How to Overcome Stinky Feet

It requires a strategic plan of attack—and lots of socks!

Let’s face it: Smelly feet suck. We’ve all dated someone whose feet literally reek or experienced the shock of sniffing a teenager’s running shoe. One person I know stocks up on multiple packs of Odor-Eaters insoles and replaces them in her son’s shoes each week. Another leaves her husband’s sneakers outside…in winter. Or in the freezer. She is on a mission to destroy all odour-causing bacteria that has taken up residence.

Chronic foot odour is fairly common.

Though teenagers and pregnant women are most at risk due to raging hormones, people who work on their feet, wear tight shoes or sweat excessively in general can also have smelly feet.

The odour occurs when bacteria and millions of sweat glands in your feet get together. Because you’re in closed footwear, sweat mixes with bacteria and produces the smell.

Other conditions that can cause foot odour are calluses and corns, outcroppings of skin that can get wet in poorly insulated or non-breathable footwear. And, of course, there’s foot fungus, which infects toenails, leaving them discoloured and flaking, and produces its own pungent aroma.

The good news? Chronic food odour can be overcome. The bad news? It takes a targeted campaign and consistency. If you fall off the wagon, your feet will be right back to where you started. (Plus, here are some other sneaky reasons behind your body odour.)

The first step is to keep bacteria at bay any way you can.

One approach is to go the holistic route and soak your feet in vinegar every night to benefit from its astringent and antiseptic properties. Another solution is to apply diluted tea tree oil or antifungal cream between your toes before going to bed at night. Tea tree oil will kill bacteria very effectively, though its strong medicinal scent may have your family wondering if the original foot odour was better. Rubbing alcohol between your toes can also kill bugs.

If you have calluses or corns, you can treat them with over-the-counter ointments available at your local drugstore or have them shaved off. For toenail fungus, apply an antifungal nail lacquer or get an oral prescription from your doctor to kill the fungus.

If you can’t beat foot odour, you can always mask it.

That’s where antiperspirant sprays come in. These deodorants for your feet work by keeping them dry. You spray them between your toes and on the bottom of your feet at the start of each day. Antimicrobial shoe sprays—think bowling alleys—can also be effective.

Buying lots of moisture-wicking socks can also prevent bacteria from building up. Podiatrists recommend non-cotton socks, such as merino wool, to keep your feet dry. Wearing leather-lined shoes rather than plastic ones can prevent your feet from sweating excessively. If you have to wear sneakers, choose insoles that contain odour-absorbing charcoal. Invest in several pairs of shoes that you can rotate to allow them to dry between wearings.

And forget about storing your smelly shoes in a dark closet, where they will likely sprout a mushroom or two. Instead, leave them in a cool or, better yet, cold environment, such as your fridge. Just a word of caution: Make sure those smelly shoes are wrapped in plastic—otherwise, that’s just plain gross.

Now that you’ve learned how to get rid of stinky feet, learn what to do if you can’t stop passing gas.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada