What causes our feet to sweat and smell?

The highest concentrations of sweat glands are found in feet, making them one of the sweatiest parts of the body. The natural purpose of sweat glands is to provide moisture to skin, which then evaporates to help the body cool down. It’s our body’s way of regulating our body temperature. Anyone can get sweaty feet, regardless of the season.  

Bromodosis (the medical word for smelly feet) is primarily caused by lack of ventilation of feet. However, it’s not sweat that causes foot odour but the bacteria that lives on the skin, which feeds on the sweat. The bacteria produce isovaleric acid, which is causes foot odour.

Certain medication, poor hygiene, wearing poor-quality shoes and over-wearing the same shoes can cause foot odour.

How can you get rid of foot odour and sweaty feet?

Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes for two or more days in a row. Wash and dry your feet every day and change your socks (wool or cotton) at least once a day and use a spray deodorant or antiperspirant on your feet.

Ideally, leather or canvas shoes are preferable as they let your feet breathe, unlike plastic ones. And also try open-toed shoes in summer and go barefoot at home in the evenings (this is not recommended if you’re diabetic).

Drinking plenty of water is another great way to reduce the likelihood of sweaty feet, because when our body is hydrated, it’s easier for the body to regulate body temperatures.

What can we use to deal with smelly feet?

Although these are not scientifically proven to be effective, anecdotal evidence suggests that they are:

  • Exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding spicy, processed foods can help reduce sweating.
  • Sweat on your feet is largely influenced by emotional stress. So, keep stress to a minimum.
  • Use cotton balls to apply fresh lemon juice to the soles of your shoes before putting them on. It helps minimise your pores and prevent excessive sweating.
  • Use an exfoliating brush or glove on your feet two times a week to help keep bacteria away.
  • Soak your feet in a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and hot water three times per week. You can also add baking soda to the mix and soak your feet for 15-20 minutes as it soaks up excess moisture in the shoes.

 

If you have smelly feet and you’re not sure whether to consult a podiatrist or not, Dr Mokoena recommends that you:

  • Try antifungal foot sprays or powders. These can help protect your feet from becoming infected with tinea pedis (fungal infections of the skin) as well as creams or powders.
  • Try topical medications like Pespirex (roll on and cream), Drichlor or antiperspirant, which needs to be prescribed by a podiatrist.
  • Wash your shoes and socks regularly. Cleaning your shoes can help eliminate any build-up of bacteria inside your shoes.