Smelly Feet

Suffering from smelly feet (bromohydrosis) can be a very embarrassing and social isolating problem.

There are a great many glands in the feet that secrete fluid containing water and salt; when this perspiration is left confined, not washed off or unable to be evaporated, the bacteria of the skin attack it and produce a malodorous substance.

Causes of Smelly Feet

Wearing constrictive footwear for long periods of time is a very common factor in the incidence of foot odour. Many occupations require the employee to spend long hours, sometimes walking long distances for the whole shift. This does not help with preventing smelly feet.

Wearing shoes that are made from synthetic materials increase the fluid produced and do not allow for absorption. Infrequent washing of the feet and not changing the socks at least once a day, will add to foot odours accumulating. Some individuals simply sweat more than others and produce more fluid hence more bacterial build up.

The amount of fluids consumed, the temperature, certain medications and hormonal changes can all add to the amount that a person sweats.

Treatment of Smelly Feet

  • Bathe feet at least once a day to help reduce bacterial build-up on the skin.
  • Use an anti-bacterial soap for washing the feet, and make sure that they are dried properly, including in between the toes.
  • Wear shoes that are ventilated in some way or are made of natural leather as this will allow for evaporation and absorption.
  • Cotton socks that are not too tight will help to absorb some of the fluid produced before bacteria are able to come into contact with it.
  • Use a foot spray, powder or lotion that is specially designed to combat foot odours.
  • Use anti-bacterial shoe inserts to help fight off bacterial collection.
  • As athlete’s foot is a common associate of sweaty feet, always check for symptoms of this such as itching and flaking of the skin and treat immediately to prevent the two conditions from deteriorating.
  • Keep toe nails clean and short, as they can provide a home for bacteria to multiply in and also will help avoid athlete’s foot occurring.
  • Naturalists recommend the use of a tea bath for the feet at least once a week for around half an hour; the natural substance found in tea helps to fight bacteria.

If sweating is excessive (hyperhydrosis), and foot odour is very severe, a surgical procedure can be performed to sever the nerve responsible for the control of sweating. Patients must be aware that the excess fluid will be excreted thorough other channels, so sweating may not be reduced, just where it occurs.

Occasionally electrolysis is used; this is less invasive than surgery, is safer but can be expensive and is not 100% effective in all users.


  • Air feet every day whenever possible and allow for sweat to evaporate.
  • Wearing cotton socks that are fairly loose fitting will help to decrease the chances of developing foot odours.
  • Change socks at least once a day, and alternate the shoes that are worn daily if possible.

Foot odour is a problem that can cause social embarrassment for the sufferer. Sometimes these people have tried many methods to control this problem and are not successful. Others may be unaware of the problem, and may need a good friend to tell them.

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