Foot odor—known medically as bromhidrosis—is a common and uncomfortable condition that occurs in children and adults.
What causes foot odor?
A pair of feet contains more sweat glands than any other part of the body: 250,000. The sweat glands on the feet are designed to keep the skin supple and help to regulate body temperature when it’s hot outside or during exercise. However—unlike sweat glands on other body parts—these sweat glands excrete all of the time and not just in response to movement and temperature.
The smell on feet develops when a bacterium on the skin (i.e., Staphylococcus epidermidis) break down an amino acid found in sweat (leucine), resulting in an unpleasant odor. This can be due to:
- Hormonal changes in the body (e.g., pregnancy, puberty)
- Hyperhidrosis, an excessive sweating condition that is most frequently found on the hands (palmar) and feet (plantar)
- Poor hygiene
- Stress, which causes excess sweat
- Wearing the same shoes every day and putting the shoes on before the sweat has dried in them
Foot odor can also be the result of a bacterial or fungal infection (e.g., ) and may also cause plantar (foot) warts to develop.
How is foot odor treated?
In most cases, foot odor can be effectively treated using over-the-counter (OTC) topical sprays, creams and powders that can be applied to the skin as needed. In addition, there are sprays, powders and insoles with activated charcoal that are designed to absorb sweat on the inside of shoes.
Foot odor may also be managed with home remedies, including:
- Soaking feet in a foot bath composed of one-part vinegar to two parts water or four to five tea bags in a quart of water for 20 minutes daily
- Applying baking soda, talcum powder, baby powder or corn starch to absorb excess moisture on the feet
- Removing hard, dead skin on the feet where bacteria can grow using a foot file or pumice stone
- Washing and soaking feet in 1/2 cup of kosher salt (or Epsom salt) in four cups of water and soak for 10-15 minutes
If an infection—either bacterial or fungal—is suspected, patients should see a specialist for more advanced treatment, which may include a prescription for oral medication or cream.
How Can Foot Odor be Prevented?
The best way to prevent foot odor is by practicing good personal hygiene and avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row, if possible. If not, shoes that are composed of a more breathable material—such as canvas or leather—should be worn with a fresh pair of cotton or wool socks.
Feet should also be washed every day (with antibacterial soap) and dried thoroughly.
EUP: The Foot Odor Specialists
Essex Union Podiatry (EUP) is a complete foot and ankle practice, serving the podiatric needs of Essex and Union Counties. Our specialty-trained physicians utilize the latest techniques and tools to diagnose, treat and provide preventative care for all foot and ankle conditions. With an emphasis on patient education, our practice offers quality care by creating an informative and personalized treatment plan tailored to meet individual needs.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our podiatrists, contact us today.
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