Smelly feet is an embarrassing problem and while a bad foot odour is difficult to avoid, it does not affect everyone. Understanding why some people have smelly feet yet others don’t is the first step to treating and preventing the problem. Foot odour is usually a result of sweat (perspiration) but other factors complicate the situation and contribute to a foul odour.
Causes of Smelly Feet
The feet perspires just like other areas of the body. Some people have a bad smelling body odour as a result of sweat – this is known as bromhidrosis. The enclosed area around the feet when you wear closed shoes just makes the feet more hot and sweaty and aggravates the problem. If you have a high concentration of bacteria and fungi living in the area, then this will further exacerbate the bad odour.
The body’s sweat is not just water. It contains a range of waste substances like urea, which is the same chemical present in our urine. Bacteria and fungi that live on the skin will break down the products of sweat and even consume some dead skin and produce offensive smelling gas as a byproduct.
Using certain shoes and socks may make the problem worse. Some types of leather have a strange odour and when combined with sweat and the bacterial and fungal byproducts, it makes the odour worse. Poor personal hygiene is another contributing factor. Not bathing regularly or properly will aggravate a bad foot odour.
Some people do not suffer with foot odour even if it is hot and they are not wearing socks. The reason for this may be that they have a lower concentration of bacteria on their skin. Another possibility is that their perspiration contains less odourous waste products. Fungal infections on the skin of the feet and toe nails (athlete’s foot) are a problem as well and if left untreated, the foot odour will persist.
Treatment of Bad Foot Odour
There is no overnight cure for smelly feet. The focus should be on good hygiene and treating any bacterial or fungal infections in the area. If you sweat profusely, then you should use a drying powder to keep the feet dry. Perfumed products will only provide short term relief so there is no point in spraying your feet with deodorant every morning.
Preventing Smelly Feet
- A good antibacterial soap or disinfectant should be used on the feet daily when bathing.
- Get rid of of shoes that already have a bad odour.
- Try to ventilate your feet as often as possible – don’t use closed shoes at home and avoid using socks for the whole day.
- Avoid thick woolen socks that will just make your feet sweat even more.
- Speak to your doctor or podiatrist about the health of your feet – there may be fungal and bacteria infections that you cannot see.
Diabetics or those suffering with poor circulation of the legs and feet who have developed a foot odour suddenly should be cautious. There may be areas of gangrene of the feet that cannot be easily seen and medical treatment is required. Gangrene smells like rotting flesh and will quickly spread and affect surrounding tissue.