Dreading taking your shoes off and being met with a blast of horrid odor from your feet? Stinky feet can be unappealing and embarrassing but it’s a common enough problem. So what exactly is making your tootsies smell?
What’s To Blame For Smelly Feet?
Excessive sweating and bacteria on your feet are usually responsible – bacteria on your skin breaks down sweat, which in turn gives off that cheesy odor as it decomposes. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also make your feet smell. And while anyone can get a bad case of smelly feet, pregnant women and teenagers may be more susceptible because their hormones make them sweat more. You’re also more likely to have sweaty feet if you are on your feet a lot, are under stress, or suffer from a condition known as hyperhidrosis which causes excessive sweating.1
Stop The Stink Naturally!
Here are some things you can do to stop that bad smell in its tracks!
1. Dust With Baking Soda
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate can absorb moisture as well as odor. So wash your feet, dry them thoroughly, and then dust with this commonly available kitchen staple before putting on your socks and shoes. This will soak up perspiration and make it difficult for bacteria to grow.2
2. Use An Arrowroot Foot Powder
Using a foot powder made of moisture-absorbing arrowroot and various antimicrobial essential oils can keep odor-creating bacteria and fungi from multiplying. One case study found that when a woman used a foot powder made of arrowroot, baking soda, tea tree oil, basil oil, clove oil, and sage oil, before enclosing her feet in socks and shoes for eight hours, it completely inhibited the growth of yeast, mold, fungi, and aerobic bacteria.3 So make some sweet-smelling foot powder and you can go about your day without worrying about stinky feet!
3. Make An Apple Cider Vinegar Soak
The acidity of vinegar makes it effective against bacteria and fungi that grow on your feet.4 5 To clear out microorganisms that can stink up your feet, add a cup of vinegar to a basin of warm water. Now soak your feet in this solution for around 20 minutes a couple of times a week.6
4. Try A Tea Tree Oil Foot Bath
Here’s how you can use the wonderful properties of this essential oil to combat smelly feet. Add approximately half a cup of apple cider vinegar to about a liter of hot water and mix in 10 drops of tea tree oil. Soak your feet for 15 minutes to half an hour and allow them to air dry.9
5. Soak In Epsom Salts
Epsom salts are a commonly used remedy for foot odor. Soak your feet in a solution of Epsom salts and water for 15 minutes a couple of times a day to get rid of any bad smell. Epsom salts are said to lessen perspiration and may even kill bacteria.10
6. Wipe With Lemon Oil
When life hands you lemons, deodorize your feet! Now, you might be aware of lemon’s sterling reputation as a household cleaner but did you know that they can keep your feet smelling sweet? According to research, lemon oil has antibacterial properties.11 So you can use their power to give your feet a nice citrusy fragrance. Dilute 10 drops of lemon oil in an ounce of water, add in some fresh lemon juice, and wipe the stink away.12
7. Soak In Black Tea
Tannins in black tea have an astringent effect and can help you sweat less by shrinking your pores temporarily. They also kill bacteria.13
Boil a few tea bags in water and let it cool down. Soak your feet in this tea for around half an hour a day for a week for stink-free feet.14
8. Go For A Cinnamon Oil Footbath
Does the smell of cinnamon make you think of sweet buns and cakes? Well, this sweet spice isn’t just for cooking but can freshen up your feet too. According to research, cinnamon oil shows strong activity against bacteria found on the skin that cause foot odor. In fact, one study found that a cinnamon gel oil product effectively reduced bacterial population by 90% after an hour of contact time.15
You can add a few drops of cinnamon oil to warm water to make a foot bath and soak it in for feet that smell good enough to eat!
9. Try Some Thyme
Thyme is another herb that can be used to combat foot odor. It has potent antiseptic properties and was, in fact, used once upon a time by doctors to clean wounds.16
Steep thyme leaves for about 20 minutes in hot water or add a few drops of thyme oil to warm water to make a deodorizing foot bath. You could also add a few drops of cinnamon oil to this foot bath as studies show that the combination of cinnamon and thyme can have a strong additive effect against certain bacteria.17
10. Freshen Up With Peppermint
The bioactive compound menthol present in peppermint has been found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Moreover, the strong distinctively refreshing fragrance of peppermint makes it an ideal deodorizing agent.18 19
Steep the herb in hot water for around 10–20 minutes. Now strain to make a warm deodorizing foot bath. You can also soak your feet in a basin filled with warm water to which a few drops of essential peppermint oil have been added for minty fresh feet.
Steps To Stop Your Feet From Smelling
Keeping feet fresh and sweet smelling is all down to good personal hygiene and changing your shoes regularly. To keep feet fresh:
- Use shoes made of leather or canvas which will allow your feet to breathe. Also, make sure you give your shoes time to dry out before you wear them again.
- Use socks made of cotton or moisture-wicking material so that your feet don’t stay damp when they sweat.
- Clean your feet every day and always make sure you dry them thoroughly after washing as bacteria and fungi thrive in warm moist areas. You can also apply surgical spirit between your toes after a shower to dry your skin.
- Clip your toenails and keep them clean.
- Use a foot file to remove hard skin on your feet as it can get soggy when it’s damp, providing bacteria an ideal breeding environment.
- Medicated insoles that have a deodorizing impact and special socks which have antibacterial properties can also be helpful in preventing your feet from smelling.20
No More Stinky Shoes: Stopping Your Shoes From Smelling!
The sweat from your feet soaks into your shoes and gives bacteria a chance to grow there. In fact, bacteria continue to grow even after you’ve taken off your shoes, particularly if you keep your shoes in a dark space, say, a closet. No wonder then that your shoes stink! So what can you do to keep your shoes smelling fresh?
- Don’t wear the same shoes for more than a day continuously. Alternate your shoes so that they get at least a day to dry out.
- Keep your shoes in a well-ventilated place.21
- Use an antibacterial shoe powder. Here’s a simple recipe for something that you can make at home. Mix 4 drops of tea tree oil with 3 tablespoons of baking soda, adding it in one drop at a time so that it doesn’t clump up. Leave this powder in your shoes overnight to freshen up your shoes.22
|↑1||How to stop smelly feet. National Health Service.|
|↑2, ↑6, ↑10||Green, Joey. Joey Green’s Magic Health Remedies: 1,363 Quick-and-easy Cures Using Brand-name Products. Rodale, 2013.|
|↑3||Misner, Bill D. “A novel aromatic oil compound inhibits microbial overgrowth on feet: a case study.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 4, no. 1 (2007): 3.|
|↑4||Cheung, Y. Y., S. Lee, M. Hui, and T. Luk. “Effect of pH on fungal growth: problems with using vinegar (5% acetic acid) in treating superficial fungal infections.” Hong Kong J Dermatol Venereol 2 (2014): 57-64.|
|↑5||Samad, Anuar, Azrina Azlan, and Amin Ismail. “Therapeutic effects of vinegar: a review.” Current Opinion in Food Science 8 (2016): 56-61.|
|↑7||Cox, S. D., C. M. Mann, J. L. Markham, H. C. Bell, J. E. Gustafson, J. R. Warmington, and S. G. Wyllie. “The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil).” Journal of applied microbiology 88, no. 1 (2000): 170-175.|
|↑8||Satchell, Andrew C., Anne Saurajen, Craig Bell, and Ross StC Barnetson. “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: A randomized, placebo‐controlled, blinded study.” Australasian journal of dermatology 43, no. 3 (2002): 175-178.|
|↑9||Bragg, Paul Chappuis. Build Strong Healthy Feet. Health Science Publications, Inc., 2004.|
|↑11||Prabuseenivasan, Seenivasan, Manickkam Jayakumar, and Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu. “In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 6, no. 1 (2006): 39.|
|↑12||Gottlieb, Bill, ed. New choices in natural healing: Over 1,800 of the best self-help remedies from the world of alternative medicine. Rodale, 1995.|
|↑13||Ashok, Praveen Kumar, and Kumud Upadhyaya. “Tannins are astringent.” Journal of pharmacognosy and phytochemistry 1, no. 3 (2012).|
|↑14||Gottlieb, Bill, ed. New choices in natural healing: Over 1,800 of the best self-help remedies from the world of alternative medicine. Rodale, 1995.|
|↑15||Lertsatitthanakorn, Pilanthana, and Bhuddhipong Satayavongthip. “Antibacterial activity of an effective spice essential oil formulated in foot deodorant gel against Bacillus subtilis.” Journal of Biological Sciences 12, no. 5 (2012): 315.|
|↑16||Press, Sonoma. Do-It-Yourself Herbal Medicine: Home-Crafted Remedies for Health and Beauty. Arcas Publishing, 2015.|
|↑17||Fei, L. U., Yi-cheng DING, Xing-qian YE, and Yu-ting DING. “Antibacterial effect of cinnamon oil combined with thyme or clove oil.” Agricultural Sciences in China 10, no. 9 (2011): 1482-1487.|
|↑18||Bupesh, G., C. Amutha, S. Nandagopal, A. Ganeshkumar, P. Sureshkumar, and K. Murali. “Antibacterial activity of Mentha piperita L.(peppermint) from leaf extracts-a medicinal plant.” Acta Agriculturae Slovenica 89, no. 1 (2007): 73.|
|↑19||Quigley, Delia. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Detoxing Your Body. Penguin. 2008.|
|↑20, ↑21||How to stop smelly feet. National Health Service.|
|↑22||Press, Sonoma. Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, An Introductory Guide: More Than 300 Recipes for Health, Home and Beauty. Arcas Publishing, 2014.|