Foot odor

Dr. Alon Amit

31.03.08, 02:41

Foot odor is a common condition, caused by naturally occurring bacterial growth on the feet, especially when wearing socks and shoes. If you have really smelly feet – it can cause a great deal of embarrassment. In many cultures, it is impolite to remove your shoes in public, whereas in other cultures it is impolite not to remove them.

Unpleasant foot odors usually emanate from moisture resulting from poor air ventilation – usually after the feet are inside footwear (shoes and socks) for a long time, especially when sweating. The human feet have more sweat glands than any other body part, and an excessive perspiration of the feet occurs, especially in warm conditions. When the sweat doesn't evaporate, bacteria and fungi thrive on dead skin cells, resulting in smelly feet. The main kinds of bacteria that cause the foot malodor are Brevibacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacteria. Brevibacteria resides on the foot soles and between the toes, and convert methionine to methanethiol (which has a sulfuric aroma). The same bacteria produce the smell of certain kinds of cheese, which is why feet smells are often described as “cheesy”. Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is also used in the production of cheese, produces isovaleric acid – another cause for smelly feet. The common vinegar-like smell of feet is probably caused by Propionibacteria, and due to the production of propionic acid by that type of bacteria.

In some medical or physiological conditions, the chance for foot malodor may increase. Such conditions include stress, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), hormonal changes and certain drugs.

Preventing foot odor

A few measures should be taken to prevent foot odor:

  • Wash your feet every day with warm water and soap (preferably an antibacterial soap). Dry the feet thoroughly with a dry and soft towel, especially between the toes.
  • Ventilate your shoes regularly when you don't wear them.
  • Use an effective shoe spray to reduce the smells and the accumulation of bacteria and fungi.
  • Use foot powder to dry your feet – make sure you don't use excess powder, or it may cause abrasion.
  • Wear thick socks, so they can absorb the moisture and help ventilate the feet.
  • 100% cotton or wool socks are better than synthetic socks (polyester or nylon) for that purpose. Wearing nylon pantyhose or stockings may also cause excessive perspiration.
  • Change socks at least once a day, or even more often if you sweat a lot.
  • Wear shoes with adequate ventilation and refrain from wearing plastic or nylon shoes.
  • Avoid wearing shoes without socks, as perspiration tends to increase in such situations.
If those advices don't help – you better find a podiatrist. Some treatments, such as electric-current devices, can reduce perspiration for several weeks at a time. Other remedies for foot odor your podiatrist may offer are alum, antiperspirants, paraffin bath treatments, ointments and other footcare products.
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                                                                                              • Foot odor
                                                                                                • Foot odor
                                                                                                  • Foot odor
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