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6 Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Foot Odor

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Ways to prevent and treat foot odor

Ways to prevent and treat foot odor

Foot Odor Eliminators

It's been an accepted concept in modern Western society that body odor often goes hand-in-hand with the amount of sweat produced. Our feet have the highest concentration of sweat glands out of any part of the human body. In fact, human feet can produce up to a pint of sweat a day! What you may not know, however, is that sweat on its own is virtually odorless. What you're actually smelling is the reaction of the bacteria on your skin.

This article will discuss the reasoning behind foot odor, in addition to means of odor prevention and maintenance. Remember, if you feel you are having a problem with any particular part of your body, it is best to talk to a doctor or personal physician.

6 Home Remedies for Foot Odor

  1. Epsom Salt Foot Baths
  2. Vinegar Foot Baths
  3. Listerine Foot Baths
  4. Increase Zinc Consumption
  5. Wear the Right Footwear
  6. Avoid Eating Certain Foods

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to rid your body of some of the bacteria and chemicals which may contribute to body odor is through sweat. When you perspire, you release moisture from your body through your pores (as I'm sure you already realized), but in doing so this also releases the excess build-up of chemicals or free radicals in your system. This includes many of the materials which cause bodies to have a certain smell.

The body has several different types of sweat glands

The body has several different types of sweat glands

The Science Behind the Smell

The human body has two types of sweat glands–eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands occur all over the body and produce sweat that is essentially a saline solution. Apocrine glands occur in the areas of your body with high concentrations of hair follicles such as your armpits and groin, as well as on your feet. These glands produce a different kind of sweat that contains glycoprotein, a protein that has a sugar coating. When the bacteria on your skin metabolize this sugary sweat, it produces the smell we know as body odor.

Can You Stop Your Feet From Sweating?

Unfortunately, what may seem like an obvious solution–simply stopping feet from perspiring–is not as simple as it seems. The human body releases the excess build-up of chemicals, toxins, and other waste material through sweat, and it is essential for cooling the body to regulate temperature.

Antiperspirant works by blocking the sweat glands, which can cause excess build-up and possibly make the odor problem worse. Some of the most common store-bought treatments for foot odor are antiperspirants which contain aluminum, which acts as a 'plug' for your pores to prevent sweat from leaving the body.

Try an epsom salt bath

Try an epsom salt bath

1. Epsom Salt Foot Baths

Epsom salt has many health benefits, and it should come as no surprise that it can help to mitigate foot odor as well. The compounds within Epsom salt have anti-bacterial properties that can help to eliminate some of the odor-causing bacteria. It also contains magnesium sulfate, an essential nutrient the human body needs, which can also help improve the skin of the feet overall and to dry out other odor-causing foot conditions such as certain kinds of foot fungus.

How to Make an Epsom Salt Foot Bath

To make this relieving foot bath, simply add 1/2 a cup of Epsom salt to a small tub or foot spa containing warm (but not overly hot) water. Soak for about 15-20 minutes per day until you start to see, and smell, the positive results.

Vinegar foot baths can reduce sweat smells

Vinegar foot baths can reduce sweat smells

2. Vinegar Foot Baths

Vinegar's high acidity makes it extremely adept at fighting off microorganisms that flourish in warm, moisture-prone environments. For this practice, any common vinegar will do as they typically contain similar levels of acidity. White vinegar contains around 4 to 7 percent acetic acid, whereas cider and wine vinegar contain about 5 to 6 percent. It may help to avoid any other types such as fruit vinegar, as they often contain levels of sugar that would be counterproductive to eliminating bacteria.

How to Make a Vinegar Foot Bath

To make a vinegar foot bath, combine one part vinegar of your choice with 2 parts warm water, and soak for 10-20 minutes. With this solution, it is very important to be aware of any small cuts or sores on the feet, as the acid in the vinegar could cause pain or discomfort with these injuries.

Listerine is often used for soaking feet

Listerine is often used for soaking feet

3. Listerine Foot Baths

Listerine foot baths are a fairly new concept, but both scientific data and countless anecdotal accounts confirm it is a wonderful treatment for a number of foot ailments. While its primary purpose is obviously to eliminate germs and harmful bacteria from the mouth, it turns out that it is actually highly effective at treating the same problems on the epidermis as well.

Methyl salicylate, contained in the branded mouthwash Listerine, is a natural chemical exfoliant that can slough off outer layers of dead skin and microorganisms fairly quickly. According to a report by Medical News Today, Listerine foot baths are highly effective at treating a number of odor-related foot ailments such as:

  • athlete’s foot
  • fungal toenail infections
  • other feet infections

How to Make a Listerine Foot Bath

To make a Listerine foot bath, Medical News Today recommends the following: Mix a ½ cup of Listerine, a ½ cup of vinegar, 1 gallon of warm water, and 2-3 tablespoons of honey. Both honey and vinegar increase the antiseptic benefits of Listerine and can help soothe sensitive skin.

Foods that are high in zinc

Foods that are high in zinc

4. Increase Zinc Consumption

In addition to using any of these anti-bacterial foot baths, medical experts recommend incorporating more zinc into your diet to help mitigate bodily odors. Many natural scents in the human body are directly related to diet and vitamin consumption. Zinc, in particular, is essential for managing any waste minerals as the body processes carbohydrates. Zinc oxide, or a compound of zinc and oxygen, is a very common component found in a number of natural deodorants due to its potent antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

How to Consume More Zinc

To help increase your daily intake of zinc, you can take supplements, or eat more zinc rich foods such as grass-fed beef, lentils, legumes, chickpeas, spinach, avocado, and more. As always, check with your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.

5. Wear the Right Footwear

Oftentimes, even if the feet are pampered and healthy, common footwear can contribute to foot odors forming, and sticking around even after using any other treatments. It's vital to occasionally allow the feet to be bare so that they can naturally react to their environment after typically being contained in shoes all day. Additionally, wearing the right socks can dramatically help reduce odors and improve the overall health of the feet by absorbing the natural moisture and keeping it away from the skin.

Choose the Right Socks

In particular, moisture-wicking socks have increased in popularity in recent years due to their benefits; however, socks made with other materials such as nylon may have the opposite effect, and allow moisture to stick to the feet, allowing a breeding ground for bacteria.

However, contrary to some beliefs, it is actually strongly advised to never wear shoes without socks. Often, shoes are made with materials that are not breathable and can allow moisture, germs, and bacteria to sit on the feet all day. It's best to use natural socks with shoes as often as possible to maintain healthy, odor-free feet.

Choose the Right Shoes

If you think your favorite pair of shoes may be contributing to any foot odors, treating them with corn starch or baking soda in your shoes can help eliminate some of the bacteria that has already settled within the material, and may be contributing to recurring foot odor. Baking soda has a high alkalinity level which makes it a great counteracting agent to many odors, and cornstarch is excellent at absorbing moisture, which can help remove any residual perspiration from your favorite footwear.

Kale is high in sulfur and might contribute to body odor

Kale is high in sulfur and might contribute to body odor

6. Avoid Eating Certain Foods

Oftentimes, what we eat can also impact some of the body's natural odors as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic's website, foods that are high in sulfur can typically contribute to unpleasant natural odors as well. Sulfur is often described as smelling like rotten eggs, and can be found in many common food items, such as:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Red meat

Other common consumables that may contribute to a change in body odor are medications, caffeine, potent spices, and alcohol. The saying 'you are what you eat' rings true with regards to body odor, so being judicious with your diet can definitely have an impact on your natural smells as well.

General Advice

Due to the high amount of sweat, it's a good practice to change socks at least once a day, and to disinfect and clean shoes, especially sandals and loafers where socks may not usually be worn to absorb odor. While the sweat itself doesn't have an odor typically, it often does absorb bacteria when it soaks into clothing or footwear. Be sure to adequately wash and sanitize any apparel which may absorb a perspiration more frequently.

Don't Forget to Be Yourself

Remember, if you think something about your body looks, feels, or smells 'off' to you, it's always recommended to see a doctor first before attempting any type of at-home treatment. Drastic changes in smell can be a sign that something more significant is taking place in the body, and it doesn't hurt to get a professional opinion if you can.

Additionally, it's important to recognize that in this world of constant advertising and impossible-to-achieve beauty standards, everyone sweats, and everyone at one time or another has likely struggled with body odor. According to Michigan Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bay City, MI, approximately 15% of all people admit to struggling with foot odor!

You're not alone in this journey, and regardless of what routes you chose to take, the important thing to consider is that the choice is yours–because you are perfectly perfect as you are, smelly feet and all.

Sources and Further Reading

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.