Almost nothing is more embarrassing, disgusting and nauseating than smelly feet! (Well maybe except bad breath but that’s another blog post for another day.) Our reaction to foot odor is so intense because let’s face it: stinky feet are a turn-off! But there’s good news — you don’t have to live with foot odor. It can be resolved easily.
What Causes Smelly Feet?
Contrary to popular belief, foot odor isn’t caused by just a lack of cleanliness. Some people with smelly feet shower regularly and are no less hygienic than those whose feet do not smell. The primary cause of foot odor is sweaty or wet feet. Anytime your feet sweat or get wet, you run the risk of stinky feet. The increased moisture level plus the warm, enclosed environment promote bacterial and fungal growth, giving your feet that pungent, revolting odor.
Apart from excessive sweating, poor hygienic practices can also cause smelly feet. Putting on dirty socks or wearing socks made from man-made materials can also result in increased bacterial growth on your feet.
Hormonal changes can also cause foot odor. Teens and pregnant women are among those most prone to smelly feet because of these changes.
To get rid of smelly feet and keep your feet odor free, try these are simple home remedies for foot odor (including our Antibacterial Body Sprays that eliminate foot odor). These natural remedies tackle the moisture and the ability of bacteria to multiply.
7 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Smelly Feet
1. Epsom Salt Washes
Epsom salt contains magnesium which pulls moisture out of your skin, thus making the feet a less-inviting place for bacteria responsible for foot odor to survive. It also neutralizes the odor, reduces sweat and inflammation, softens the skin, and soothes aching feet.
For the soak, dissolve half a cup of Epsom salt in a small basin or tub of warm water and soak your feet for about 20 to 30 minutes. Dry the feet thoroughly. Do this twice a day for at least 3 days.
2. Saltwater Washes
Salt also has the ability to dry out the skin by absorbing excess moisture, thus reducing bacterial proliferation and the smelly feet. It also acts as an astringent.
For the soak, dissolve half a cup of kosher or sea salt in a tub or large bowl of warm water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes daily. Dry the feet thoroughly. Do this one to two times a day for a few days.
3. Tea Soaks
Tea soaks are one of the most effective home remedies for foot odor. Tea has high levels of tannins and polyphenols, which have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. This creates an unfriendly environment for bacteria and gets rid of smelly feet.
Use 4 or 5 tea bags in a tub of hot water (about a quart of water is sufficient). Let them sit for a few minutes. Allow to cool before soaking your feet for about 20 minutes each day.
4. Baking Soda or Corn Starch
Baking soda is another natural remedy that’s used to treat smelly feet. It’s a powerful alkali with antibacterial properties. It not only neutralizes some of the acid in the sweat, but also absorbs sweat thus keeping your feet dry. Corn starch also helps sweating feet stay drier by absorbing extra moisture (and making feet smell quite lovely in the process).
Sprinkle a little baking soda or corn starch into your shoe or inside your socks before you put them on to keep your feet dry.
5. Vinegar Baths
Vinegar, either white or apple cider vinegar, can also be used to get rid of smelly feet. Vinegar is highly acidic, which makes your skin inhospitable to bacteria. Bacteria struggle to grow in an environment with a lower pH.
For a vinegar soak, mix one part vinegar with two parts water in a tub or large bowl of warm water. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes once a week.
Caution: Don’t use vinegar soak if your feet have open sores, scratches or cuts. If irritation occurs, stop use.
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains lauric acid that has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. It kills the bacteria present on your feet, making it an effective home remedy for smelly feet.
After washing your feet thoroughly and drying them completely, rub coconut oil on them just before bed. The oil kills bacteria and softens your skin.
7. Essential Oils
When it comes to combating foot odor, essential oils — tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, lavender, and peppermint — have many beneficial properties. They have antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that provide a powerful boost when you’re trying to kill the odor-causing bacteria on your feet and solve the problem of foot odor once and for all. Each can be used on its own or in combination with other oils for an all-inclusive way to get rid of smelly feet. These oils also have a soothing effect on the skin, mind, and body.
Caution: Tea tree oil is mildly irritating and can dry out your skin if you’re not careful. If you’d like to try tea tree oil, it should definitely be used sparingly if applied directly to the skin and not every day to reduce any irritation you may experience. Alternatively, dilute tea tree oil with water before applying it to your feet.
How Can I Prevent Foot Odor?
You can easily maintain healthy and normal-smelling feet by ensuring proper hygiene. Some easy tips that you can follow to prevent foot odor include:
1. Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry
No matter what method you choose to get rid of your foot odor, be sure to wash the feet well with soap and water at least once daily and to completely pat the feet dry after showering, soaking or swimming. This is important especially after they’ve gotten wet or sweaty. Foot odor comes from excess moisture so keeping the feet, shoes, and socks as dry as possible is important. Don’t give bacteria the opportunity to grow and multiply on your feet. Although your feet will continue to sweat during the day, starting with dry feet gives you a better chance of staying odor free.
If you live in a warm climate or you walk around in flip flops or sandals all day long, it’s still necessary to wash your feet after taking your shoes off and drying them every day. Even though your feet may not sweat, they constantly encounter many bacteria as the shoes aren’t closed. So do your feet (and the people around you) a favor by scrubbing them. You also may wash your feet with antibacterial soap.
If you workout during the day or your feet get really sweaty during the day, have an extra pair of socks in your gym bag and change your socks after you workout or at lunchtime. Choose cotton or wool socks and leather shoes. These natural materials allow your feet to breathe and for the moisture on your feet to evaporate. Man-made materials such as polyester or plastic trap moisture.
Also, it’s perfectly OK to use an antibacterial spray on your feet. You can reap the same odor-free benefits on your feet as underneath your arms. The spray is especially easy to use. Spritz a bit on your tootsies before heading out for the day to help keep things fresh—just remember to pat your feet dry with a towel before you go.
2. Pick Your Shoes Carefully and Disinfect Them
When buying shoes, pick shoes that aren’t too tight. If they’re too snug, your feet sweat more than normal. Slightly elastic and open shoes allow most of the sweat and heat to escape while you’re walking. Another option is to wear open shoes like sandals as they don’t trap so much heat around your feet.
Choose shoes that are made of natural materials such as leather. These natural fibers are designed to breathe. Shoes made from man-made materials are most likely to cause your feet to sweat and start smelling. On occasion, merely changing the shoes you wear may solve the foot odor problem.
If your shoes stink, use a disinfectant spray to take care of that nasty smell coming from your sneakers. These sprays contain African Wild Cucumber, a natural antibacterial which kills odor-producing bacteria. Lightly spray the insole after taking it out of the shoe. Let it dry for 24 hours then put the insole back in the shoe. Your shoes are now disinfected! Setting shoes out in the sun also may help.
3. Wear Sweat-Absorbent Socks
Again, socks made from cotton and some wools absorb sweat and take some of it away from your feet. This keeps your feet dry and bacteria free. On the other hand, socks made from man-made materials such as nylon, polyester, or rayon may be tough, lightweight, and elastic, but are most prone to make your feet sweat. Avoid these at all costs.
Put on a fresh pair of socks every day. If you have really sweaty feet, carry an extra pair of socks with you so you can change halfway through the day if they get damp.
4. Change Your Shoes and Socks Daily
Wearing sweaty shoes and socks again and again encourages odor-producing bacteria to form and multiply in that warm, moist environment. Change your socks every day or after a workout or after getting them wet. Throw them in the wash and don’t wear them again until they’re completely dry.
Switch your shoes. Wearing the same shoes day in and day out can make them smellier. Let your shoes dry out for a couple of days before wearing them again. If the odor persists in your shoes, try using a shoe deodorizer.
In conclusion, the key to keeping your feet and your shoes dry and to avoid smelly feet is making foot care a regular part of your hygienic routine. Home remedies are usually very effective. However, in severe cases your doctor may prescribe stronger treatments.