With October 31st quickly approaching, children across the country will soon be running door to door with a treat depository (aka goodie bag) chanting ‘Treat or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!’. While this old rhyme is fun during the spooktacular holiday season, smelly feet is nothing to joke about.
Sweat is a big component of smelly feet. Our feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body- nearly 3,000 glands per square foot. One foot can produce more than a pint of sweat in a single day! But sweat is just basically salt and water, so it is not the cause of the smell. The odor is caused by bacteria. Bacteria feed on dead skin cells, body oil, and sweat. The bacteria then produces organic acid which is the odor we smell.
But, our hands contain about the same amount of sweat glands as our feet do. So why don’t our hands stink like our feet? The answer is shoes and socks. Our hands are not surrounded by layers of clothing, allowing sweat to escape off the skin. Our feet, on the other hand (pun intended), are usually swathed within socks and/or shoes. The sweat can’t escape and collects on the skin of our feet, creating a buffet of sweaty goodness for the bacteria to feast on. Our shoes and socks are also dark, moist, and damp- a bacteria playground!
Smelly feet can also be caused by an inherited condition called hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. This condition is more common in males. Stress, some medications, fluid intake, and hormonal changes also can increase the amount of perspiration your body produces.
Smelly feet generally can be controlled with a few preventive measures:
- Always wear socks with closed shoes, do not go sockless.
- Avoid wearing nylon socks or plastic shoes. Instead, wear shoes made of leather, canvas, mesh or other materials that let your feet breathe.
- Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm water, using a mild soap. Dry thoroughly.
- Change your socks at least once a day. You may have to change more frequently in the summer or during activity that makes you sweat more (gym class, work out, etc.).
- Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Alternate what you wear so that the shoes can dry out. Give your shoes at least 24 hours to air out between wear.
- Wear thick, soft socks to help draw moisture away from the feet.
If you are following these steps and practicing good foot hygiene but you still have perspiration or sweating, there are many treatment options available. Different lotions, powders, and even spray-powders can prevent perspiration. Whenever you treat foot odor or sweat, it’s important to also treat the shoes and socks. Spray an anti-fungal anti-bacterial sanitizing deodorant into shoes everyday to kill the bacteria inside the shoe. Wear socks that are made of absorbent materials such as cotton. Copper soled socks actually wick away sweat, decreasing foot odor. In severe cases, surgical options may need to be considered. Your physician would cut the nerve that controls sweating.
Have a fun and safe Halloween, and I hope you receive more tricks than treats! If you have feet that smell or sweat, contact Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates at 309-661-9975 to make an appointment.