Foot odour

Foot odour

Why do feet smell?

Foot odour can be an embarrassing complaint, but it is one of the most common, liable to affect most people at some stage. The reason it is so common is because foot odour is the by-product of a perfectly natural process — sweating.

Feet contain over two million sweat glands, and when they are cooped up in socks and shoes all day long, it is only natural that they will sweat. The sweat itself does not smell, but just like any other body odour, it becomes pungent when it reacts with the bacteria on the surface of your skin.

Unlike other parts of the body, feet tend to be covered up all day with no opportunity for the bacteria to be brushed off the skin or for the sweat to dry in the air. That’s why feet tend to smell worse than other parts of the body.

What can be done to eliminate the odour?

There is a wide range of treatments and products available to limit the effect of foot odour. From charcoal inserts for shoes to oils and ointments that are rubbed into the feet themselves, the choice can be bewildering.

A good start is personal hygiene. Keeping feet clean with trimmed nails eliminates lingering skin bacteria. Wearing cotton socks as opposed to socks made from man-made fibres helps the feet to 'breathe' better, allowing more sweat to evaporate from the feet.

If you can, change socks and shoes on a daily basis. Wearing the same shoes day in day out will only make the odour problem worse, as layers of foul-smelling sweat dry into the shoes. Let your shoes air-dry at night, and if necessary, use charcoal inserts when you're wearing them, and clean them with an anti-fungal spray when you're not.

Why you might need to see your GP because of foot odour

Sometimes, foot odour is a symptom of a more significant complaint. You may be suffering from athlete's foot, or another type of fungal infection. If you detect any itchiness, redness, soreness or growths on your feet or toes, you should definitely consult your GP.

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