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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Foot Odor: A War Against Wretchedness

Feet clock in some heavy duty hours sometimes. Whether it’s a mobile job, dancing, sports, or any other activity that keeps one on their toes, the feet will put in their dues—likely getting sweaty in the process. And with sweat usually comes a foul foot odor. What causes smelly feet and shoes, and what can be done about it? You could think of it as a matter of crowd control.

A Bacterial Battalion

No one likes stinky feet

Sweat doesn’t really have much of an odor by itself, so what’s its connection to smelly feet? You can blame bacteria that lives on your skin instead. These organisms thrive in damp, dark, warm areas, so a sweaty foot stuck in a shoe all day is like heaven to them. As bacteria feast on dead skin cells and oils, they excrete chemical compounds that produce that detestable aroma.

It is believed that about 10-15 percent of the population have exceptionally bad foot and shoe odor, and children are more likely to be among this group as well. People within this bracket have feet that tend to sweat more than others and house a certain type of bacteria known as Kyetococcus sedentarius. In addition to the standard foul chemical cocktail, this strain of bacteria also produces sulfur compounds. The classic “rotten egg” smell is due to these substances.

Cutting the Supply Lines

Stopping the bacteria responsible for foot odor means keeping sweat and moisture in check. Several choices can be made that might significantly reduce the output of sweat or its effects.

Shoe choices are a primary factor in reducing foot sweat. Search for natural, “breathable” materials that allow some circulation of air. Plastic and synthetic materials tend to be more repressive, trapping moisture inside the shoe. Also, having only one pair of shoes isn’t enough. Swapping which pair you wear daily will give shoes a chance to air and dry out, keeping conditions in them unfavorable for bacteria.

Socks are also important, naturally. Natural fibers such as cotton also work well here, and feet that tend to sweat a lot through the day should keep an extra pair or two on hand to switch into mid-day or following physical activity.

Objects that come in contact with sweat should also be kept clean. This includes the feet, which should be washed and carefully dried (even between the toes) daily, and shoes that can be periodically treated with disinfectants or washed with warm water before fully being dried. If you don’t want to wash the entire shoe, the inner sole that touches the foot can be washed on its own, too.

Foot Odor Treatment in Milford, CT

In many cases, allowing some opportunity for airing out and cleanliness can go a long way toward reducing smelly feet. Other times, however, the problem may be more severe and need a professional approach. If at-home measures haven’t helped a foot odor problem with you or a loved one, Dr. Sanjay Patel can help find a working solution. This might involve treatments for excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) or attacking certain bacteria specifically.  

Call to schedule an appointment with either of our two offices: (203) 876-7736 for Milford or (203) 288-4055 for Hamden. You can also request an appointment through our online form.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
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Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.