Why do my feet smell?
It is a staple of comedy – cheesy feet, but not much to laugh at if you have smelly feet and you have no idea how to stop it.
There are more sweat glands per inch in our feet than anywhere else in the body. Their function is to keep the skin moist and supple and regulate temperature when the weather is hot, if you have an unnaturally high temperature or while exercising.
They secrete all the time, not just in response to heat or exercise, like elsewhere in the body.
The average foot has 250,000 sweat glands and the capability to produce half a litre of sweat a day. In most feet, sweat has an important function, when contained within a shoe, with excess evaporating. Open shoes allow evaporation of sweat leading to dry skin, especially in the hot weather of summer.
Known as bromhidrosis, this where sweaty feet combine with smelly feet at any time of year. This mainly involves apocrine sweat glands found in the armpit, the groin and on the feet. It can be embarrassing and unpleasant for those who have them and those that smell them.
Foot odour is caused by bacteria on the skin breaking down the sweat and releasing an offensive smell and is often influenced by changes in levels of hormones.
However teenagers and pregnant women are more prone due to hormonal changes making them sweat more and changing its composition.
Other factors include
- being on your feet all day
- being under a lot of stress
- hyperhidrosis, which makes you sweat more than usual
- fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot
- sweat soaks into shoes and they don’t dry before you wear them again
- bacteria on the skin break down sweat as it comes from the pores
- an unpleasant odour is released as the sweat decomposes.
There are many things you can try, either individually or in combination. These include –
- exercise good personal hygiene – wash and dry your feet every day
- use an anti-bacterial soap on your feet
- change your shoes regularly and dis-guard old, worn out shoes
- don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days running – especially important with teenagers
- change your socks (ideally wool or cotton, not nylon) at least once a day.
- clean the inside of your shoes regularly with an anti-bacterial solution
- wrap your shoes inside a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 24hrs to kill micro-organisms including bacteria
In addition you could also try
- wiping between your toes with cotton wool and surgical spirit following a shower or bath and after drying them with a towel
- use a foot spray deodorant or antiperspirant on your feet
- buy medicated/deodourising insoles for your shoes
- wear leather or canvas shoes, as they let your feet breathe, unlike man-made materials
- wear open-toes sandals in summer and go barefoot at home in the evenings
Smelly feet are a common problem that usually clear up before too long, with care. Sometimes it can be a sign of a broader medical condition and if the condition persists it is advisable to seek professional attention.
If you’re worried that your level of sweating is abnormally high and your feet unusually smelly, see your GP if simple measures to reduce your foot odour don’t help.