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Phone: 630-834-3668
Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic

Q
Why do my (kid's/husband's/wife's) feet smell?

A

Foot odor can be an embarrassing condition to deal with.  Ever have those shoes that you just love and now they smell?  Is there an excessive amount of "un-sniffing" going on when you kick your shoes off at work?

Many people believe that it is sweat on the feet that makes them (and your shoes) smell.  This, however, is not the direct cause.  Sweat is generally odorless.  It is the proteins and amino acids present in sweat from apocrine glands (like those in the armpits) that can harvest bacteria.  The sweat glands of the feet are called eccrine glands.  The sweat from these is more watery and thin.  Feet have about 1/2 million sweat glands, though, and sweat can add up and get caught in socks and shoes...

The true culprit in foot odor is bacteria.  The bacteria that naturally occur on the skin can build up when sweaty socks and shoes provide is a warm, moist environment.  The bacteria digest dead skin, breaking down amino acids into smelly gases. Brevibacterium linens is the type of bacteria on the feet that causes a more rotten egg/cabbage smell.  If your foot odor is more vinegary, it is likely from the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermis.

So now that we know all the nasty details, how do we treat it?  We need to target two things: bacteria and sweat.

To address the bacteria, first and foremost you must wash your feet and thoroughly dry them every day.  Those smelly shoes by the back door?  You don't have to throw them away.  The bacteria that is hiding out in there can be eradicated with the use of Clean Sweep, a product available here at Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic that contains silver (a natural antimicrobial).  Just spray it in the shoes twice a day until the smell is gone, and then once a day every day after to prevent bacteria from growing up again. No dangerous chemicals like household cleaning products!

Recommendations to alleviate that sweat problem includes alternating shoes each day to allow the pair from yesterday to completely dry out and wearing clean fresh socks every day and changing them throughout the day if your feet tend to sweat a lot.  There are over-the-counter products that can be used to decrease the sweat on your feet - but these block the sweat glands and when the body needs to sweat and cool itself, you will end up sweating somewhere else.  Botox works on the same principle by shutting down the sweat glands, but of course this may be painful.  The type of sock you choose also makes a difference.  A nylon, polyester and spandex blend allows the sweat to wick away from the feet.