9 Ways to Address Stinky Feet, Directly From Dermatologists

Woman grabbing her foot in a white sneaker

Ashley Armitage / Refinery29 for Getty Images

Foot odor can happen to the best of us, no matter how how excellent our grooming habits are. It's common enough that, according to board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD, it even has a technical name: bromodosis.

"The leading cause of stinky feet is trapped sweat," board-certified dermatologist Aanand Geria, MD, explains. "Feet have thousands of sweat glands, causing them to produce sweat every day. When the sweat gets trapped in your socks or shoes, it can cause a bad odor." Additionally, he tells us that "women and teenagers are more susceptible to sweaty feet due to hormonal changes," as are people with hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating.

While stinky feet are sometimes unavoidable, they can be addressed. Read on to learn how to get rid of stinky feet once and for all.

Meet the Expert

  • Anna Guanche, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, celebrity skin expert, and founder of Bella Skin Institute.  
  • Aanand Geria, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Verona, New Jersey.
01 of 09

Use a Foot File

Geria recommends removing "any hard, dead skin on the bottom of your feet" with a foot file. "Hard skin can get soggy when soft, creating a place for bacteria and fungi to thrive," he notes.

Getting rid of bacteria is a vital part of eliminating food odor. "Many different kinds of bacteria live on the bottom of feet, surviving off the sweat your feet produce," says Geria. "Bacteria feeding on sweat produces an acid that causes odor."

"One of the best ways to rid yourself of stinky feet is to keep your feet clean, washed, and dried completely," Guanche adds. "You’ll want to keep your toenails neatly trimmed and the dead skin sloughed off your feet."

02 of 09

Change Your Socks More Often

We shouldn't need to tell you that once a day is an absolute minimum for how often you should change your socks. More than that may be beneficial for you, though. Guanche suggests always keeping your socks as fresh as possible.

"Be sure to change your socks once or twice a day," Geria adds. "This is especially important if you've been exercising in a hot environment or any other situation that would cause your feet to become sweaty."

03 of 09

Choose Different Socks

Not only should you change your socks more often—you want to make sure they're the right material to prevent odors, too. "Wear socks that absorb the moisture instead of locking it into your feet," recommends Geria. "Look for thick, soft socks made from natural fibers or sports socks."

04 of 09

Go Barefoot (Or at Least Open-Toed)

If the heat is on, keep it off your feet to prevent them from smelling bad. "Try to wear open-toed sandals when you're in a warm climate, and go barefoot when you're indoors," recommends Geria. Guanche adds that "feet have thousands of sweat glands that can create a bad odor when covered in socks or shoes." If you have to wear close-toed shoes, she says to let them dry out completely after you have finished wearing them.

05 of 09

Use Insoles

There are many insoles available to put inside your shoes, and while most of them are designed for comfort or back support, some are made specifically to prevent stinky feet before they happen. Geria suggests opting for "medicated deodorant insoles inside your shoes."

06 of 09

Wear the Right Shoes

Those plastic jelly shoes may look cute and retro, but shoes that don't breathe can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Similarly, leather is a better choice than plastic. "Avoid any shoes that retain moisture or are tight," says Geria. This means that not only are shoes that pinch your toes bad for you overall, but they can also contribute to lousy odors. And don't wear your shoes till they fall apart—Geria notes that old shoes can also accumulate odors.

07 of 09

Use an Antiperspirant

There are antiperspirant sprays designed just for your feet, but if you're in a hurry you can use ones made for other body parts. "If you need to cut down on your foot odor quickly, applying antiperspirant or deodorant spray to your feet is safe," Geria says.

08 of 09

Try a Foot Soak

Ever heard of a foot bath? Stinky feet are a great reason to try one out. In addition to being a relaxing, spa-like experience, they can help remove odors. "Try a DIY foot soak that I like using, Epsom salt or apple cider vinegar mixed in warm water," Guanche recommends (Epsom salt is often used for athletic recovery, so this has benefits on the pain front, as well). "Athletes who sweat a lot will often find their feet are sweaty and smelly," she says, so this solution is a two-in-one win if you're the sporty type.

09 of 09

See Your Doctor

When home remedies fail, the problem may be bigger than a DIY fix can cure. In this instance, it's worth visiting your practitioner because you may be dealing with foot fungus. "Fungus has also been known to cause stinky feet," Geria explains. "Fungus thrives in warm, moist areas, so when your feet sweat inside a sock or shoe, this creates the perfect environment for fungus to grow. This bad-smelling fungus is commonly known as athlete's foot."

If you have stinky feet there are plenty of things you can do to get rid of them, from using a foot file to choosing better shoes. "There are steps that someone can take to help minimize sweaty feet, although it can never entirely be prevented," says Geria. "Some circumstances that cause sweaty feet can't be avoided, such as wearing shoes and socks while working outside on a hot day or exercising." This means that even if you manage to get your stinky feet under control, they may come back, and you may need to try a different solution.

Related Stories