Foot odor can be extremely embarrassing, and for some, it’s a serious health problem. With more than a quarter-million sweat glands in the feet alone, it's all too easy for all that moisture to create the conditions that lead to soles that smell. Practice prevention and try simple home remedies to minimize moisture and banish bacteria for sweeter-smelling feet.
Foot odor is caused by sweat; the moist environment allows the rapid growth of bacteria, which is what actually causes the unusual smell we recognize as foot odor. The feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body--more than 250,000 glands--which produce as much as a cup of sweat each day, according to Foot Care Direct. Because feet are also trapped inside shoes most of the day, this creates an ideal environment for bacteria to run rampant, resulting in foot odor. Additionally, anxiety or stress, certain drugs, and body hormone shifts can also cause a spike in foot odor, according to ePodiatry.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, may balance the pH balance of the feet, reducing the odor forming from bacteria, says podiatrist Suzanne M. Levine, D.P.M., on the website Mother Nature. She recommends dissolving one tablespoon baking soda in one quart of water and soaking feet twice a week for approximately 15 minutes. Although a soak can be effective, many people simply sprinkle a little baking soda right into their shoe, allowing it to soak up any bacteria-causing moisture. You can put also put a pinch of powder inside your socks as well.
Try soaking your feet in tea. Tea contains tannic acid that can help dry your feet out and reduce the amount of sweat, thereby lessening the chance for bacteria and odor to form. Brew up a few bags and soak your feet for about 30 minutes a day for one week.
Prevent bacteria and severe foot odor by following a few simple steps. Practice good hygiene, washing feet thoroughly, scrubbing with a gentle brush to remove dead skin and drying carefully, particularly between the toes. Wear cotton socks, which are better than synthetic materials at allowing air to circulate around the foot. Wearing open sandals when it’s warm will also allow your feet to breathe and prevent foot odor. Give your shoes a chance to dry for at least 24 hours after use by switching pairs every day. If you have a problem with foot odor, make sure not to skip the socks, as socks absorb sweat, cutting down on foot odor problems. Finally, make sure you are getting enough zinc. A zinc deficiency has been associated with foot odor problems, according to Health 911.
Serious Odor Issues
If baking soda, powders and other remedies are ineffective, you might have to see a podiatrist to take further steps. A doctor might prescribe aluminum chloride or antibiotics, or use mild electrode therapy, using an electric current to inhibit sweat glands. In extreme cases, according to ePodiatry, a surgeon can sever the nerve in the foot that causes excessive sweating.
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Writing and fitness are Dana Green's two passions. Based in Montana, she has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer for the last 10 years. She is also a NSCA-certified personal trainer and wellness coach. Green is currently the fitness columnist for "Healthy Montana"; she has also written for Kashi and "Flathead Living" magazine.