Smelly feet can be embarrassing and difficult to deal with. However, there’s a lot you can do to improve and prevent foot odour.
For most, practising good hygiene is all that’s needed to improve smelly feet. But if a medical condition is the cause, you may need to do more than keep your feet clean and dry to get rid of the odour.
How much do feet normally sweat?
Your feet have more sweat glands than any other part of your body, so it’s normal for them to sweat. The total amount of sweat you produce will depend on the number of working sweat glands you have, how active they are, and whether you’re a man or a woman (men sweat more).
If your sweat glands are working at 100%, your rate of sweating may be more than 3 litres per hour. That’s the same as over 5 pints of milk. This much sweat may encourage the excessive growth of bacteria, which thrive in the damp, warm environment of your shoes.
And bacteria are the real source of unpleasant foot odour.
What medical conditions cause smelly feet?
If you have any of these medical conditions you may be more likely to get smelly feet:
- diabetes - this condition can damage a set of nerves (known as the sympathetic nerves) that are involved in stress responses
- obesity - being overweight is associated with increased sweating
- excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) - this may involve your whole body or just the feet
- depression - some antidepressants can make you sweat more
Who should you see for help with smelly feet?
If good hygiene and the regular use of deodorant or antiperspirant don’t help, it could be time to visit a doctor. They may refer you to a dermatologist for a particular type of treatment in which a gentle electric current is applied to the soles of your feet (iontophoresis).
You may also need to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist can help you to manage excessive sweating and other problems associated with having persistently wet feet. Find out more about foot problems and what podiatrists do.
Harding D. Sweaty Feet | Why do my feet sweat? | Treatment [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 21 January 2020]. Available here.
Tidy D. Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis). Sweats Abnormally [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 21 January 2020]. Available here.
Healey N. Why you can still get smelly feet in winter [Internet]. Patient.info. 2020 [cited 21 January 2020]. Available here.
Hyperhidrosis UK [Internet]. Hyperhidrosis UK. 2020 [cited 21 January 2020]. Available here.