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Dealing with Stinky Feet

Foot odor. Just the sound of those two simple words is off-putting, never mind the actual smell. Immediately your mind makes you think of sweat, cheese, vinegar. It's pretty gross. But, as gross as it may be, it's very common and most people have experienced it, even babies and children. So, what gives?

Foot odor is primarily caused from of a lack of ventilation of foot perspiration. Everybody’s feet sweat but smelly feet happen when perspiration has nowhere to evaporate. Sweat itself does not smell. The familiar smell of stinky feet comes from normal skin bacteria breaking down the secretions released from the sweat glands in our feet and producing isovaleric acid, causing the odor. However, smelly feet can also be caused by fungal infections, such as Athlete’s Foot. Other factors that can cause foot odor include poor hygiene, certain medical conditions such as bromohidrosis (excessive sweating), certain medications, harsh environments, such as construction work, wearing poor-quality shoes (that contribute to bacterial growth) and wearing over expired shoes (Hello, high school track sneakers!)

So, how can you avoid being the bane of somebody's existence and stinking up the office or a friend's foyer? Doctor Gotham has a few tips:

▪ Wash your feet with Dial Antibacterial soap once a day. Be sure to dry your feet thoroughly afterwards, especially between your toes.

▪ Rotate your shoes daily so they have at least 24 hours to dry out. Spray Lysol into your shoes at the end of the day when you are finished wearing them. Spray antiperspirant deodorant onto your feet or use foot powder to absorb sweat from your feet.

▪ Change your socks (preferably wool or cotton and not nylon as they absorb moisture better) at least once a day. There are sports socks and medicated insoles, that are designed to keep feet dry, and special antibacterial socks, which have a deodorising effect for your feet and shoes.

▪ Avoid walking barefoot in communal bathing facilities and gyms where most people pick up germs, such as bacteria, fungus, and warts. Wear flip flops at all times. If you practice yoga, clean your feet with baby wipes if you don’t have access to a shower right after class.

▪ Keep your toenails trimmed and clean. Remove any callused skin with a foot file which can provide an ideal home for bacteria and fungus to grow when the calloused skin becomes damp and soggy after a long day.

▪ Avoid wearing poor quality shoes made of plastic. Wear leather or canvas shoes instead as they let your feet breathe.

Stinky feet are more common in the winter because we tend to wear insulated shoes and boots that do not allow our feet to ventilate which causes bacteria to breed, as I mentioned above. We are also more exposed to moisture in the environment, like rain and snow, and this also contributes to this effect. Some people may experience stinky feet in the summer months from walking around in lower quality (plastic) sneakers or flats. To avoid this, wear comfortable and supportive sandals or well-ventilated shoes that allow your foot to breathe.

If you've tried everything to avoid foot odor and are still experiencing it, it's uncomfortable and makes you self-conscious. Visit a podiatrist, they can help with your foot odor.

Author
Dr. Miguel Cunha Dr. Miguel Cunha, founder of Gotham Footcare and a leading podiatrist in Manhattan, is a highly trained and skilled foot and ankle surgeon with experience treating a wide array of foot and ankle conditions from minor problems to complex reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Cunha takes pride in having a genuine interest in each and every one of his patients while providing them the utmost compassion and exceptional care.

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