Foot odour

Family Health Diary

Do you have problems with smelly feet in summer? So do lots of people.

Sweat glands are over most of your body but mainly the palms of the hands, the soles of your feet and on your forehead. We all produce sweat (also called perspiration). As the sweat evaporates from the skin it cools the body down. That’s why most people perspire more when they are hot.

Foot odour is when perspiration is mixed with the bacteria that live on our skin. Some people have more sweat glands on their feet or just sweat more than the average person. For some people smelly feet can be upsetting or embarrassing.

Some researchers say that around 10 – 15% of people endure really bad foot odour due to specific bacteria that loves to live in sneakers and running shoes. The bugs eat dead skin cells and they are attracted to a warm moist environment in damp shoes. The more perspiration your feet produce, the more likely you are to have the type of bacteria that make a bad smell. Occasionally smelly feet can be caused by a fungal infection like athletes foot. This infection also likes warm damp feet.


  • If you get home from school or work with damp feet. Take off your shoes and socks. Wash and thoroughly dry your feet.
  • If it is cold weather put on clean dry socks and different shoes (or slippers) after washing and drying your feet. If it is warm weather, try and go without shoes and socks.
  • After sports always remove the damp shoes and socks as soon as possible. Wash your feet and make sure they are thoroughly dry before putting on clean dry socks.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry sports shoes and sneakers (or other fabric shoes) that is causing a problem with odour.
  • There are products you can purchase in a pharmacy that will kill the bugs growing in your shoes and therefore reduce the smell.
  • There are things you can buy in the pharmacy to reduce the amount your feet perspire. Treatments for smelly feet include antiperspirant or deodorant products for the feet. There are also sprays and powders for the feet and for the shoes.
  • Antiperspirant products usually contain aluminium which temporarily block the pores and prevent perspiration.
  • Deodorants reduce the odour but do not reduce the perspiration. They are often alcohol based and make your skin more acidic and therefore the bacteria don’t want to be there.
  • Sprays and powders for the shoes can be very effective if you have shoes that cannot be put through the wash.
  • Avoid plastic shoes as they stop your feet from being able to evaporate the sweat as it is produced.
  • Wear Cotton or woollen socks rather than synthetic socks (which may increase sweating)

If you’ve tried everything or if you suspect that you have a fungal infection like athlete’s foot ask your pharmacist for advice. Also check with your pharmacist or doctor if you have diabetes or cellulitis and are having ongoing problems with your feet.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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