If you are having problems with Foot Odor, here are possible causes and treatments.
Foot odor refers to an unpleasant smell (form of body odor) originating in the feet. Most people report this odor to resemble malt vinegar or musty cheese (indeed, one particular strain of bacteria responsible for foot odor is the same one that gives Limburger cheese its characteristic smell).
The primary cause of foot odor is actually sweat (feet have the most sweat glands of any part of the body) which is itself odorless but fosters the growth of a multitude of different odor producing bacteria. Often times these bacteria are already naturally present on the skin as part of the human flora, however increased levels of moisture combined with surface area to act as their host causes them to multiply and emit foul smells.
Foot Odor Causes
Wearing anything on the feet that causes inadequate ventilation for a prolonged period of time can directly lead to foot odor. This can include socks and shoes. Even hair on the feet (particularly the toes) can exacerbate the smell by providing more surface area for the bacteria to grow on. Socks’ direct contact with the foot can mean that the fabric they are made of can have an impact.
Nylon and polyester, two very common materials used in socks, provide considerably less ventilation than wool or cotton. As such, both increase the risk of foot odor considerably. Even worse, however, is wearing closed shoes without socks as socks tend to absorb a sizeable amount of the sweat that directly leads to foot odor.
There are some biological factors, too, that can increase your risk of foot odor. These include hyperhidrosis (exceedingly active sweat glands on the feet), certain drugs, hormonal changes, and stress.
Prevention and treatment
The best prevention methods, other than keeping the feet properly ventilated and sweat free, generally consist of deodorants and “odor eater” type devices. The cheapest of these is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Baking soda can be bought for approximately 1/20th of what conventional Odor Eaters would cost, and if applied in four small pinches to the feet (often times two in the sock, two in the shoe) daily, can prevent or treat foot odor effectively.
Another good and cheap solution is swabbing the feet twice daily with Isopropyl Alcohol, which can be found at any local drug store.
Applying deodorant and/or antiperspirant to the feet daily is another (perhaps more temporary) solution.
Odor Eaters are a brand of powder laden insoles (placed directly into the shoe), often times made out of a substance such as activated charcoal that absorb moisture and odor very effectively. Before this, the most common solution of this type was the use of cedarsoles because of their antibacterial characteristics.
All in all, good foot hygiene is the key to preventing foot odor. This can be a particularly nasty and annoying problem (Odor eaters claims it has saved thousands of marriages) that is not difficult to prevent and eliminate. Proper fabric socks, occasionally airing out or removing shoes, and washing of the feet all go a long way to preventing foot odor.