A woman is near another person's stinky feet making a face.

How to Get Rid of Smelly Feet: Know the Causes & Remedies

Let’s be honest, the human body can be a real funk factory. Sweaty skin is a bacterial breeding ground, and your shoes are steamy perspiration chambers. The result: smelly feet. 

Thankfully, remedies abound for feet that reek. If one doesn’t work, another might. Sooner or later, you’re bound to stumble across an effective stink-fighting strategy. And when you do, your olfactory senses will rejoice. Those sharing your living space will also take note of the improved indoor air quality. After all, it’s safe to assume that if your foot odor is offending you, it’s probably offending others around you.

So why do feet smell? The short answer is sweat, which creates the perfect conditions for bacteria growth (each type has a uniquely icky odor). The question then becomes which foot odor remedy will keep your feet drier, cleaner and fresher when shrouded in socks and shoes for hours. 

If your feet smell bad, don’t surrender to the stench. Here are our tips for identifying the cause and mounting a counterattack. Let’s slap a bullseye on that horrible foot odor and get to work. 

Smelly Feet Causes & Remedies

Ever wondered why your feet are soaked when you pull off your shoes and peel off your socks? Sweat glands, of course. But we’re not just talking a few thousand glands. Nope. There are about 250,000 sweat glands on your feet that create about a half a pint of perspiration each day. That’s one heckuva humidor—and the perfect microclimate for bromodosis (the fancy foot-doctor term for funky feet). If you’re wondering how to prevent smelly feet, try these widely recommended remedies:

  • Powder or antiperspirant – Underarms are another bodily region known for sweating—and smelling. Imagine a world without deodorant, antiperspirant and talcum powder. On second thought, don’t. If your feet sweat like a sieve, give them the armpit treatment with a roll-on, spray or powder.    
  • Black tea foot soak – How about a spot of tea … for your soles? Tannic acid in black tea slays foot bacteria and dries out pores. A black tea foot soak is a great DIY option, and you can even add essential oils if you like. 
  • Vinegar or apple-cider vinegar soak – Sometimes it takes a staunch odor to vanquish a staunch odor. Enter vinegar. This pantry staple proves yet again there’s no job too tough. Fill your foot tub with two parts water and one part white vinegar (or water with ⅓ cup of apple cider vinegar, if you prefer) and give those stinkers a good soak. 
  • Kosher or Epsom salt soak – A saltwater soak is another great way to extract moisture from your feet. Kosher salt and Epsom salt are both good options. Dissolve 2 cups of either salt in 1 to 2 gallons of water and soak your feet for at least 10 minutes twice a day to usher in an era of drier feet!  
  • Exfoliating foot peel – Dead skin on your feet is another odor trap. By regularly exfoliating them, you can slough away the stink. And when you use our original exfoliating peel, you can choose from four different scents: lavender, mint, tea tree and rose. From malodorous to magnificent in just an hour! 

Other Foot Odor Causes & Remedies

If your noxious feet fumes persist after trying these remedies, there may be something else afoot (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). Normal sweat and the resulting bacteria aren’t always the culprit for smelly feet. Fungal infections, profuse perspiration and worn-out shoes can all derail your destinking efforts.

Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

While it only affects roughly 2% to 3% of the population, hyperhidrosis could be the reason you have smelly feet. People saddled with this condition sweat all the time—no exertion required. And for those suffering from plantar hyperhidrosis, sweaty, slippery soles are the norm. Their feet aren’t just damp, they’re drenched.

Hyperhidrosis is caused by overactive nerves that keep the sweat glands working overtime. There’s some evidence it may be linked to obesity or increased thyroid activity, but the foot variety is sure to raise a stink with all that moisture. 

Foot doctors treating plantar hyperhidrosis may prescribe special antiperspirant, a nerve-blocking oral medication or even an antidepressant to help stem the sweaty tide. Iontophoresis is another treatment that uses weak electrical currents to deliver medication through the skin while your feet are submerged in water. 

Fungal infections

If you’re noticing an offensive odor wafting up from your feet, a fungal infection like Athlete’s foot could also be to blame. Fungus can be foul, especially when it takes hold between your toes and sits in wet socks all day. Now that’s a recipe for rancid feet.

Athlete’s foot is fairly common, but that doesn’t make it any less objectionable. The burning, itchiness and redness can be tough to tolerate. Same for the smell. Don’t let this fungus fester. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that should neutralize the infection—and wipe out those vapors you’ve been whiffing.    

Worn-out shoes

Smelly feet often lead to smelly shoes. Even if you’ve successfully reined in your foot odor, your shoes could still be holding onto that stubborn stink. Wearing the same pair of shoes too much could be what’s causing that toxic cloud to hang around.

Rotating your shoes is a must to avoid smelly feet. Give them at least a day to air out—outdoors in the sun is best—so you don’t perpetuate the putrid cycle. When shopping for shoes, opt for ones that are breathable like canvas, leather or synthetic mesh. 

If your shoes still reek, you may need to go a step further in your odor-fighting crusade. Scented insoles will sometimes do the trick. Sachets filled with stink-eradicating organic materials like cedar or charcoal may also help. Some shoes are even washable so toss ’em in the laundry for a deep cleaning. If none of these work and you’re OK with laying down some cash, you can always A-bomb the bacteria living in your kicks with UV rays.

Now you know how to get rid of smelly feet. Find what works for you and don’t let up, because your sweat glands definitely won’t. Let the battle for better smelling feet begin!