Can you clear a room with a kick of your shoe? You’re not alone. Why do some feet have a such a strong, particular odour, and others don’t? And if yours are smellier than most, is it at least harmless? Here, general internal medicine specialist Dr. Seema Marwaha answers the questions about smelly feet you might be too embarrassed to ask.
Do my feet actually sweat?
Each of your feet has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles — and as a pair, your feet have 250,000 sweat glands that make about one cup of sweat every day. That means your feet can produce more sweat per square inch of skin than any other part of your body.
But the sweat itself isn’t the problem — the type produced by your foot glands is typically odourless. It’s bacteria that’s the main culprit.
The bacteria that live on the skin of your feet like living in the moist, warm environment your sock provides, and they also like hanging out on sweaty bare feet. When these bacteria digest the amino acids in your foot sweat, they produce a byproduct that smells, well, stinky.
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My friends don’t seem to second guess taking off their shoes. Why is my foot odour worse than theirs?
All bacteria aren’t created equal: Some give off the same by-product found in various stinky cheeses. Other bacteria digest the dry, dead skin cells on the soles of your feet and produce a sulfur by-product that can smell like rotten eggs.
If you happen to have a lot of bacteria living on your feet, you might have more issues with foot odour than others.
How do I know if I have something like Athlete’s Foot?
Athletes foot is a scaly, itchy fungal infection that can grow between your toes if they’re too confined in shoes and socks. It can be treated using an over the counter anti-fungal cream.
Ok, so back to them just being smelly — what can I do? I can’t just keep my shoes on all the time.
Try washing them with an antibacterial foot scrub for a few minutes – just avoid using these scrubs if you have broken skin or eczema.
It’s also important to wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. And try not to wear the same shoes 2 days in a row.
You should also wear clean socks every day — cotton or wool socks are more breathable than nylon. And if you’re particularly prone to sweaty feet, try spraying them with aerosol deodorant or antiperspirant.
Leather or canvas shoes are more breathable — and wearing open-toed sandals in the summer and going barefoot at home can also help.