank you


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