Sherry Haynes is currently pursuing a PharmD degree and has experience in both the clinical and management sides of pharmacy.
Everyone has that friend who can stink a room up wherever they go. Whether you have that friend or you are that friend, there are plenty of tried, tested, and recommended solutions to decrease the smell of stinky feet. Don't fret. It is a very common condition and the solution is probably in your cupboard at home.
The solutions I mention in this article are tried and true, but be sure to read the labels on any powders and be sure they're safe for topical use. These are solutions I've both tried myself and found online.
What Causes Smelly Feet?
Smelly feet are not always a sign of poor hygiene. Feet sweat just like any other part of the body, and in fact, they have more sweat glands than other body parts. Sweat and dead skin cells feed bacteria that can cause noxious foot odour. These bacteria break down an amino acid in sweat called leucine into isovaleric acid.
Are Your Shoes Causing Your Feet to Smell?
Sometimes foot odour is not the fault of the feet. Certain shoes are more prone to making feet stink than others, depending on the shoe material.
- Shoes made of nylon and synthetic leather are some of the worst offenders.
- Tennis shoes can also be smelly when made of plastic.
- Some people also blame the dye used in dark-colored socks.
There is another widely-accepted theory that some soaps leave the foot with a high pH, which allows the bacteria to thrive. Stress and hormone changes could also be the cause of sweaty feet. This is evidenced in teenagers and pregnant women.
Stinky Feet Solutions
1. Baking Soda
- Take a container big enough for your feet and fill it with water at about 102° F.
- Put two tablespoons of plain baking soda in the water. Mix to dissolve in solution.
- Soak the feet for about 30 minutes. Repeat this for 30 days.
2. Teabag Soak
- Steep 5 tea bags in a quart of hot water for 10 minutes.
- Soak your feet for 30 minutes.
- Tannins in the tea discourage excess sweating which often contributes to odour.
3. Zinc and Chlorophyll
Taking chlorophyll drink or chelated zinc supplements can eliminate foot odour.
Note: Zinc can cause nausea, and long term use of doses over 25 mg per day could interfere with the balance of other essential minerals. Additionally, if you are using zinc supplements you should not take them with milk. Milk may interfere with the absorption of zinc.
4. Lemon Juice
- Cut a lemon in half and rub it on the feet.
- Wait for a few minutes before showering.
Note: If there are cracks or sores on your feet, do not rub lemon on your feet.
5. Rub Alcohol on Feet and Shoes
- Acquire 91% isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol from a nearby store.
- Dilute to about 60%.
- Use a cotton ball to apply daily or every other day to the bottom of the feet.
It may take several weeks for the odour to be completely gone.
6. Milk of Magnesia
Apply four to five drops of milk of magnesia to a cotton ball and rub on the bottom of your feet to keep your feet free from odour all day.
This sounds like a funny trick, but milk of magnesia is known to reduce inflammation and has high alkalinity, which prevents fungus and odour-causing microbes from growing.
7. Organic Arrowroot Powder or Cornstarch
- Use organic arrowroot powder or cornstarch on your feet after bathing (about two tablespoons).
- Place your feet in socks.
This will help keep the feet dry.
Make a small spray bottle and fill it with Listerine. Spray your feet after every shower. For some, this has worked in less than a week. You can also wipe out the inside of your shoes with Listerine.
For fungal infections, soaking feet in half vinegar, half Listerine solution might also help.
9. Sage Tea
- Pour about 20 oz boiling water over 4 to 5 leaves of sage.
- Let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Allow tea to cool.
- Store the tea in a spray bottle.
- Spray it over your feet and let them dry.
10. Borax (Sodium borate)
Borax is a cheap and effective remedy for stinky feet. Borax is used as a laundry additive and deodorizer. Sprinkle some borax powder in your shoes. Do this every time you wear your shoes, but be sure to dump it out when you put them back on, and wear socks; Borax is a disinfectant and odour absorber, so leaving it in while you walk around is counterproductive.
Be careful to not inhale the powder while removing it as this can cause lung and skin irritation. Try this solution for four to six weeks.
11. White Vinegar
Dilute white vinegar a cup per gallon of water. Wet a paper towel and squeeze excess water. Soak this paper towel with the white vinegar mixture and wipe your feet down twice a day.
12. Epsom Salt Solution
Soak feet in warm Epsom salt solution for several nights in a row. This will change the pH of your feet and discourage bacterial growth.
Go back to basics. Use antiperspirant on your feet to reduce the sweat that feeds the bacteria causing the odour. Aluminum chloride antiperspirants such as Xerac AC and Drysol are best for bedtime use. Clean your feet in the bath or shower, then apply the antiperspirant. Don't forget to wear socks to bed.
14. Foot Creams and Foot Powders
Some of the best products are:
- Palmolive Bath Bar Gold Soap
- Lavilin Foot Deodorant Cream
- Acid Mantle Cream
Sometimes, it's best to just use a traditional foot treatment.
How to Prevent Smelly Feet
- First of all, throw out any nasty smelling shoes in your closet that you don't need. Once shoes have fungus and bacteria it is hard to decontaminate them. If you don't want to throw your shoes away, you can soak a paper towel in rubbing alcohol and place it in the shoes overnight.
- Some might think that wearing socks can make feet smell worse. This is far from the truth. When you don't wear socks with shoes the sweat builds up in the shoes. If you're tempted to wear shoes without socks, wear thin summer cloth socks made of wicking fabrics that allow moisture to be released. Absorbent cotton socks can work well also. Buy two new pairs if you don't have two already and rotate them so you are always wearing a dry pair.
- Don't wear the same pair of shoes for more than one day in a row.
- Wear dry socks and shoes only.
- When possible, leave the door of your closet ajar so it is not too airtight and the shoes have an opportunity to air out.
- Cut most of the sugar and processed grains out of your meals; these foods can promote foot and body odour.
- Use a pumice stone to remove calluses or dead skin; some of the bacteria will slough off with it.
- Get a pedicure at least once a month.
- Including parsley in your diet and parsley tea can help deal with body odours in general because of its alkalizing effects.
- Foods from the cabbage family, brussel sprouts, sprouts, onions, and garlic can result in strong foot odours.
- Use a cloth piece and move it back and forth between all of your toes. Remove toe jam and dry the area between the toes.
- Using a nail brush and foot brush scrub feet often during showers.
- Wash shoes frequently. Bacteria from the feet go to the walls of the shoes and live there. If they are not removed they get active the next time the shoes are put on.
- Leave shoes and socks in the sun to air dry after every wash and every wear.
Read More About Foot Odour
- Smelly Feet
Learn about the causes, prevention, and remedies for smelly feet.
- Foot Odour Due to Microbial Metabolism and Its Control
An interesting article that assesses various naturally occurring substances and fragrant agents that inhibit microbial production of foot odour without disturbing the normal microbial flora of the human skin.
- How to Stop Smelly Feet
Read about the causes of smelly feet, such as excessive sweating or athlete's foot, and what you can do to fix it yourself.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Sherry Haynes
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on March 12, 2019:
Listerine might work really well, partially because of the small amount of alcohol in it.
Liz Westwood from UK on March 12, 2019:
You have come up with a long list of useful tips in this article.