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Solutions for Stinky Feet

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Q. I have read many questions about toenail fungus but not much about our issue. My daughter has hot sweaty feet that smell. She hates wearing socks because she says they make her feet too hot.


What can we do to relieve our problems--her hot, sweaty feet and our daily olfactory invasion? Her aunt also suffers with sweaty, smelly feet.

 

A. Warmth and moisture encourage the growth of bacteria that can contribute to foot odor. These conditions also allow the fungus that causes nail fungus and athlete’s foot to flourish.

 

Readers of our column have offered all sorts of remedies for such problems. One suggested drinking a chlorophyll solution from the health food store for smelly feet. A gentleman reported that diluted vinegar applications plus Vicks VapoRub helped both athlete’s foot and nail fungus.

 

Another reader shared that he had suffered from excessive foot sweat for years. He tried tannic acid (tea) to soak the feet and noted: “It works. My feet feel and smell better than they have in years.”

We have collected a number of suggestions from readers in our Guides to Home Remedies, Unique Uses for Vicks and Smelly Feet.

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I've had success with Listerine. I reasoned that if it "kills germs that cause bad breath," it may well k.o. the ones that cause stinky feet as well. I applied Listerine all over my clean feet and wiped out the insides of my shoes as well (be sure to allow time for the shoes to dry out). At the end of the day when I've removed my shoes, feet and shoes have still been odor free.

Isopropyl alcohol helps stinky feet. Apply with a cotton ball after each shower.

Twice a day, get a shallow basin, insert feet, and pour enough FULL STRENGTH WHITE VINEGAR over feet to completely wet them (though I use more, a half cup should do it) and let them soak for a few minutes. Tell your daughter to wiggle her toes and use one foot to wet the other.

Remove Feet (DO NOT RINSE) and throw away the used vinegar.

Dry.

Breathe Deeply.

*I got athlete's foot when I was a kid. When we would drive home from Boy Scout camping trips I could NOT remove my boots in the car.

I tried everything available in the 1960s & 70s including:

Desenex Cream/Liquid/Powder
Gentian Violet tablets (to make a soaking bath)
Tinactin
Grisactin/Giseofulvin tablets
Mitchum Antipersperant (to prevent sweating and smelling).

Nothing worked.

When I became a doctor, I still had the worst athlete's foot--and foot odor--I had ever encountered. My feet sweated, itched and bled.

When my mother suggested the vinegar, I began soaking. At first the deeply fissured areas burned but the itching stopped almost immediately.

In addition to making an inhospitable environment for fungi, vinegar seems to act as an exfoliant. The mascerated (perspiration--logged) areas between my toes began to slough off and I helped it by using a washcloth wrapped around my finger to scratch, dry and debride the web-spaces.

As the deadened tissue was replaced, the slouging all but stopped, but I still intentionally rub off the loose skin on my feet when I dry them.

Today, I have pretty, odorless feet, and it even helped my toenails.

If your daughter decides to try this, you may want to rinse out her tennis shoes with vinegar to kill the fungi I suspect are growing there.

If she has leather shoes that should not be exposed to vinegar, try taking them to a local bowling alley. They may have UV lights that they use to kill germs on bowling shoes.

The main thing is to cycle her shoes regularly so that she is only wearing dry ones.

I hope this helps her.

LHS

I TOO HAVE EXPERIENCED SWEATY AND SMELLY FEET AND HAVE FOUND AN EASY AND VERY INEXPENSIVE WAY TO TREAT IT... I USE, ANY BRAND WILL DO... STICK, SPRAY OR ROLL ON DEODERANT. I JUST APPLY IT TO THE BOTTOMS OF MY FEET BEFORE I SLIP ON MY SOCKS OR SHOES, AND NO SWEAT, NO SMELL... WORKS GREAT!

Take a bottle of tea tree oil and buy a small spray bottle (beauty supply). Put the sprayer on the bottle of tea tree oil. Don't pour the tea tree oil in plastic. Apply this once or twice a day after washing and drying the feet thoroughly. Tea tree can also cure nail fungus. It may take a couple of months. Empty an old nail polish bottle. Clean it out with acetone and rinse, then allow to dry. Fill with tea tree oil and brush on the nail a couple of times a day. Some people are allergic or sensitive to tea tree oil so watch out for that.

I have a very bad problem with smelly feet. Not only do they sweat an awful lot but the balls of my feet and heels are white every time I remove my socks. The smell is terrible and both feet are affected.

Could this be some kind of infection? My socks become very hard when they dry out. This is not normal perspiration.

Please help!

I too had bad toenails and some athlete's foot issues that seemed to come and go. Checked out the prescriptions for nail fungus and their side effects and said no thanks. Tried the white vinegar, used a plastic paint tray to soak both feet, did this daily for 2 months and the nails grew out clean and neat, athlete's foot went away and life continued.

That was two years ago; nail fungus is back and so are stinky feet, restarting the vinegar soaks tonight. The vinegar really works, I usually soak while reading email or surfing so I may soak for 20 min or an hour or more.

I have the worst smelling feet I have ever encounterd. I have tried everything to get rid of this and nothing seeme to work. I am a welder and have to wear steel toe boots and have insoles in them. They work for a week and it is back again. My girl friend always tells me that they are really bad, and they are. I wash them when I get home from work and 3 hours later they are really STINKY agin. Is there anything I can do get rid of this horrible problem?

My fiance has extremely stinky feet and they are nasty and yellow looking on the bottom... I've tried the shoe inserts and washing them with strong soap, but I didn't know vinegar works. How often should he soak and for how long? And if I have sandals and flip flops that are starting to smell, what should I do to help rid them of that? I hate to have to buy new shoes again already. Please help!

how do i get rid of my athletes feets without using vinegar? I hate the smell of it I cant stand it! Also how do I get rid of my blisters from the bottom of my left middle toe? It really hurts! Please help!

Rockie Bee!

I have the worst feet in the world. My toenails are fuesed to my toe. In other words you can't tell the difference bewteen dry skin and toe nail. I'm so embarassed I cry. I've never worn sandals my feet are ugly I don't know what to do. Please help I don't know where to begin. From the ankles up I'm great I work out keep myself in shape. I am desperate.

My wife has the same problem... extremely stinky feet. It's really embarrassing when she's laying next to me... I don't know if she is even suffering from athlete's foot.

We've tried so many things... powders, creams etc. But it's too complicated to apply. So I've recently found special insoles made from cedarwood in the internet. Are there any experiences with such cedarsoles?

I was watching the Doctors show a couple weeks ago and they discussed stinky feet and offered a home remedy, but I can't remember what it was. I am going to try the vinegar unless someone can remember that show. thank you.

I too have very very stinky feet, it's the worst that I have ever smelled. I am only 12 yrs old. I have tried only a couple things. I have tried my deodorant and it didn't work. I have tried perfume that didn't work either. I have no clue what i should do, please help!!

Hey,

I tried the vinegar just 1 time. I soaked them for about 30 minutes. I swear that it made my feet smell worse. I wanted to know how this worked for you.

The foot odor problem I have is backwards from most. Mine only smell when wearing shoes. When I take them off there is no smell. But... while the shoes are on my feet there is a very noticeable smell.

After the vinegar soak they smell while shoes are on and when I take them off. Not sure what my problem is.

I was hoping you could tell me how the vinegar soak worked for you? How often you did it? etc...

Thank You!

Hey everyone..

I have never in my life had any sort of foot odor issue, but w/in the last 3 yrs I do. It's backwards from most everyone else's. My feet only smell when I have shoes on. When I take them off there is no smell but while they are on they emit a very loud offensive odor.

Has anyone else ever had a similar problem or know someone who has?

I soaked them in Listerine 30 minutes per day. It worked gr8 for about 1yr. Now the bacteria may be immune to it. It seems to make no difference. I then soaked them in Apple Cider Vineager for 30 minutes. I swear this made the problem even worse. They now smell with shoes both on and off!

Not sure what to do. Miserable. Can anyone offer any helpful information?

Thanks in advance!

Does your fiance have tylosis? This is a rare condition that causes excess skin to build up on the soles of the feet and sometimes on fingertips and palms, especially after activities that chafe, like gardening or playing the guitar. It has been linked to esophageal cancer, so you might want to check this out.

I too have the same similar problem of having a sweaty smelly feet.

I did try different products:
- soak to salt for half hour (didn't work)
- soak to tea for half hour (didn't work)
- used antibiotic ointment (didn't work)
- soak with vinegar (pure) didn't work
- soak vinegar with listerine (didn't work)
.....what worked was the combination of half cup of vinegar, 2 teaspoons of salt in a warm water and spray tinactin in the morning, works wonderfully.

hope this helps.

I can totally relate to your problem..that's exactly my problem my feet stinks when wearing shoes....Its so embarrassing especially at work. Don't know what to do...Even putting deodorant on my feet before wearing socks seems not work..I also bought new shoes and it's didn't work..I'm very meticulous now in choosing shoes to hopefully get rid of stinky feet..Putting foot powder also makes my feet to be more stinky..I'm going to try to soak my feet in black tea for a month. I tried it few times before but now I'm planning to do it on a regular basis to see if it will work..This condition is so embarrassing especially that I'm a female....

My 5 year old granddaughter has terribly smelly feet. What can I do for her?

tea tree is also really good for scalp conditions like psoriasis!! I use the tea tree shampoo in the salon all the time it may sting a little at first if any skin is irritated it will eventually stop!!!

My boyfriend had the most horrible smelling feet for the longest time until I had him try ladies secret aerosol deodorant! It has worked like a charm for the last six months. When he misses a day the whole house can tell, but that's only happened once. He did try, however, using a mans deodorant spray last week and threw the bottle away that night. (Ladies, if you have a sweating problem under your breasts, spray some on under the breasts.) My sister-in-law told me that one. Hope this helps someone, maybe even that little granddaughter! Costs maybe at the most five dollars.

here's the deal:

smelly feet are caused by a combination of: (1.sweaty feet 2.socks 3.shoes or sandals)
your feet might respond to tea, vinegar and/or salty water... it depends on your body, try everything until you find something works well for you.

but please keep in mind to do the following:

throw away all of your old socks and old shoes in the process and get new ones. keep a pack of new socks for the fist one to two weeks for the process of soaking, then also throw them and then use new ones after treatment is accomplished.

for the shoes: I prefer light (not to make your feet sweat) fabric not leather, get 4 or more pairs of shoes to shift, one daily, wearing the same shoe is one of the main problems. (that also applies for sandals)

keep your shoes in the sun and fresh air at least twice a week, the sun makes miracles. (always dry your socks, shoes in the sun, and keep them for a longer time after they dry).

I wish you all good healthy kissable feet :)

Do not wear any nylon lined shoes! That just adds to the smell!

Good day!
I would just like to ask if my condition is considered as hyperhidrosis. I've been suffering feet sweating for almost 3 years (I'm 18 years old now). I don't really know how did this start, but the only thing I remember is that, every time I go to school, my shoes are soaked in the flood. I think, after 2 months, my feet started to sweat and to smell. Since then, my feet is uncontrollable every time it sweat specially if I'm wearing shoes.

And just last year, my hands also started to sweat whenever my feet sweat.

Can this be hyperhidrosis?

What remedy can you suggest? thanks!

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: It sounds like hyperhidrosis. Why not start with some of the home remedies listed? Soaking in strong tea, or in a baking soda solution, or using an antiperspirant on the soles of the feet?

put a little baking soda in the toes part of your shoe and put some on the heel and very little in the area between your foot will not smell and niether will your shoes

My cousin is 7, she wears shoes 12-14 hours a day (6 days a week) without taking off for a minute because school doesn't allow her. When she takes her shoes off almost at bed time, her feet are very hot, sweaty and her toes becomes all white. Her feet stinks, but not that bad.

I want to ask is it okay for young kids to wear shoes for long time? The temperature here also exceeds 100F and it's very humid here, her socks becomes soaked after she wears the shoes all day long!

I've got the worst smelly feet ever. The worst. I've tried it all. And no help. What else can I do. I thought about going with my girlfriend and getting a pedicure and see if that helps but I don't know. Listerine might be my next choice of options.

I've got really smelly sweaty feet. Whenever I'm in the library, class, work, the store people can smell my feet. I've tried Green Listerine (soaked them for an 30minutes before class) and that just dyed my feet green. Didn't work. Then I tried Dr. Scholl's Odor X powder didn't work. Then I tried Dr. Scholl's Odor X spray and that didn't work.

I've tried just wearing sandals so my feet don't sweat that didn't work. I'm really feeling helpless. Does anyone have any suggestions ????

Seriously, try the aerosol can of Secret deodorant spray!!! My boyfriend does it everyday and no longer has a foot odor problem at the end of the day. Just spray it on your feet before you put your socks on. Doesn't hurt to try it for a while to see if it works for you too!

Smelly feet and shoes are normal, also by children. Washing and drying the feet of your child every day is very important. I also think the use of cedar wood is probably one of the best things to disinfect children's feet. Cedar wood insoles fight the bad smelling food bacteria and give off a very good smelling flavor. The insoles are available in children size.


If you go back to September 1, 2007, I am the same LHS. I'd like to offer a thought or two about TIME - how long it takes for Vinegar to work.

So many have CLAIMED to have the worst smelling feet, that I almost wish I had been able to bottle some of my own foot odor from 50 years ago - alas.

While I am a physician, I am not a dermatologist. When I had severe Athlete's Foot, the bottoms of my feet itched like crazy and I had fissures between my toes and deeper ones on the bottom of my feet that bled.

By the time I started using vinegar, I had had the condition for over 30 years. As a result - in addition to the fissures - I had thick calluses - essentially deep piles of surface skin - that were probably harboring fungus just waiting for enough moisture (wet shoes, perspiration, etc) to grow.

One of the things that happens when you soak in Vinegar is that you provide moisture (Vinegar is mostly water). That dead skin absorbs the water and the Acetic Acid (Vinegar) it contains. The skin softens an when you dry your feet, some of the Acetic Acid stays behind and creates a hostile environment for the fungus.

It also causes a gentle debridement of dead tissue. Once the fissures between my toes began to heal, I could take a wash cloth or a sock and floss between my toes and remove that (I apologize if this is making you retch) gooey dead paste.

The bottoms of my feet and the area around my heel, took longer, but eventually the calluses there became thinner too.

The process took TIME:

Initially, I sat on the toilet and soaked my feet religiously twice a day while I did my business and read a magazine for 10 - 15 minutes. If the smell of vinegar is a problem - as it was for one person - do it outside or plug in a fan or put the vinegar and your feet in a plastic bag and wrap a soft tie around the top - or get some thick white cotton socks, wet them with vinegar, put on a pair of those rubber shoes and walk around outside for a bit.

How much time will it take for your feet to look, feel and smell better, will depend on the current condition of your feet and how regular you are about doing the soaks. I felt better within a week, my fissures ALL healed within a month - maybe two and I have beautiful feet (except for one stubborn toenail)

I suggest that you rotate your shoes so that you always start out the day with a dry pair.

I also sprayed the inside of my shoes with Lysol for a few weeks so that I was not constantly re-infecting myself.
There are other diseases that affect the skin of the feet and if you have not already seen a dermatologist, do it., but if you have Athletes Foot or just Smelly Feet, I believe this will help.

I still soak my feet - usually once a day, but I also skip days on occasion.


I am 12 years old and have a really really really horrible foot odor!!! I am a dancer so I am always sweating in ballet shoes for 7 hours at a time while sweating! I wear my UGGS to school and the stink! It is so embarrassing and disgusting. I need something that will work quickly and dosen't require lots of time. PLEASE HELP!!!

My older sister never approached the artistry of Margaret Hookham, but I remember her toe shoes and the incredible amount of work she put in to her art. If you scroll upward, you will see two of my earlier posts dated Sept 1, 2007 and Feb 16, 2013.

While those are about ATHLETES FOOT, they are also about foot odor.

The good news is that if you don't have athletes foot, getting rid of the foot odor may be much easier. Read on:

If you lived where could safely walk around without shoes 24hrs/day 7 days/week, your feet would not smell bad.

Question:
Did your foot odor get worse after you started dancing?
Did your foot odor get worse after you started wearing UGGS?
Or
Did your foot odor get worse after another shoe purchase?

If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," you may have "Athletes Shoe." That is my own way to describe a shoe that gets colonized with bacteria or fungus. When you add your own perspiration (moisture) and warmth, those little buggers begin to grow and smell. UGGS are rubber and despite the air vents, they don't breathe so your feet sweat. If you google UGGS Odor, I think you'll be surprised at the number of "Hits" you get.

So here are some suggestions:
1. Pack the UGGS away; better yet, THROW them away.

2. Do the vinegar soaks (see my two previous letters).

3. If you are serious about ballet, save your money and purchase 2 - 3 more pairs of ballet shoes and wear them in rotation so that each day, you can put on a pair that is completely dry. I have no idea how much your shoes will cost, so if having 2 - 4 pairs of shoes would break the bank, google "shoe dryer plans."

4. Wear your other shoes in some sort of rotation.

5. If the odor persists for more than a week or two after you do these things, ask your folks to let your doctor look at your feet.

I wish you the best, and I still believe that I hold the record for smelly feet.

LHS

I did this just recently and I can say of all the things I did before this one works!!! Thank you for sharing.

My wife has smelly feet and has had ever since I've known her, she has tried all sorts deodorant insoles to no avail, it doesn't matter what type of shoes she wears her feet smell bad and we have to change her slippers every 3 months as they rot can anyone help her or better still help me, my kids are also showing signs of smelly feet :(

See my post dated Sept 1, 2007. It really works and it works fast. LHS

Also read the 4 posts above yours. Those are some back and forths between Maria and me. My post gives more details and "how-to."

As you get started, throw the current pair of slippers away.
Buy 3 new pairs or go without for a while.
Rotate them so you are always putting on a dry pair.

LHS

Jennifer, I feel - or smell - your pain.

Go back to February 19, 2013 and read my letter and those that followed.

Let me know if you try it and your results.

LHS

Hi,

Need help! Asap!
I'm working at a call center 6 days a week with an air-conditioned room and my mates noticing the smell on my feet, I inherited the diabetes from my parents and I don't know if the odor was also related to it, I don't know what to do. After I consulted a doctor about the diabetes it started after few weeks I've taken the medication. My feet began to smell like I don't know how to express it, I'm so uncomfortable and disgusted coz all of my family doesn't have this!

I've already done all the things that was suggested, advised such as talcum powder, deodorants, hot water, brush feet 2x a day and also using green tea coz its just the same with black ones but still the same!

My feet still stinks, hope you can give home remedies or anything that you think will be very effective!

THANK YOU!

I have responded to several other people since my original post on this subject on September 1, 2007.

Go back and read the first post and the others that followed it.

Note my comments regarding "Athlete's Shoes."

I really urge you to try this for several weeks or months. I too am diabetic and I know how serious it can be.

LHS

I was wondering if you ever found a solution to your problem because I do have that problem too. When I wear shoes the stink comes out of my shoes and others around Me can smell it. It's a horrible thing to live with. Changedy whole life have been to 4 different doctors no solution yet. It's so weird I don't why this has happened to me I never had this problem.

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