Smelly, Sweaty Feet

Hands and feet sweat up to three times as much as any other part of the body. Healthy feet should not smell. Eccrine sweat is odorless and sterile and only becomes smelly when broken down by microbial action.

Factors that contribute to smelly feet are hyperhydrosis (increased sweating) and maceration (sogginess) due to inhibition of evaporation by socks or footwear.

Sweating may be increased by many factors including anxiety, fear, anguish and pain. Other factors include heat, exercise, illness, hormonal disorders (hyperthyroidism), diabetes, pregnancy, menopause and anemia. Metabolic factors including obesity, gout, alcohol and drugs may also increase sweating.

Hyperhydrosis and occlusion by footwear result in the feet remaining moist, which leads to the feet becoming soggy or macerated. This maceration reduces the body’s resistance to fungal and bacterial infections. Microorganisms multiply and begin to break down sweat and the macerated skin which produces smelly feet. The technical term for this condition is bromhidrosis.

Control of Bromhidrosis:

  1. Wash feet twice daily with anti-bacterial soap (Phisohex, Sapoderm Surgical, Crice Sport)
  2. Use a topical antiseptic (Aqiam)
  3. Replace nylon socks and stockings with cotton or wool socks with better absorbency
  4. Aerate footwear (alternate between 2 pairs of shoes)
  5. Maximize exposure of bare feet to the air
  6. Use topical powders (prantal, pedoz, talk)
  7. Try foot soaks (potassium permanganate, Burrows Solution, formalin)