Smelly feet (bromodosis)
Having smelly feet is a common problem caused by a build-up of sweat. It can usually be improved with some simple treatments and self-help measuraes.
The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis.
What causes smelly feet?
The feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body. These glands release sweat regularly throughout the day to keep the skin moist and supple.
Some shoes and socks can increase the amount of sweat you produce and prevent it from evaporating or being absorbed, so your skin stays damp. These dark and damp conditions provide the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. When these bacteria break down the droplets of sweat, your feet can start to smell.
Anyone can get sweaty feet, regardless of the temperature or time of year, but it's especially common in teenagers and pregnant women because hormonal changes make them sweat more.
You’re also more likely to have sweaty feet if you’re on your feet all day, if you’re under a lot of stress, or you have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which means you sweat more than usual.
Poor hygiene can sometimes play a part too, as washing your feet infrequently or not changing socks at least once a day can allow bacteria to thrive.
How to stop smelly feet
Smelly feet can usually be improved with some simple self-care measures that can help to keep your feet clean and dry.
One of the best ways to prevent the bacteria multiplying is to practise good foot hygiene, such as.
Washing your feet every day with mild soap and a scrubbing brush, before drying them thoroughly (especially between the toes).
Keeping your toenails short and clean.
Checking the soles of your feet for hard, dead skin and removing it with a foot file. Hard skin can become soggy when damp, which provides an ideal home for bacteria.
Socks and shoes
Wearing certain types of shoes and socks, or wearing the same pair too frequently, can contribute to smelly feet. Below are some tips on how to avoid this:
Change your socks at least once a day.
Try to alternate between different pairs of shoes every day, so each pair can dry out for 24 hours before being worn again. Remove insoles to help the drying process.
Wear socks that will absorb the moisture, such as thick, soft socks made of natural fibres or socks specially designed to absorb moisture (such as feet-fresh socks and certain sports socks).
Wear shoes made of leather, canvas or mesh and not synthetic material, such as plastic.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes.
Consider wearing open-toed sandals in summer and going barefoot at home in the evenings.
Certain products can also help to treat smelly feet. You may wish to try some of the methods below:
Dab your feet with cotton wool dipped in surgical spirit every night to help dry out the skin, taking care to avoid any cracks in the skin.
Use an antifungal foot spray or medicated foot powder on your feet.
Use medicated insoles, which act as a deodorant, inside your shoes.
Antiperspirant sprays used for underarms can also be effective on the feet.
There are a wide variety of antifungal and antibacterial soaps (such as Hibiscrub) made especially for feet available over the counter at your local pharmacy.
Seeing your GP
The self-help measures mentioned above are often enough to help improve smelly feet, so you won't usually need to see your GP.
However, you should see your GP if these measures aren't helping, you are concerned about how much you sweat or your smelly feet are having a significant impact on your life.
If necessary, your GP can prescribe stronger antiperspirants and offer advice about specific treatments for excessive sweating. See treating hyperhidrosis for more information about these.