How to Get Rid of Smelly Feet

Foot odour, often considered a sensitive and embarrassing issue, affects many people at some point in their lives. Commonly referred to as smelly feet, its medical term is bromodosis. This condition can be both uncomfortable and socially inhibiting, leading individuals to seek effective remedies and treatments. This blog post aims to demystify the causes of smelly feet and explore a variety of strategies to combat this issue. From daily hygiene habits to medical interventions, we’ll guide you through practical steps to achieve fresh, odour-free feet.

What Causes Smelly Feet?

Smelly feet result from the interaction between sweat and bacteria on the skin’s surface. Unlike other parts of the body, the feet have thousands of sweat glands that produce perspiration, which, by itself, is odourless. However, when this moisture is trapped in shoes and socks, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, breaking down the sweat and leading to an unpleasant odour. Factors contributing to smelly feet include excessive sweating, poor hygiene, wearing the same shoes daily, and fungal infections like athlete’s foot.

The Role of Sweat and Bacteria in Foot Odor

The primary culprit behind foot odour is the bacterium known as Brevibacterium linens, which feeds on dead skin cells and thrives in moist, warm environments like the inside of a shoe. As it digests the sweat, it releases isovaleric acid, giving off the characteristic cheesy smell associated with smelly feet. Additionally, the interaction between different types of bacteria and fungi can also contribute to the complexity and intensity of foot odour.

Daily Habits to Prevent Smelly Feet

Adopting daily foot care routines can significantly reduce and prevent the occurrence of smelly feet by addressing the root causes of sweat and bacterial growth.

The Importance of Hygiene: Washing and Drying Your Feet

Regularly washing your feet with soap and water is crucial in removing sweat, bacteria, and dead skin cells that contribute to odour. It’s equally important to thoroughly dry your feet, especially between the toes, to prevent moisture accumulation, which can encourage bacterial growth.

Choosing the Right Footwear and Socks

Footwear made from breathable materials, such as leather and natural fabrics, can help prevent excessive sweating by allowing air circulation around the feet. Similarly, socks made from cotton, wool, or moisture-wicking materials can absorb sweat and keep the feet dry. It’s advisable to avoid synthetic materials that can trap moisture and heat.

Changing Shoes and Socks Regularly

Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can prevent them from drying out completely, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Rotating between different pairs of shoes and changing socks at least once a day, or more often if you’re active, can significantly reduce foot odour by keeping your feet dry and minimising bacterial growth.

Home Remedies for Smelly Feet

Incorporating home remedies into your foot care routine can be an effective and natural way to combat smelly feet. These remedies often utilise ingredients that have antibacterial or antifungal properties, providing a simple yet effective approach to reducing foot odour.

Soaks and Washes: Ingredients and Techniques

Foot soaks can deeply cleanse the feet, reduce bacteria, and soothe tired muscles. Popular options include:

  • Epsom Salt Soak: Dissolve half a cup of Epsom salt in a basin of warm water and soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. Epsom salt helps neutralise odours and soothe the feet.
  • Vinegar Soak: Mix one part vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar for its antimicrobial properties) with two parts water. The acidic environment helps kill bacteria and reduce odour. Avoid this soak if you have cuts or open sores, as the vinegar can irritate wounds.
  • Tea Soak: Steep four to five black tea bags in a quart of hot water for 10 minutes, then add this tea to a basin of cool water. The tannins in the tea can help kill bacteria and close the pores, reducing sweat production.

Natural Antiperspirants for Your Feet

Applying natural antiperspirants to your feet before putting on socks and shoes can help control sweat production throughout the day. Baking soda, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder can be lightly dusted on the feet to absorb moisture. Some individuals also find success with applying a thin layer of coconut oil, which has natural antibacterial properties, to their feet at night, allowing it to absorb fully by morning.

Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Essential oils not only offer a pleasant scent but also have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Tea tree oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil are particularly effective:

  • Tea Tree Oil: Mix a few drops with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply to the feet. Its antifungal properties are excellent for preventing and treating athlete’s foot.
  • Lavender Oil: Known for its soothing and antimicrobial effects, lavender oil can be applied directly to the feet or added to foot baths.
  • Peppermint Oil: Provides a cooling sensation and helps neutralise foot odour. Mix with a carrier oil before application or add a few drops to your foot soak.

Medical Treatments and Solutions

When home remedies and over-the-counter solutions don’t alleviate smelly feet, it may be time to consider medical treatments. Persistent foot odour can sometimes indicate an underlying condition that requires professional intervention.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your foot odour persists despite trying various home remedies and maintaining good hygiene, or if you notice signs of infection such as itching, burning, or increased redness, it’s important to seek advice from a healthcare provider. A podiatrist or dermatologist can assess your condition and recommend a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Prescription-Strength Options

For severe cases of foot odour, particularly those caused by hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or bacterial infections, prescription-strength antiperspirants, topical antibiotics, or antifungal medications may be necessary. These treatments target the root cause of the odour more aggressively than over-the-counter products.

Advanced Treatments for Chronic Cases

In cases where excessive sweating is the primary cause of foot odour, treatments such as iontophoresis (a procedure that uses electrical currents to reduce sweat production) or Botox injections (which temporarily block the nerves that trigger sweat glands) may be considered. These options are typically explored when other treatments have failed to provide relief.

Lifestyle Changes and Long-Term Strategies

Making lifestyle adjustments can have a profound impact on reducing and preventing smelly feet. These changes not only address foot odour at its source but also contribute to overall foot health and well-being.

Diet and Hydration: Their Impact on Foot Odor

What you eat and how much you drink can influence body odour, including the smell of your feet. Foods that tend to increase body odour include garlic, onions, spicy foods, and some types of fish, while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water can help minimise odours. Proper hydration is crucial as it helps regulate body temperature and reduce the amount of sweat produced by the glands, including those in your feet.

Stress Management and Its Effects on Sweating

Stress can trigger excessive sweating, exacerbating foot odour issues. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or regular exercise can significantly decrease stress levels, thereby reducing sweat production. Managing stress is not only beneficial for reducing foot odour but also for improving overall health and quality of life.

Regular Exercise and Foot Health

While exercise naturally increases sweat production, it also improves circulation and helps regulate the functions of the sweat glands over time. Wearing appropriate, moisture-wicking socks during exercise and choosing the right footwear can minimise the risk of developing smelly feet despite the increase in sweating. Additionally, regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, which can decrease the pressure on feet and reduce sweating.


Addressing smelly feet often requires a combination of immediate treatments and long-term lifestyle adjustments. From employing daily hygiene practices and natural home remedies to considering medical interventions for persistent issues, there are multiple strategies to combat foot odour effectively. Remember, the key to success lies in consistency and a willingness to try different solutions to find what works best for you.

Understanding the root causes of smelly feet, such as sweat and bacteria interaction, and making informed choices about foot care, diet, and stress management can lead to significant improvements. For those struggling with chronic foot odour, seeking professional advice can provide targeted treatment options and relief.