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Preventing and treating foot odor

Causes of Foot Odor

The first thing to blame for your foot odor is sweat. Your feet start to smell when excess sweat soaks your shoes and socks. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, which worsens the odor. You can sustain severe foot odor even if you regularly clean your feet or are not on them often during the day. This is because your feet have 500,000 sweat glands (250,000 per foot). They produce about 500-1000 mL of sweat daily.

Sometimes, you can trace the cause of your foot odor back to its smell. For example, if your feet smell like vinegar, you might have staphylococcus epidermidis, wherein bacteria eats your skin’s amino acids and produces isovaleric acid. If your feet smell like rotten eggs or cabbage, it could be because another type of bacteria is eating your dry, dead skin and producing an offensive gas called methanethiol.

Finally, environmental factors may exacerbate your foot odor. For instance, if you commonly wear thin socks, it can be easier for sweat to soak through. Wear well-fitting shoes with plenty of support as well. If you notice symptoms such as itchy feet or flaking skin, treat those right away.

Getting Rid of Odor

Getting rid of foot odor means dealing with bacteria and sweat. If you have naturally sweaty feet, odor will return unless you take strong preventative measures. One of the first is to wash your feet thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Clean your toenails too; long-handled scissors or kits equipped with magnifiers can help if this is difficult. Foot creams and powders may provide some relief, but stay away from scented ones. They can increase your sweat output and make the resulting odor worse (think cheese mixed with lavender).

Another way to reduce foot odor is decreasing the time you wear shoes, or to at least wear shoes that are well-ventilated. Try to go barefoot at least a couple hours a day; this gives your foot sweat somewhere to go, thus decreasing bacteria.

When weather permits, wear open-toed shoes or sandals or stick to closed-toe leather shoes. And consider your socks: Cotton socks can often make matters worse as they do not dispel the moisture. Look for athletic moisture-wicking socks that feature a cotton and synthetic blend. Switching socks midway through the day can also be beneficial.

Are you suffering from smelly feet? The podiatrists at Kansas City Foot Specialists can determine the source of your problem and recommend treatments that can get you back on your feet. Call us at (913) 338-4440 or contact us online to  learn more about how to improve your foot health.