What is foot odor?
Today, we'll talk about a few measures you can take that will help you with hygiene, sock and shoe care. Your feet are loaded with sweat glands. Sweat glands, help control the temperature of the body. If you're on your feet all day, stressed out or ill. Your feet may sweat more than from day to day. Contrary to popular belief foot odor is gender neutral - it doesn’t prefer one sex over the other. We’ll focus on home remedies that work. You may be aware of the term hyperhidrosis which means ‘excessive sweating’. This is a foot condition where the feet sweat uncontrollably.
When we are talking about foot odor specifically, we use the term bromhidrosis.
Your feet can be a micro-environment for bacteria. Moist, warm feet and the interplay of socks and shoes are ideal for these bacteria. The soles of your feet have sweat glands which sweat made up of the following: water, sodium chloride, fat, minerals, and acids.
When these sweaty secretions breakdown the byproduct is a foul-smell. Sweat and bacterial activity cause foot odor but, it can also come for fungal growth- athlete’s foot.
Some of this is genetic but, let’s see what can be done about foot odor. It can be controlled through self-care and proper foot hygiene.
What happened to one man who sniffed his socks daily?
There was a write up in the Daily Mail about a man in China. He sniffed his socks daily - and this could have happened anywhere. He would come home from work and sniff his socks. One day he ended up going to the hospital with chest pain.
After several attempts to get the truth out of the man. He told the doctors on duty that he was addicted to smelling his socks. Following an extensive work up, the man was diagnosed with a fungal infection in his lungs. Fungal spores were inhaled by sniffing his socks.
There were other factors that led to a weakened immune system like fatigue and stress. He was susceptible to a strain of the Aspergillus mold. Fungi and bacteria are real and these organisms can make us sick.
Foul Smell? How to Clear the Air at Home
It’s a good idea to clean the air in your place. Indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor air quality. I won’t talk about air filters - maybe in another article. Here’s a quick rundown on indoor air quality: The Inside Story: A Guid to Indoor Air Quality. Natural ventilation has been the most effective for improving air quality for me personally. Bad air quality builds over time. Get in the habit of regularly (daily) airing out your apartment or home.
Once you’ve eliminated the source of the odor and we know it’s source, we need to control
Many people suffer from embarrassing foot odor. It can be controlled a few simple ways. We’ll lay out ways to stop foot odor in a moment.
As stated, foot odor is caused by bacteria and it can be caused by fungi. The two common bacteria are: corynebacteria and micrococci. We need to kill these bacteria to stop foot odor. Activated charcoal shoe inserts and foot powder may quell the bacteria but they don’t kill them.
Self-Care: The home remedies
You may have tried everything under the sun. A home remedy is a good first line of defense against foot odor. Before heading to the doctor’s office try the approaches below. Some of them are backed by research studies that have shown how effective they are.
We’re all unique. Some people have strong odor and profuse sweating. Others hardly sweat but they may respond to something they’ve eaten. By trying different remedies you will learn more about how you respond to environments, diets, etc. and how to maintain better hygiene.
Here is a list of home remedies that we’ve found useful:
Note: there are a few affiliate links in this section
- Wash. Keep your feet clean by washing your feet with an antibacterial soap. You’ll want to wash them and then dry them well. I know, it’s basic hygiene yet, we all get lazy. Remember moisture is a bad thing so dry your feet between the toes. Some people use a hair dryer to get to reach these areas. If you have a strong foot odor wash several times a day.
- Pay attention to how your feet respond. If your feet become cracked reduce the frequency of washings and you can apply a lotion.
- If you have severe bromhidrosis (foot odor)you can use kosher salt. Add ½ cup of kosher salt to a quart of water and soak your feet. Following soaking your feet for 10-15 minutes dry them as before.
- Pro-tip: Deodorant like Native has antibacterial action. You can use it on your feet safely. A deodorant like Native will be effective against odor. You still will sweat.
- Foot powders can work wonders. Try one that contains Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate like X brand.
- Change socks daily. Socks can be colored or white but they should be a moisture wicking sock. Absorbent socks also work well.
- Wear open shoes like sandals. This will ventilate your feet for 24 hours after wearing them and this will help slow bacterial growth. Also, the material of your shoes should be leather or canvas.
- Air your shoes out on the balcony. Ultraviolet light or sunshine can do wonders.
- Eating foods like garlic, onions, scallions and peppers can build up in your sweat and worsen foot odor.
- Trim your toenails to prevent bacteria build up
- Use a foot spray to fight odor by absorbing surrounding sweat
- Benzoyl peroxide. 5% or 10% gel applications can decrease bacterial growth
- These measures are your home remedies. Try these before moving to medications for a few weeks. If you have skin changes or the odor does not simmer down, you have a wound, red skin or swelling go see your doctor.
- Zinc may be useful. In one study, a 15% topical zinc sulfate solution resulted in significant improvement. After two weeks of therapy this resulted in complete resolution of 70% of the patients treated with zinc sulfate. The mode or mechanism of action was unclear. It may have been due to its antibacterial, antifungal and antiperspirant properties.
- Talcum Powder is a safe alternative to prescription meds. Cover your feet with a light amount of talcum powder. Talcum powder will absorb the sweat slowing bacterial growth.
Some of the tips mentioned are really personal hygiene tips. They go along way and this will help you to develop habits that are lasting. With good personal hygiene your risk of getting ill will be lower. These home remedies will allow you to MANAGE foot odor in the best way possible.