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6 Ways to Battle Stinky Feet Without Seeing the Doctor

Woman's feet surrounded by multiple pairs of shoes; what causes stinky feet and getting rid of foot odor

Do you ever think, “my feet stink,” when you toss off your shoes after a long day? If you dread the lingering stench, we are here to help. Foot and Ankle specialist Kosta Antonopoulos, DPM, says it’s actually a pretty common problem. He explains what causes stinky feet and ways to get rid of foot odor.

What Causes Stinky Feet?

“The primary cause is from a lack of ventilation for your feet. There are thousands of sweat glands in feet, which produce quite a bit of sweat each day. The unpleasant smell comes when the perspiration isn’t allowed to evaporate.”

However, Dr. Antonopoulos says it isn’t actually the sweat causing the foot odor. There are numerous bacteria that normally lives on feet, which feed off the sweat, producing a particular acid which actually causes the odor.

If that’s not enough, fungus also thrives in warm, moist environments like sweaty feet. So, if the bacteria on your foot isn’t what causes foot odor, the fungus on your feet might be the culprit. Many people know the fungus as Athlete’s foot, and it can also cause the foot to smell unpleasant.

Dr. Antonopoulos says other foot odor causes include poor hygiene, wearing the same shoes every day and some disease processes. However, toenail issues do not play any role in the overall stench of your feet, nor does gender.

Home Remedies for Stinky Feet

Dr. Antonopoulos suggests six, non-prescription suggestions for stinky feet.

  • Practice good hygiene. Keep feet clean, dry and cool.
  • Try a spray. Purchase an over-the-counter foot deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Dry your feet. Make sure to towel off feet after a shower or bath.
  • Purchase medicated insoles. These absorb sweat and unpleasant odors.
  • Wear the right socks. Some socks contain chemicals that reduce bacteria load. Also, try socks with moisture-wicking fibers (pulls sweat away from the body) to increase ventilation. These include socks made of copper, wool or cool max.
  • Watch your diet. Eating a balanced, healthy diet will help reduce the risk of smelly feet.

Medication & Treatments for Stinky Feet

If you’ve tried all six options above, Dr. Antonopoulos suggests contacting your primary care provider for more advice. Medical professionals can offer a variety of other options.

  • Prescription medications. They include topical steroids, antifungals or antibacterials.
  • Prescription sprays. These are topical and can be prescribed to reduce perspiration.
  • Electrical stimulation. This can be used to reduce perspiration.

Other Factors Linked to Foot Odor Causes

It’s easy to say, “Try to stay calm and cool,” but Dr. Antonopoulos says increased amounts of stress can actually lead to increased perspiration—which doesn’t help anyone who is fighting odors.

“Hormonal changes can cause you to sweat more, too. For this reason, teenagers and pregnant women are more prone to smelly feet,” Dr. Antonopoulos says.

Finally, a condition known as hyperhidrosis can cause more perspiration than usual in areas like the hands, underarms and feet. While people usually sweat to cool the body, those with hyperhidrosis sweat even when the body’s temperature doesn’t need to be regulated.

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