Everyone gets smelly feet. And it’s not surprising – we use our feet a lot.
We case them all day in socks, tights, shoes, trainers, and they have to carry our entire body weight for hours at a time – navigating steps, hills, running and jumping. So if they’re a bit sweaty by the end of the day, we can hardly blame them.
But there is a normal level of sweaty feet, and then there are more chronic conditions. Some people will have smelly feet no matter how often they shower, change their socks, or spray their trainers with deodorant.
It’s a really embarrassing condition, and nobody wants to be the one to admit that it’s their feet causing the stale, cheesy, mustiness in the air.
So, to understand how to conquer the problem of chronic smelly feet, we have to understand why our feet get so smelly in the first place.
Why do we get smelly feet?
Smelly feet – also known as bromodosis – is incredibly common, and is usually caused by a build up of sweat, which results bacteria growth on the skin. These bacteria cause bad odors.
Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also lead to bromodosis.
The main cause is sweaty feet combined with wearing the same shoes every day. But teenagers and pregnant women are more likely to get them because hormonal changes make them sweat more.
You’re more likely to have smelly feet if you spend a large portion of your day stood up or walking, if your shoes are too tight, if you’re stressed, or if you have a medical condition that makes you sweat more than usual – like hyperhidrosis.
Feet often become smelly if sweat soaks into your shoes and they don’t dry before you wear them again. It can be a bit of a sweaty cycle.
How to get rid of chronic smelly feet
The good news is that for most people, getting rid of foot odour is usually pretty simple. It’s all about cleanliness and breaking the cycle of sweat by changing your shoes and socks.
‘Having smelly feet is a harmless yet quite common year round problem for many people,’ explains Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor.
‘Medically known as bromodosis, smelly feet can affect anyone at any time of the year and is usually caused by having sweaty feet whilst wearing the same shoes every day. You are more likely to suffer with smelly feet if you are on your feet all day and if you are wearing shoes too tight for you.’
Dr Aragona says that ensuring that you are keeping your feet as clean as possible is the quickest and easiest way to help prevent unwanted odour.
He reiterates that teenagers and pregnant women may find that they suffer with smelly feet as the hormonal changes will make them sweat more.
‘Luckily there are a number of things you can do to try and prevent your feet from emitting odour,’ he says. Here are his top tips:
Wash your feet with anti bacterial soap once a day.
Ensure you are drying your feet well after each time you shower or wash them.
Try not to wear the same shoes two days in a row. If you can, try to allow shoes to sit and dry out before you use them again.
If you work in a job where you are on your feet a lot, perhaps purchase two pairs of the same shoe so you can alternate.
Change your socks at least once a day, or more if need be.
You can also spray deodorant on the feet, which will work in the same way as it does for your armpits to try to prevent excess sweat.
‘If the sweating doesn’t subside or get any better after taking the appropriate measures, I would recommend seeing your GP as they may prescribe a strong antiperspirant,’ he adds.
The NHS advice also suggests giving yourself a bit of a home pedicure, as that can also help to keep your feet healthy and smelling sweet.
‘Keep your toenails short and clean, and remove any hard skin with a foot file,’ reads the website. They add that hard skin on your feet can become ‘soggy when damp’ which provides an ideal home for bacteria. Lovely.
They add that you can also try the following methods if your normal deodorant isn’t cutting it:
- Putting medicated insoles in your shoes
- Using a foot powder to absorb sweat
- Trying socks for sweaty feet – some sports socks are designed to keep feet dry, and you can get special antibacterial socks
- Wearing leather or canvas shoes, as they let your feet breathe, unlike plastic ones
- Always wearing socks with closed-toe shoes
But, as Dr Aragona says, if you try all of this and your foot odour is still bothering you, it’s best to talk to your GP.
What’s the deal with Feet Week?
Feet Week is a week dedicated entirely to feet… as the name probably gives away.
We figured we could all do with something to occupy our minds during the pandemic – and what better topic than feet?
From 4 May to 10 May you can find articles on everything feet, from what it actually takes to be a foot model to what it’s like to be a pro toe wrestler.
You can read all our Feet Week content right here.
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