Why Do My Feet Smell So Bad? Causes, How To Identify, and Treatment

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Smelly Feet
  2. Common Causes of Foot Odour
  3. Excessive Sweating and Foot Odour
  4. Symptoms and Signs
  5. Treatment Options
  6. Maintaining Healthy Feet
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

Smelly Feet: solving the Mystery of Foot Odour

Why do my feet smell so bad? Is a question many people ask themselves, so you’re not alone. Smelly feet, also medically known as bromodosis is a common condition that can range from a mild inconvenience to a source of daily embarrassment.

Many people face the same problem, which can be quite embarrassing. Our feet are often tucked away in socks and shoes. This lack of ventilation can sometimes create a perfect environment for odour-causing bacteria to flourish. It is essential to understand that this isn’t a reflection of one’s hygiene or character but rather a consequence of natural processes.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the causes and symptoms of smelly feet, and explore the treatment options available. This article is especially for people who have smelly feet, those with partners facing this issue, and individuals who exercise frequently.

Woman holding her socks disgusted with the smell

Understanding Smelly Feet

Smelly feet, medically known as bromodosis, is a common condition where the feet emit an unpleasant odour. This can occur for various reasons such as bacteria, fungus, sweat, or the type of shoes you wear. Understanding the underlying causes is crucial for effectively managing and preventing foot odour.

Common Causes of Foot Odour

One of the pivotal steps in addressing smelly feet is recognising what causes foot odour. Here are some of the most common causes:

Causes of Foot OdourDescription
Sweat and BacteriaThe human foot has over 250,000 sweat glands that produce moisture, creating a suitable environment for bacterial growth. Bacteria break down sweat, producing isovaleric acid, responsible for foot odor.
FungusFungal infections like athlete’s foot thrive in moist environments, leading to scaly, red, and itchy skin. Foot odor in this case results from both fungal metabolism and bacterial action.
Poor HygieneMaintaining proper foot hygiene is essential. It includes regular washing with soap and water, thorough drying (especially between toes), and keeping nails trimmed. Rotating shoes helps air them out.
Shoe MaterialFootwear choice affects foot odor. Synthetic materials can lead to increased sweating, while natural materials like leather or canvas allow better ventilation, reducing sweat and odor.

Excessive Sweating and Foot Odour

Excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, is often associated with foot odour. The feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body. Individuals who have hyperhidrosis tend to produce more sweat, leading to a moist environment where bacteria thrive.

But there can be other reasons that your feet can sweat more than normal:

  1. Elevated Temperatures: Hot weather can cause your body to sweat more as it tries to cool itself down.
  2. Physical Activity: Engaging in exercise increases your body’s temperature, resulting in increased sweat production to dissipate the heat.
  3. Prolonged Standing: Remaining on your feet throughout the day can elevate sweat levels as your body works harder to maintain blood circulation.
  4. Excess Body Weight: Being overweight can cause your body to work harder and produce more heat, which in turn, leads to more sweating.
  5. Hormonal Fluctuations: Like puberty, menopause, and pregnancy bring about hormonal changes which can alter the sweat production in your body.
  6. Medication Effects: Certain pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants, can impact the body’s sweat production as a side effect.

Managing sweating is essential. One way to control excess moisture is by using insoles that absorb sweat efficiently. For instance, All Day Comfort Insoles provide additional support and keep your feet dry throughout the day. Another excellent option is Ultimate Control Odour Insoles which are designed to tackle foot odour head-on.

Symptoms and Signs

Recognising the signs of smelly feet early can help in addressing the problem more effectively. The most apparent symptom is a persistent odour coming from the feet. Other symptoms include itching, burning, and in cases of fungal infection, a scaly appearance of the skin.

Treatment Options for Smelly Feet

Treatment for smelly feet aims at addressing the underlying cause. Some effective options include:

Treatment for Smelly FeetDescription
Maintaining Foot HygieneRegular washing and thorough drying of the feet.
Using Antifungal CreamsApplying products like Mycosan Athlete’s Foot for fungal infections.
Choosing the Right FootwearSelecting breathable shoes that promote ventilation.
Using Odour-fighting InsolesConsider insoles designed to control foot odour.


Having smelly feet can be a source of embarrassment. However, understanding that it’s a common condition and knowing the steps to look after your feet can empower you to tackle the issue head-on.

For further information on how to care for your feet, especially in warmer seasons, explore these summer foot care tips. In conclusion, feet are complex and deserve our attention and care. Through proper hygiene, informed choices in footwear, and consulting your doctor or podiatrist when necessary, you can keep your feet smelling fresh and healthy.


What causes smelly feet?

The primary cause of smelly feet is excessive sweat, which creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and produce a foul odour. Other factors like poor personal hygiene, wearing the same shoes every day, or certain types of food can also contribute to this condition.

How can I identify if I have smelly feet?

The most obvious sign is a persistent, unpleasant odour coming from your feet. If you notice that your shoes, socks, or feet emit a strong smell even after being washed, you likely have smelly feet.

Are smelly feet a sign of other health issues?

While smelly feet are typically due to excessive sweating and bacteria, they can sometimes be an indicator of other health conditions like fungal infections, hyperhidrosis, or hormone changes. If foot odour persists despite trying home remedies, consult a doctor.

What are some effective treatments for smelly feet?

Maintaining good foot hygiene is crucial. Wash your feet daily with antibacterial soap, dry them thoroughly, and ensure you wear clean, breathable socks and shoes. Using antifungal sprays or powders can also help. If the issue persists, consider seeking medical advice.

Can diet influence foot odour?

Yes, certain foods can contribute to foot odour. Foods that are high in sulphur, like garlic and onions, or those that make you sweat more, like spicy foods, can exacerbate foot odour. Drinking enough water and eating a balanced diet can help minimise the smell.

This article was written by Dr. James Philip MBChB who graduated from the University of Manchester in 2015 and went on to train in hospitals across the North West of England. He has experience working in both hospital medicine, and the community, and played his part as a front line worker on the COVID-19 wards. He now works as a freelance medical writer and medical education entrepreneur.

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Dr James
Dr James

Dr. James Davidson MBChB who graduated from the University of Manchester in 2015 and went on to train in hospitals across the North West of England. He has experience working in both hospital medicine, and the community, and played his part as a front line worker on the COVID-19 wards. He now works as a freelance medical writer and medical education entrepreneur.

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