Why Do My Feet Smell? How to Destroy the Smell in a Few Minutes

Have you ever taken off your shoes just to be greeted by a strong foul-smelling stench?

Why do our feet smell worse on some days?

Think about this:

When you take off my shoes (and socks), are you worried about the stench?

Especially if you are visiting a friend? Or in the company of others?

When left unattended, it might bother other people.

Today, we will be introducing the causes of foot odour and methods on how to deal with it.

Causes of Foot Odour

Many people are worried and conscious about that stench from their feet.

Here, we will explain the causes of foot odour.

1. Bacteria

Not surprisingly, the main cause of foot odour is germs. 

Pre-existing bacteria originally lurking in the feet include sebum and dead skin.

When these are mixed together with dirt and sweat, substances that cause odours are produced. 

We will introduce the sources that cause germs to propagate.

i. Sweat

The sole of the foot is where sweat produces the easiest compared to other areas of your foot.

This is because the sweat glands are concentrated in that region.

It is said that the amount of sweat glands on your foot is 5-10 times more than your back.

Here’s an interesting piece of information: Your foot can produce as much as one cup of sweat in a day.

Surprisingly, the sweat from the "eccrine glands" which are located at the soles of your feet, is essentially odourless.

Only when mixed with the existing bacteria on your feet, an odour will start to form.

ii. Shoes, Socks

Shoes and socks that have been worn for a long time become stuffy and can cause odours. 

Especially in the case of shoes that cover the entire foot, such as pumps and leather shoes, sweat tends to accumulate due to poor breathability, and germs are thus likely to grow. 

The bacteria from your feet prefer high temperatures and humidity, so don't let the moisture in your shoes and socks build up.

2. Odour Caused by Fatigue

If your feet still smells even after washing, it may be due to something called a “fatigued odour”. 

When fatigue accumulates in the body, the function of the liver and kidneys weaken. 

When this happens, ammonia, which should originally come out of the body in the form of urine, travels throughout the body through the blood and comes out of the skin. 

In particular, legs that are tired from standing tend to have poor blood circulation, and blood and waste products tend to accumulate in the lower parts of your body. 

Therefore, the toxin ammonia is discharged as a waste product, and a “fatigue odour” is generated.

3. Nails

Sweat and dead skin cells tend to collect as grime between the toenails. 

If left untreated, it will begin to emit a strong odour. 

Be especially careful as debris tends to collect in your nails. 

Take measures such as cutting your nails frequently or removing dirt with a brush.

4. Stress

Foot odour is also related to stress. 

It is called "mental sweating", and when you are tense, the amount of sweat produced increases which results in an odour. 

In addition, the accumulation of stress can cause the aforementioned fatigue odour.

The Odour-Production Process

The Inside of Your Shoes Is Stuffy!

Care must be taken not to create an environment where bacteria can easily live due to the accumulation of moisture in the shoes. 

Let’s take a look at the preferential conditions in which bacteria thrive:

  1. Warmth
  2. Moisture
  3. Oxygen-Rich
  4. Nutrients

In other words, shoes that are large in size with many gaps and have poor breathability are the worst type of shoes as it is the most ideal environment for bacteria to propagate. 

The nutrients listed above is in the form of dead skin.

Ensure your feet are always clean and free of old and dead skin.

Three Types of Bacteria Cause Odour

There are three components that bacteria excrete. 

  1. Methanethiol
  2. Propionic acid
  3. 3-methylbutanoic acid

Methanethiol has a sulphuric odour.

When this type of bacteria consumes dead skin, it produces a cheese-like odour.

Next, propionic acid produces a sour odour.

In addition, 3-methylbutanoic acid is generated when staphylococci eat dead skin, resulting in an unpleasant odour of cheese and vinegar.

In other words, the soles of the feet emit a sour odour that is a combination of sulphur, cheese, and vinegar. 

It's a nauseating combination that causes my stomach to churn just imagining it!

The Moment You Put on Your Shoes, the Odour Starts to Grow

The activity cycle of this bacterium begins when you put on your shoes. 

So what should you do? 

The main issues are: sweat, dead skin and bacteria

What can be done to deal with the three causes that have appeared so far? 

Although it is simple, it requires an accurate response one by one.

Some People are More Susceptible to Stinky Feet!

Let’s take a look at who are most vulnerable to stinky feet: 

  • People who wear rubber or vinyl shoes: Rubber and vinyl shoes have poor breathability and tend to accumulate sweat and body temperature. Thus, creating an optimal breading ground for germs and bacteria.
  • People who wear the same shoes every day: If you wear the same shoes every day, germs will grow with each passing day.
  • People whose socks are not clean: If you do not change your socks after you sweat, germs will grow and the odour will become even stronger.
  • People who wear stockings and tights: Stockings and tights with poor breathability can also cause germs to grow. People who frequently wear stockings and tights should be careful. 
  • People who do not remove the dead skin on their feet: The keratin of the foot, which supports the weight, tends to thicken to protect the foot from friction and impact. In fact, this keratin is also a cause of foot odour. The keratin itself does not smell, but when bacteria invade the thickened keratin and decompose it, an unpleasant odour is generated. People who wear tight or thin shoes will have poor blood circulation and will be prone to dead skin cells.

Fatigue and Illness Can Cause Foot Odour

In addition to germs, fatigue and illness can also cause foot odour.

Odour Caused By Fatigue

If you lead an irregular life or get stressed easily and frequently, your feet might emit something called a "fatigue odour" which contains ammonia. 

It is said that odours containing ammonia, such as odour caused by fatigue, cannot be easily eliminated even with deodorants.

This is because this type of odour is emitted from the body, and not from your skin.

Pay close attention to lifestyle-related disorders and stress so you don’t get tired easily and frequently.

Hyperhidrosis and Visceral Diseases

Some people with certain conditions are more vulnerable to foot odours.

Hyperhidrosis is a condition where you sweat excessively - this does not necessarily have to do with heat or exercise.

Those with a weakened immunity due to visceral diseases or diabetes also have more active foot bacteria. 

Foot odour is more likely to occur in these people.

The odour of your feet is related to your physical condition.

So in order to prevent foot odours of your feet, it is important to try to live a stress-free and healthy life.

Measures Against Foot Odour That You Will Want to Start Right Away!

1. Keep Your Feet Clean

Keeping your feet clean is a must to prevent the growth of germs, especially if you leave your toenails uncut. 

The dirt and grime stuck between the toenails is a good source of nutrients for germs. 

Cut your toenails diligently to remove any dirt.

The pre-existing bacteria hidden in the feet are not bad in nature.

They actually help balance the pH of the surface of the skin.

However, if it increases too much, it will cause an odour. 

To prevent the increase of indigenous bacteria, wash your feet carefully so that old dead skin cells and dirt do not remain. 

Here's how to wash your feet properly.

i. Remove Dead Skin

First, remove the thick dead skin on the soles of your feet. 

Gently remove dead skin with a file or a dead skin remover like a pumice stone. 

At this time, move the file in one direction. 

Also, if you do this with wet feet, you may end up removing skin cells that do not need to be removed.

So be sure to do this while your feet are dry. 

As a general rule, polish your feet once or twice a week.

ii. Remove Grime and Dirt with a Foot Bath

Fill a washbasin with hot water and soak your feet in it. 

By doing this, the dirt and grime will be softened and it will be much easier to remove.

iii. Lather Soap and Wash

Wash each leg with well-foamed soap. 

You may want to opt for soap made especially for the feet.

This will yield an even better result.

This is because body soaps often contain moisturizing ingredients that can cause sweat and stuffiness. 

The point here is to wash by hand. 

If you injure or make microscopic cuts to the soles of your feet with a sponge or brush, etc., it will promote the growth of bacteria. 

Gently wash with your hands, especially between your toes where dirt easily collects.

iv. Wash Between the Nails

It's easy to overlook the nails, but this is the easiest place for dirt to collect. 

In some cases, use a nail brush to thoroughly clean it.

v. Wash Well

Use lukewarm water to thoroughly remove soap bubbles and foam. 

Make sure you do not leave any soap residue on your feet.

vi. Wipe off Excess Water

After washing, wipe off the water completely with a towel. 

If water remains on your feet, it will lead to the growth of germs, so wipe the area between your toes thoroughly. 

One option is to use a hair dryer. 

Be sure not to wear slippers or socks until your feet are completely dry.

2. Use Alum

Another name for alum is aluminum potassium sulphate.

Alum is what you find at grocery stores for pickling and it is also a component in baking powder.

Alum can actually be used as a measure against foot odours. 

It has an anti-bactericidal and antiperspirant effect, so it can remove germs on the surface.

Create an effective and natural cleaning solution made from alum:

  1. In a bottle with a cap, combine 500mL of water with 20g of alum.
  2. It takes time for alum to melt, so close the cap and shake vigorously.
  3. Store the solution into the fridge until the water becomes transparent.

When using the solution, we recommend diluting it 10 times more. 

To use your solution, try wetting a gauze or putting it into a spray bottle and spraying your feet. 

3. Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is also effective against odours. 

Fill a wash basin with hot water and add in 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda. 

Soak your feet in it for about 15 minutes to prevent odours.

Since most germs on the feet that cause odour are acidic, you can neutralize it by using baking soda which is alkaline. 

The smell should disappear. 

4. Clean Your Shoes

Some people may wear the same shoes every day. 

To keep the shoes dry, once worn, rest your shoes for at least two days to let them dry thoroughly. 

However, if you can't do without that pair of favourite work shoes for more than a day, you can try putting them in the freezer.  

The odour disappears because germs cannot survive under the temperature of the freezer.

If you opt for this method, be sure to put your shoes in a plastic bag.  

i. Do Not Keep Wearing the Same Shoes

If you wear the same shoes every day, germs will grow with each passing day. 

Use multiple shoes on a daily basis, or if you're wearing shoes all day long, try changing to breathable slippers while you're at your desk.

ii. Dry Your Shoes Properly

Ensure your shoes are dried properly. 

It is important to diligently dry the shoes in the sun once they are worn to prevent the growth of bacteria.

iii. Keep Your Shoe Closet or Box Clean and Dry

If the humidity inside the shoe storage box is high, germs can easily grow. 

To dehumidify and deodorize the inside of the shoe box, we recommend putting baking soda or charcoal inside.

5. Proper Sock Care

i. Wear Breathable Socks

Socks made of natural materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool are more hygroscopic than those made of synthetic fibers.

Natural fibres tend to improve the odour of your feet. 

ii. Wear Socks with Moisture-Wicking Properties

Wearing clean socks is extremely important and the number one rule of foot hygiene. 

Basically, choose cotton socks that absorbs sweat well and is breathable.

6. Use Deodorant as a Preventive Measure

For people whose feet sweat excessively, it may be a good idea to apply foot deodorant to keep the soles of your feet dry.

7. Find Ways to Release Stress

As introduced in an earlier section, stress is a source of odour. 

Take soothing baths and get enough sleep as possible to prevent fatigue.

If the odour is caused by fatigue, deodorants are not very effective.

In this case, it is most effective to aim for a fundamental improvement.


Smell is a delicate problem which many people are conscious about, so proper care is essential. 

Take proper measures and don't hesitate to take off your shoes.


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