Some people really suffer with smelly feet. Any time they take their shoes off, family and friends complain. Sometimes, they complain a lot. This makes the tiresome routine of removing one’s shoes to go through an airport security check even worse for these folks…and everyone else around them.
We don’t know why some people have little or no problem with foot odor their entire lives while others are constantly fighting against it. Foot odor is probably linked to another problem, sweaty feet. Most likely the folks who are suffering with stinky toes are playing unwilling host to bacteria and possibly some fungi that feast on sweat and dead skin cells, producing a horrific aroma.
Most foot odor is probably due to bacteria producing stinky stuff like isovaleric acid and volatile sulfur compounds as they digest sweat and proteins from dead skin cells. To control the smell, reduce the sweat or kill off the bacteria.
- Go barefoot, or choose shoes that breathe and let them air out for at least a day between wearings. Treating them with rubbing alcohol may be helpful. Wear socks designed to wick moisture away from the feet.
- Soak feet in a solution of Epsom salts, baking soda, alum, or regular table salt. The soaks may need to be repeated until the feet stop sweating and smelling bad.
- Brew a strong tea solution to use as a footbath, or treat feet with a tannic acid gel.
- Control sweating with an aluminum chloride antiperspirant such as Certain Dri, Xerac AC, or Drysol. Apply to dry skin at bedtime.
- Sprinkle powdered alum, baking soda, or Zeasorb powder in socks and shoes to absorb sweat and minimize smell.
- Urinate on feet in the shower to control odor.
- Take a zinc supplement for a few weeks or a month to see if it helps.