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Foot odor – Causes, Remedies, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

Does anyone in your family have terrible foot odor? Almost every family has one member who takes off their shoes and clears the room out. This is a condition referred to as Hyperhidrosis or extreme foot odor. For some reason, humans seem to have more sweat glands in their feet than anywhere else. Most humans have between 2 to 5 million sweat glands and 500,000 of these are located on the feet which makes the feet the place with the highest concentration of sweat glands.

Foot odor Causes

The main reason some individuals have feet (and socks) that smell much worse than other peoples are because some individuals sweat more than others and the smell is a sign of overactive sweat glands. This excessive sweating develops an environment for the growth of excessive fungus as well as bacteria. And it is all these extra fungus and bacteria which causes the overwhelming odor. But there are other variable physiological reasons for excessive sweat – this is why there are times that a person’s feet smell worse than at other times. The excessive bacteria produces isovaleric acid which is what causes the odor of sweaty feet.

Causes of foot odor include:

  • Excess activity of sweat glands
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Various medications
  • Hormone changes

These causes of foot odor are not in anyway dangerous to your health but they do create an environment for the growth of microorganisms. Infections such as athlete’s feet or toenail fungus are easy to develop, so anyone with foot odor needs to take steps to keep hyperhidrosis from occurring.

Foot odor Remedies

  • Change – basically make frequent changes in shoes and especially socks and this gives odor producing fungus and bacteria less chance to grow.
  • Dust your feet – Twice daily dust your feet with a foot powder such as Tinactin as this will aid in killing fungus or bacteria which cause odor. But remember if your feet are already sweating, the power will only cake up on the feet and reduces its usefulness.
  • Synthetic socks – Instead of cotton socks use synthetic ones. They tend to be more absorbent and the less moisture, the fewer bacteria.
  • Odor controller – Inserts make with charcoal can be found at any drug store. Placing them in the shoes can absorb the odor. But, you need to use them with synthetic socks.
  • Cedar – These inserts are made with the smell of cedar and can help keep the shoes fresh when they are not being worn.
  • Natural materials – Shoes which are made with natural materials such as leather, canvas, or mesh allow the shoes to breathe better than man-made material such as plastic. They allow heat to escape.
  • What you eat – In many people, eating any hot, spicy foods can cause the odor by making the feet sweat. If you do eating anything extremely spicy make sure to wash your feet as soon as possible.
  • Tea – Tannic acid available in tea can help to eradicate foot odor. The method to do this is to make a container of tea without adding lemon or sugar and then pour it into a foot tub. After the tea has cooled, soak your feet for about 10 minutes. Soap and water will remove any stain that the tea might leave on the feet.
  • Domeboro – A time- honored foot odor remedy is bathing the feet 2 times each week in a foot bath made with a small package of Domeboro with warm water.
  • Lamb’s wool – For those who truly have excessive sweating, the individual can wrap their toes in small pieces of lamb’s wool. This is available in most drugstores. The lamb’s wool draws the moisture to it and absorbs it. But it needs to be change frequently during the day.
  • Antiperspirant – Use an antiperspirant spray on your feet after a shower or bath.

Foot odor Treatment

If after using the home remedies and you still have very sweating feet, you should speak with your family doctor for something strong to use on your feet. Two prescription sprays that your doctor can prescribe include:


Drysol is a prescription anti-sweating spray that contains aluminum chloride. This is used to plug some of the sweat glands. For the best results, on the first night that you use Drysol, you should cover your feet with plastic wrap after applying the spray. After that first spray, use Drysol once a week without covering the feet up.



For those feet that are really bad some doctors will prescribe Formalyde-10 spray. This contains both formaldehyde as well as mint. This is the “big guns” for the worst smelling feet and the spray definitely works for the most severe cases.

Other treatment:

Electric Current

Electrical current devices which pass a small electrical current thru the skin is often an effective way to diminish sweating for several weeks.


In the really most severe cases, a surgeon can cut a nerve which controls the sweating.

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