Foot odor is a common complaint for people of all ages ranging from young kids to the elderly. Many people assume that foot odor is caused by sweat or poor hygiene. However, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Understanding the cause of foul smelling feet will help you get to the fix so you can say goodbye to stinky feet (and shoes) for good.
Unpleasant smelling feet are not always the result of excess sweat, though sweat can play a role. Strangely enough, sweat doesn’t really have an odor, but the bacteria that feeds on it does. Smelly shoes can be caused by:
•Bacteria feeding on the sweat produced by the feet
•An infection that is present on the feet
•A build-up of bacteria encouraged by wearing shoes without socks
•A build-up of bacteria as a result of repeatedly wearing wet or dirty shoes
•A the interaction between certain shoe materials and the heat of wear
In the case of smelly feet, the treatment really depends on the cause. There are a lot of products out there to sprinkle and spray in your shoes that claim they will remove foot odor. These products work by attacking the smelly bacteria that have spread from your feet onto your shoes. This can be a good tool because if you fix the issue with your feet and then put them back into shoes laden with bacteria, of course the issue will continue. But it works the other way around even more. If you just treat your shoes and not your feet, you will never really be rid of the bad odor.
For a general foot odor caused by bacteria present in your sweat, make sure you are taking steps to mitigate the level of sweat that sits in your shoes. The first step is to wash your feet regularly with an antibacterial soap and to treat your shoes with an antibacterial spray or powder. Some shoes can even be washed in the washing machine, though it is important to check with the manufacturer to see if that is an option. If you are wearing after-factory insoles in your shoes, change them regularly as they can also absorb bacteria from your feet. To discourage shoe insoles and other shoe materials from having so much opportunity to absorb bad bacteria, make sure to wear socks on a regular basis. When you don’t wear socks in your shoes, you are allowing the friction and the heat from wearing your shoes to impact your feet, causing your feet to sweat more. That sweat will have nowhere to go but into your shoes where it will make the perfect place for bacteria to grow.
An infection that is present on the feet can cause bacteria to be present as well. However, simply washing the feet is unlikely to treat the infection. Before treating the infection, you need to identify what kind it is. Some infections, such as pitted keratolysis or athlete’s foot can come along with a rash as well as an odor. It is important that a doctor correctly identifies the infection so that it can be treated with the right medication. It is a good idea to discard any shoes that were being used while the infection was present so that you can avoid re-infecting the newly treated feet.
Sometimes the problem doesn’t start with the feet, but with the shoes. If the materials or the glue present in certain shoes heats up, it can cause an odor to be present. Buying shoes with non-synthetic materials can sometimes help to prevent this, but not always. Usually the odor will subside over time as the shoes become worn in.
No matter what the cause of your foot odor is, it is possible to overcome it. You don’t need to have smelly feet if you can identify the cause and take care of it at the root of the problem.
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