When someone around you struggles with foot odor, you notice. All he or she has to do is slip off their shoes and the unpleasant aroma wafts to everyone nearby. If you are the one with the problem, this can be a particularly embarrassing experience. No one enjoys the scent. You may try to avoid removing your shoes around your friends, so you don’t make everyone uncomfortable. Fortunately, there is hope. You don’t have to be doomed to suffer with smelly feet.
The Sweaty Problem
Smelly feet are sweaty feet. Foot odor is caused by your sweat interacting with the bacteria that naturally live on the surface of your lower limbs. You have roughly 3,000 sweat glands per square inch on your feet, more than anywhere else on your body. These can excrete a pint of moisture on a daily basis. Certain colonies of bacteria living on your feet “eat” the proteins and amino acids that are excreted in your sweat. When they do this, however, they release gasses–this causes the foul smell.
The effect is particularly bad when your feet are locked in socks and shoes all day, where the moisture can’t evaporate easily. The sweaty bacteria become trapped in your footwear and continue to multiply, especially if you leave your shoes in a dark, damp place where they can’t dry out. Every time you re-wear footwear that hasn’t completely dried from the previous days’ sweat, you re-expose your feet to the old moisture and microorganisms. Over time, this compounds the odor and leaves you with embarrassingly smelly feet and shoes, so learn how to prevent it.
De-Scenting the Lower Limbs
Eliminating foot odor can be done with some simple tricks and a little foot care. The key is keep your feet and your shoes clean and dry. Wash your feet with soap and water every day. Make sure you dry them completely—including in between your toes—with a towel. You may want to rub your feet in deodorant or antiperspirant once they are clean. Wear fresh, moisture-wicking socks each day, and change them several times if you sweat excessively. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Instead, let each pair dry out for a day or so before their next use.
Try washing especially smelly shoes on occasion. Some sneakers can be machine washed; others need to be treated by hand. Then let them dry out for several days before wearing them again. Stuffing shoes with newspaper after wearing them helps pull the moisture out of the material and eliminates some smell. You may need to sprinkle baking powder or other odor-eating products into your shoes at night, then shake it out in the morning, to help absorb foul scents.
Some people’s feet sweat excessively, or have a particularly unpleasant bacteria that smell worse than normal, making it much harder to combat foot odor. Pequest Foot and Ankle Specialists can examine your lower limbs and determine if you naturally excrete more fluid, have this microorganism, or have developed an underlying issue like an infection that is influencing the problem. Our expert staff can recommend products to help combat sweat and stink. Various creams, sprays, and powders can discourage perspiration and unpleasant odors. Occasionally a procedure called iontophoresis is used to “shut off” overactive sweat glands.
You don’t have to be embarrassed by your feet. Foot odor is unpleasant for everyone, but it isn’t inevitable. A little care and simple smell-control techniques can help eliminate bad smells and restore your feet. Pequest Foot and Ankle Specialists can help you determine the most effective treatments for you your unique needs, as well as remedy any other conditions that may be contributing. Don’t lock your feet in your shoes. Contact our Belvidere, NJ office for an appointment or more information by calling (908) 475-8750 or filling out of the online contact page.