Smelly Feet – Got ’em??

Summer in Kansas City is HOT!  And with heat comes sweat.  And with sweat comes odor – especially where your feet are concerned!  Medically known as bromodosis, stinky feet are a common year-round problem, but can be worse in the summer.  The best way to combat the smell is to find the source of the stench!  So, have you got smelly feet?

First off, Why do Feet Smell Bad?

  1. Sweat
    • Feet have over 250,000 sweat glands.  So when heat is an issue, those sweat glands go into overdrive!  Sweaty feet accumulate bacteria, and this bacteria will feed off the sweat.  The dark, damp environment that is your shoe is a perfect place for the bacteria to live and breed.  And stink!
  2. Medical Causes/Infections
    • Many things may cause smelly feet, but few are as urgent to have inspected by a doctor than infections.  Fungal infections should be checked out by a podiatrist; over-the-counter treatments may not perform as well as what your podiatrist can offer or prescribe.
    • Athlete’s foot can cause major odor, along with a painful, annoying itch.  Other causes for sweaty feet may include hyperhidrosis (a genetic condition).  Medications, body changes or fluid consumption may also be factors.
  3. Shoe choice

    Your shoes can absorb sweat, bacteria and odor.  And it is likely that you don’t wash your shoes on a regular basis.  This will cause any bacteria present to continue to grow and smell.

  4. Hormones
    • Hormones may play a large part in causing you to be sweatier, and therefore stinkier.  You can often tell when a child has hit the teenage years; those hormones give off a wave of stink!  Pregnant women also often battle body odors, including foot odor, due to increased hormones.
  5. Stress
    • It’s a pretty well-known fact that stress, and pressure, makes you sweat.  But when you sweat as a result of stress, you may be extra smelly!

Ways to quell the stench!

  1. Wear Your Socks:

If you are wearing closed-toed shoes, always wear a pair of socks!  Wearing socks of any kind will help absorb moisture and odor.  A pair of socks will also help keep the sweat and bacteria from permeating your shoes.  It is a great idea to wear sweat-wicking socks, as opposed to ones made of 100% cotton.  Sweat-wicking socks move the moisture away from your skin to the outer layers where it can evaporate away.  Cotton tends to keep the moisture against your skin.  Be sure to change your socks frequently, never wearing them for more than one day.  After exercising or exertion, you should make sure to change from your damp socks into dry ones.

  1. What About Your Shoes?

Look for shoes that are made of leather, mesh, canvas or another breathable material. This type of shoe will allow for air circulation and reduce the buildup of perspiration.  And take care to remove your shoes as soon as you feel your feet getting damp (ie: after an activity, a stressful situation, etc).  You will want to place sweaty shoes out to dry.  If possible, alternate your shoes every day in order to give them a chance to dry out.  This is especially important for teens!  Letting your shoes dry thoroughly will reduce your risk of stepping into live, growing bacteria when you put them on again.

If you wear orthotics, you should immediately remove them from sweaty shoes and let them dry on their own.  Bacteria can collect on their surface as well.

And NEVER share socks or footwear with anyone else!

  1. Clean and Dry!

Wash your feet daily in warm water, use a gentle soap, and rinse well.  Take extra care to dry your feet thoroughly before putting on socks; this will help prevent any fungus from growing.

Never, ever use someone else’s foot hygiene instruments such as emery boards, foot clippers or nail files!

  1. Know your Feet!

It is very important that you inspect your feet often.  Some things to look for include any patches or red, dry or itchy skin on the tops of your feet or between your toes.

  1. Protect Your Feet

Do not walk barefoot in any public areas such as showers, pools or locker rooms.  Instead, wear plastic flip-flops, slides or shower shoes to protect against any lingering bacteria you may otherwise pick up.

Keeping your toenails short and clean and removing any hard skin with a foot file is also a good idea.  If you harbor a lot of hard skin on your feet, it can become soggy when damp, and this will provide an ideal home for bacteria.

Treating Foot Odor

If you are experiencing overly sweaty and/or smelly feet, consider using some powder to absorb excess moisture.  Soaking your feet daily in Epsom salt, herbal or black tea and vinegar will also help control odor. The black tea contains bacteria-destroying acids and also shrinks pores. Vinegar foot soaks operate much the same way.

Using a spray deodorant or antiperspirant on your feet may also help with the smell.  Sprays will be the easiest to apply, but any deodorant will help.

Our podiatrists at Kansas City Foot and Ankle can also prescribe ointments that can be be applied to the feet at bedtime.  If your problem persists, there are other medical treatments that we can recommend.

When to see a Podiatrist

Typically your smelly feet are a harmless problem that, with these tips, will clear up.  However, the odor can be a sign of a larger medical condition.  Please call us if these simple measures to reduce your foot odor don’t help, or if you are worried that your level of perspiration is abnormally abundant.

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