Foot Odor

For some odd reason, we humans have more sweat glands in our feet than anywhere else. The average human being has between two and five million sweat glands, and around 500,000 of them are located in our feet. Why? I have no idea…but I have a theory. Is it possible that when we evolved our sweat glands, our feet were very hot and most likely uncovered? As we know, sweating cools our bodies through conductive cooling, so maybe the sweat glands were an evolutionary response to hot feet. But now we cover our feet and stick them into an enclosed space most of the day, so the sweat just sits there in our shoes and gets funky. When even dogs shy away from our shoes, maybe it’s time to find out how to get rid of foot odor.

There are two types of sweat glands in the human body. The apocrine glands are located primarily in the armpits, breast, and genital areas. These glands produce a strong odor to attract potential mates. But since we don’t have them in our feet, we will not be discussing them even though it would be kinda fun. The other type of sweat gland is the eccrine gland. This is the sweat gland responsible for our bodies’ thermo-regulation. When we sweat, it creates a moist environment for the bacteria that are on our skin to begin reproducing. Normally the sweat would dry up, and the bacteria would begin dying off, but since most people keep their feet covered, our feet stay moist and the bacteria keep partying.


Hyperhidrosis is excessive or bothersome sweating while being physically active. People with hyperhidrosis have even more problems with stinky feet. One theory for why some people may have excess eccrine sweat is to flush away the smellier apocrine sweat. Hyperhidrosis can also be a symptom of anxiety created by our bodies’ fight or flight response.

Athlete’s Foot and Bromhidrosis

The fungus that causes athlete’s foot feeds on the keratin in our skin. The bacteria that cause smelly feet (bromhidrosis) also consume our keratin. Some scientists believe that having athlete’s foot may make smelly feet even smellier.

Best Ways to Remedy Foot Odor

Keep your feet clean.

Washing your feet on a regular basis will help to reduce the bacteria count during the day. It may be necessary to wash your feet more than once a day. Make sure to use soap and water when you wash them. Using antibacterial soap is an even better way to get rid of and kill the bacteria causing your foot odor. Make sure to dry your feet really well before putting on a fresh pair of socks. I wouldn’t use the same socks you had on before because it will just reintroduce moisture and bacteria to your feet.

All of these steps will prevent toe jam as well, which is the cause of many more serious foot issues if left to fester.

Keep your feet dry.

Bacteria need six things to survive and flourish: food, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, and moisture. Of the variables you have control of moisture is probably the easiest to control. Try taking your shoes off when you don’t need them. Or wear socks that wick moisture away from your skin, socks made of cotton work the best. If you don’t have time to take your shoes off or you don’t want to offend the other people around you, just change into a new pair.

Let your shoes dry out.

At the end of the day when you finally get to take of your smelly shoes and free your stinky feet from their hot and wet prisons, make sure you let your shoes dry out. The tendency is to throw them in the closet so they don’t stink up the room, but they need to dry out. Find a spot for them to do that, and if they get really bad, wash them if possible. You can also try Dr. Scholl’s odor-eating insoles to help keep the smell in the shoes manageable.

Try using antiperspirant or deodorant.

Antiperspirants work by inhibiting the release of sweat from your sweat ducts with aluminum salts. Basically, they decrease the amount of sweat that reaches your skin. Deodorants, on the other hand, do not decrease sweat but they help control odor as well as make your skin a more acidic environment, which is less desirable to bacteria. However, prolonged use of antiperspirants can cause irritation or even contact dermatitis. Antiperspirants are the most common cause of skin irritation caused by cosmetic products.

Eating some foods will make your feet even smellier.

Have you ever met a person who puts garlic in everything? If you have, you will also remember their extremely garlicky body odor. Garlic is not the only food that has this affect. There are a lot of foods that can make smelly feet even smellier. Here is a short list: garlic, onions, curries, chilies, and alcohol. People taking penicillin have also been known to clear a room or two.

Natural Foot Odor Remedies

Lemons are acidic and this property also makes them antibacterial.

Dilute some water with lemon juice and soak your feet in it for a few minutes. Remember, if you have any cuts on your feet, it may burn when you put your feet in.

White vinegar disinfects while it deodorizes.

Dilute some white vinegar with water and soak your feet in it for a few minutes. Remember, white vinegar may sting if you have any cuts or abrasions on your feet. I would stick to white vinegar for this application.

Tea tree oil has been used to treat skin conditions for a long time.

Rub some oil on your feet after you clean and dry them. It will deodorize while killing any fungus or bacteria present. As an added bonus, it smells really good. We recommend Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil from Amazon.

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About the Author

Julianne Ragland

Julianne Ragland