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If you have smelly feet, you are not alone. Bromodosis, the medical term for foot odor, can happen for many reasons and is a common problem. Your feet may stink because of sweat buildup there. If you don’t address your moist feet, this can lead to bacterial growth, causing an unpleasant odor.
Sometimes, though, stinky feet can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. This article will discuss the causes of foot odor, home remedies to use, and medical treatments you may need.
Causes of Stinky Feet
Your foot odor may stem from any of several causes.
Trapped Sweat and Hyperhidrosis
You can get sweaty feet because it’s hot outside or you’re exercising vigorously. Still, your feet can also sweat excessively for other reasons like:
- Being pregnant
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes
- Spending long hours on your feet
- Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
- Taking certain medications
- Underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disease or diabetes
Hyperhidrosis is a condition that involves extreme sweating. It can affect any area of the body, including the feet.
When sweat isn’t cleaned off and gets trapped between your toes, bacteria can start to proliferate, creating a smelly situation.
Bacteria can grow due to trapped sweat, but you can also contract a bacterial infection that causes your feet to smell. Typically, this happens because a cut, wound, or ingrown toenail becomes infected. Left untreated, it can start to smell. A festering wound that stinks is definitely a sign to seek medical attention.
An abrasion on your foot is unlikely to get infected and smelly if you take care of it. But some people are more likely to develop foot infections, including:
- Older adults
- People with diabetes
- People with a compromised immune system
Fungal foot infections are common causes of smelly feet. Your feet are a favorite spot for fungi. The moist crevices between your toes are the perfect home for fungi to hang out and thrive.
And fungal infections can be hard to get rid of, which means the smell can stick around. Some fungal infections that can affect your feet include:
Both of these can cause your feet to stink.
Unsurprisingly, not washing your feet can cause them to start to smell, too. The same goes if you’re regularly wearing unwashed socks or shoes.
Poor Shoe Care
Your foot odor may stem from wearing smelly shoes. Sweat can soak into your footwear and cause bacterial growth that eventually leads to a nasty smell. The key is to let your shoes or boots dry out completely before you step into them again to prevent this from happening.
Hormonal changes, like those that happen during pregnancy, can also cause stinky feet. Increased hormone production during pregnancy can cause you to sweat more, which, in turn, can lead to bad foot odors.
Smelly feet are a common problem and nothing to be embarrassed about. The issue is also very treatable. You can try various home remedies, but if those don’t solve the problem, a podiatrist or dermatologist can help you find a solution.
Home Remedies for Smelly Feet
There are several steps you can take at home to improve your foot odor problem.
Good Foot Hygiene
Keeping your feet clean by washing them daily with soap and water can help keep them from getting smelly. Other good hygiene tactics to use include:
- Using antibacterial soap to prevent bacterial buildup
- Always thoroughly drying your feet
- Changing socks daily
- Keeping your toenails clean and trim
- Removing dead skin and calluses (thickened areas of skin)
If you sweat excessively, you can also try changing up the shoes you wear. Wear a bigger size if your shoes are too tight. Opt for open-toed shoes, if possible. Foot powders and antiperspirants can also help keep your feet dry and bacteria free. In addition, you can find medicated insoles at most pharmacies.
Sock and Shoe Care
If sweat gets into your footwear, it can cause bacteria to grow in the nooks and crannies and lead to a smell.
Changing your socks every day and wearing socks made of materials that wick sweat can help prevent smelly feet. Cotton socks retain sweat, while socks made of synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and polypropylene will wick moisture away from the skin.
If you sweat a lot, you may want to strike preemptively and apply antibacterial powder in your shoes to sop up the sweat and keep them dry.
Another way to keep smells from developing is to rotate your shoes (alternating days that you wear a given pair), especially during times of the year when wet or hot weather is the norm.
Medical Treatments for Stinky Feet
If you have excessive sweating, your healthcare professional may recommend a medical procedure or medication to address it.
Doctors prescribe this procedure to treat excessive sweating, particularly of the hands and feet. You place your feet (or hands) in a basin of water and an electrical current is applied. It’s unlikely to cause any severe side effects, but it needs to be done weekly to provide lasting results.
Some people may experience:
- Skin irritation
- Dry skin
Doctors may also recommend Botox (botulinum toxin) to treat excessive sweating. Research suggests that it can reduce sweating by up to 87%. Results can occur within a few days after treatment and last several months—sometimes up to a year.
The biggest drawback is that injections to the feet tend to be quite painful. And some evidence suggests that it’s less effective for foot sweating than for other types of excessive sweating, such as under the arms.
A doctor may prescribe prescription drugs to treat excessive sweating. These block sweating from occurring in the first place. However, they can be dangerous because they stop your natural cooling-off mechanism.
Other side effects include:
- Heart palpitations
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Dry mouth
It’s not uncommon for feet to smell. Your feet are a prime spot for bacteria and fungi to grow. Footwear like shoes and socks can also cause odor. Often, at-home hygiene efforts can help reduce or prevent foot odor. However, you’ll sometimes need to see a doctor to treat an underlying condition causing the problem.
A Word From Verywell
Having smelly feet can be embarrassing. Usually, taking a few extra steps to make sure you’re cleaning your feet and keeping them dry, as well as taking care of your footwear, should solve the problem. If you’re worried about constant foot odor, you may want to talk to a doctor to find out the root cause.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why have my feet started to smell?
It might be for several reasons, including a bacterial or fungal infection or hormonal changes. Have you changed any habits recently? Your new shoes could be trapping sweat, leading to a foul odor. Or maybe you’re taking a new medication that’s impacting your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, increasing sweat production.
- What can I soak my stinky feet in?