Stinky Feet

Last reviewed by Dr.Mary on October 2nd, 2017.

Having stinky feet is not a pleasant thing to experience, as the unpleasant odor will make you feel quite awkward in social situations. Apart from the smell, stinky feet often causes a wide range of other symptoms, being quite itchy. Stinky feet are encountered in the warm season especially and, given the excessive sweating, they can increase the risk for bacterial or fungal infection. The important thing is that you do not panic and that you try to identify the cause that has led to this problem in the first place. Once you have identified the cause, there are numerous home remedies you can try out. Plus, you can take certain preventive measures and make sure that you do not suffer from such problems again in the future.

Causes of Stinky Feet

These are the most common causes that lead to the appearance of stinky feet:

  • Bacteria overgrowth
    • Brevibacterium linens
      • Bacterium lives normally on the skin, eats the dry skin
      • Overgrowth appears due to the poor hygiene, not changing the socks or shoes – warm and humid environment
      • Eating the dry skin, the bacteria transforms the amino acids from the skin into a smelly gas (hence the stinky feet)
      • Smell – rotten eggs or cabbage
    • Staphylococcus epidermidis
      • Same mechanism, different bacteria
      • Smell – resembles the one of vinegar (different acid transformed into gas)
  • Excessive sweating in the feet (hyperhidrosis)
    • Creates a thriving environment for the bacteria
  • Wearing inadequate footwear or not changing the shoes on a regular basis
    • The shoes that are too tight lead to excessive sweating, promoting the bacterial or fungal overgrowth
    • Wearing closed shoes without socks also increases the risk for stinky feet (more rapid bacterial overgrowth)
  • Tight socks or the prolonged wearing of the same socks
    • Can favor the bacterial or fungal overgrowth, contributing to the appearance of the stinky feet
    • The fabric of the socks is highly important – the risk for stinky feet is higher when the socks are made from synthetics fabrics, such as nylon or polyester (less ventilation, more humidity)
  • Fungal infections
    • As the fungi consume the dead skin, they too can lead to stinky feet
    • Itchiness is often presented in those who suffer from stinky feet caused by a fungal infection.

Home Remedies

These are the most common home remedies you can try out for stinky feet:

Salt and water

  • Soak your feet into warm water to which you have previously added salt
  • Recommended for those who suffer from excessive sweating
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Duration of the soak – 20 minutes
  • Repeat – once a day, for two weeks

Vinegar and water

  • Antibacterial properties
  • Mix one part vinegar with two parts water
  • Duration of the soak – 30 minutes
  • Repeat – once a day, for two weeks

Tea and water

  • Natural antibacterial properties
  • Boil the tea (black preferably) and let it cool down
  • Mix the tea with water and soak your feet into the mixture
  • Duration of the soak – 30 minutes
  • Repeat – once a day, for two weeks

Baking soda

  • Effective remedy for stinky feet
  • Mix baking soda with warm water and soak your feet into the mixture
  • Duration of the soak – 15-20 minutes
  • Alternative – sprinkle baking soda in your shoes/socks before wearing them

Lavender oil

  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Add a few drops of lavender oil to warm water and soak your feet
  • Duration – 15-20 minutes
  • Repeat twice a day, until the results become noticeable

Alum powder

  • Disinfecting properties
  • Reduces the bacteria population
  • Mix alum powder with warm water
  • Wash your feet with the solution, then dry your feet and apply alum powder
  • Repeat once a day

Epsom salt

  • Neutralize the stinky feet odor
  • Mix Epsom salt with warm water and soak your feet
  • Duration of the soak – 10-15 minutes


  • Disinfecting properties
  • Mix borax with water and vinegar
  • Spray the inside of the shoes with the resulting mixture
  • You can also apply simple borax powder to the inside of the shoes before wearing them
  • Prevents bacteria overgrowth

Sugar scrub

  • Removal of dead skin
  • Mix sugar with water and alcohol
  • Scrub the feet with the resulting mixture – 5-10 minutes
  • Wash and dry your feet thoroughly
  • Repeat three times per week


  • Reduce sweating
  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Apply dried sage to the inside of the shoes for the neutralization of the bad odor (pleasant scent instead)
  • Alternative – foot soak in sage tea – duration: 15 minutes

Ginger root

  • Toxin removal
  • Prevents bacteria overgrowth
  • Mix ginger root puree with hot water
  • Strain the resulting mixture and use the liquid to massage your feet
  • Repeat twice a day.

Tips to prevent stinky feet

If you want to prevent stinky feet, the first and most important thing is that you maintain an excellent hygiene. You need to wash your feet with antibacterial soap and dry them off thoroughly. The nails have to be trimmed in a correct manner, so as to avoid any infections that might add to the foul odor. You need to choose socks that are made from top quality fabrics, preferably from cotton, as it absorbs excessive sweating and allows for the feet to breathe. The socks have to be changed frequently and so do the shoes. In the summer, you need to avoid wearing closed shoes, as there will be a lot of sweating and thus an increased risk for sweaty feet. Use special sprays to keep the inside of your shoes clean or corn starch in order to absorb the excessive moisture. In case your feet start to become itchy, do not delay going to the doctor. You might be experiencing a fungal infection, which will lead to stinky feet in a very short period of time. It is for the best that you prevent stinky feet rather than try to get rid of them.

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