Did you know that there are more sweat glands in your feet than any other area of your body?

Also, unlike other areas of your body, your feet sweat at a consistent rate–instead of primarily in response to heat or exercise. And this moisture inevitably leads to odor, which is released as the bacteria on your skin begins to break down the sweat.

Not only are smelly feet unpleasant, but the odor can be a telltale warning that your feet aren’t breathing properly through your shoes or socks, or that other problems are afoot (if you’ll pardon the pun!). Knowing the causes of stinky feet can help you remedy the problem quickly, and avoid potentially embarrassing situations.

So, What Causes Stinky Feet?

Knowing why your feet are stinking up a room is the first step toward solving the problem.

Wearing the Same Shoes or Socks Days in a Row:

Overworn shoes cause foot odor

Feet start to stink when the bacteria found on your skin begins to break down sweat–so sweaty feet and stinky feet go hand in hand (well, foot in foot).

What’s the bottom line?

Wearing the same shoes or socks two days (or more) in a row, can lead to stinky feet fast, since some sweat inevitably soaks into your socks and shoes that often don’t have time to fully dry before a second use. It’s also a good idea to wear cotton or wool socks instead of nylon, since they breathe more easily.

Not Drying Feet Properly:

Moisture is the perfect playground for bacteria and consequently odor. When you get out of the bath or shower, take extra care to dry between your toes, since moisture tends to hide there. As an additional measure, you can also swab rubbing alcohol between your toes.


smelly toes caused by hormones

Hormones can make a big difference in how much sweat your glands produce, which is why teenagers and pregnant women are especially prone to sweaty–and then stinky–feet. Hormones can also amp up due to stress, so if you’re going through a rough time in life your feet might show it too! If you fall into these groups, take extra care with changing your shoes and socks regularly, and towel drying well before putting on your footwear.

Athlete’s Foot:

Athlete’s foot can be a major cause of stinky feet. Other signs that you’ve got a case of athlete’s foot include a rash-like appearance to the foot, itchy and cracking skin, peeling skin, and tender, moist skin between your toes. You’ll also notice a stronger odor coming from your feet. Most cases can be treated easily over the counter. Inexpensive foot powder is particularly effective and will reduce foot sweat as well.


Hyperhidrosis can cause smelly feet

It’s possible that your feet are sweating a lot because of a condition known as hyperhidrosis. While it’s true that the sweat glands in your feet are working constantly (unlike the sweat glands in the rest of your body), for some people those glands go into overdrive in certain parts of the body (often only one or two areas are affected). Common deodorant/antiperspirant can help with excessively sweaty feet caused by hyperhidrosis.

Treating the Causes of Smelly Feet

For the most part, the cure is in the cause when it comes to smelly feet. When you’ve identified why your feet are more odorous than usual, you can take steps to treat the problem at the source. Generally, improving hygiene by changing socks and shoes more regularly (and not wearing the same pair twice in a row) and allowing your feet to dry before putting on socks and shoes will do the trick.

If your stinky feet don’t respond to these changes, you may be dealing with a case of athlete’s foot (remember to look for the telltale sign of itchiness and peeling along with the stinkiness. In less common cases, you might also be dealing with hyperhidrosis (in which case common deodorant can help). In all cases of foot sweat, applying foot itch powder daily is a great natural remedy for cool, dry, stink-free feet.

The causes of stinky feet vary, but luckily the solutions are simple and effective!