What Causes Foot Odor?

What Causes Foot Odor?

You might like to describe it as somewhat cheesy or vinegary smelling and foot odor can be something seriously embarrassing. So what causes this stinky problem?

It’s all caused by a hot messy mix of sweat and the bacteria from your skin. Your feet have over 250,000 sweat glands, producing about one cup (500ml) of sweat per day, so they can really cause some serious moisture. There are also individuals that have an excessive amount of sweat glands, worsening the problem and the smells that come with the territory. The cheesy feet theory isn’t all myth either because the gases that the bacteria on the soles of your feet produce are similar to those that bacteria used in producing cheese gives off.

In essence, sweat on its own is actually odorless, it’s when it comes into contact with nasty bacteria when things go south and start getting smelly. In severe cases, some strains of bacteria can even start eating away at the top layers of your skin. Mix up a hot combo of stuffy shoes, socks and sweat on your feet and you’ve got the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive in.

The Details: Foot Odor

What exactly causes foot odor?

Simply put, wearing socks that leave no room for breathing or evaporation of sweat causes bacteria to grow due to the trapped moisture inside. Although in the early stages the bacteria might just stick to the shoes and socks alone, eventually it causes your entire foot to smell horrible. But your shoes aren’t’ the only problem though. Other contributing factors for stinky feet include:

  • Hyperhidrosis, feet that sweat excessively
  • Stress
  • Certain Medications
  • Alcohol and Drug abuse
  • Changes in your hormone levels
  • Bad hygiene

What can I do to prevent stinky feet?

The great news is that there are several ways in which you can keep your feet smelling fresh and clean and clear up any problems with stench. Your main focus should be to keep the feet dry and cool, but we also recommend these top tips:

  • Regularly washing your feet with warm water and soap (preferably mild antiseptic soaps)
  • Keeping your toenails well-trimmed
  • Wearing synthetic socks
  • Using disinfecting spray in your shoes
  • Regularly rotating your footwear and not wearing the same shoes two days in a row
  • Keeping your feet as dry as possible
  • Using baking powder inside of your shoes to kill of unwanted bacteria
  • Using foot powders

When home remedies are not enough

There are some severe cases where the above mentioned methods of keeping your feet fresh and clean just won’t work, and it’s advisable to go see a podiatrist if this is the case. Podiatrists are doctors that specialize in feet so they know all the tricks of the trade and will be able to recommend specific problems to sort out your problem. In severe cases, they could also prescribe some foot powders, creams and ointments.

When it’s bad, it’s really bad, so can it still be treated?

Absolutely, and the methods that we’ve mentioned so far not only work as methods of preventative care but also work as treatments. If you do have a bad case of foot odor and want to see if you can get rid of the problem first before seeking medical help, we’ve got some more great tips and tricks.

Our top methods that are both cures and preventative measures are:

Tea Soak

It has been said that soaking your feet in tea for about 30 minutes, once a day, for a week, will help to get rid of any bad smells. It’s thanks to the tannic acid found in tea, which helps to dry out your feet and prevent excessive sweating.

Salt Water Soak

Another great way of getting rid of excessive moisture levels on your feet is with a salt foot soak. You can use ½ a cup of kosher salt and 1 quart of water and then soak your feet in the mix for about 20 minutes a day. Once you’re done soaking, don’t rinse your feet though, just dry them off with a towel and tread on with your day

Sodium Bicarbonate Soak

It’s not something new; it’s just a nice little word for plain old Baking Soda. Pop 1 tablespoon of baking soda into a quart of water and then allow your feet to soak in it for at least 10 minutes a day. The baking soda foot soak gets rid of bacteria and also helps make it even harder for bacteria to grow on your feet.

Final Thoughts on Foot Odor

Your feet aren’t the only ones that smell, foot odor is actually a very common problem. The great thing is that there’s a lot that YOU can do about it before you need to get help from a medical professional. Anti-septic soaps and solutions, natural fiber socks, breathable shoes, foot powders and topical creams are great aids in the war against smelly feet, and should be used to tackle the problem.

We really hope that this article has provided you with some great insight about what exactly causes foot odor and how you can be victorious on the journey towards rectifying the smelly problem. If you need some more inspirational ideas or home remedies, sites such as Dr. Scholls or Top 10 Home Remedies have really great tips and tricks as well as general info that can help you break free from the evil clutches of the sweaty, stinky feet you’ve always been trying to run away from.


  • This is helpful info. My wife will owe you big time if it helps my cheesie feet. :)

    Steve Whatley
  • That was very helpful information I suffer from foot order it is not a good feeling
    It very uncomfortable being around people .


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