How to stop smelly feet

Smelly feet aren’t fun for anyone, but there are simple things you can do to make sure yours stay fresh.

Who gets smelly feet?

Anyone can get smelly feet but they're more likely if you:

  • are a teenager
  • are pregnant
  • are under mental or emotional stress
  • stand up all day at work
  • have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) 
  • are taking certain prescribed medications

Medically known as bromodosis, stinky feet are a common year-round problem. It can be embarrassing and unpleasant for you and people around you.

The main cause is sweaty feet combined with wearing the same shoes every day.

Why feet sweat

There are more sweat glands in our feet than anywhere else in the body.

Anyone can get sweaty feet, regardless of the temperature or time of year. But teenagers and pregnant women are especially prone because hormonal changes make them sweat more.

You’re also more likely to have foot perspiration if you’re on your feet all day, if you’re under a lot of stress or you have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which makes you sweat more than usual. Fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, can also lead to bad foot odour.

According to Lorraine Jones, chiropodist and spokeswoman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, feet become smelly if sweat soaks into shoes and they don't dry before you wear them again.

Bacteria on the skin break down sweat as it comes from the pores. A cheesy odour is released as the sweat decomposes.

"Your feet sweat into your shoes all day so they get damp and bacteria start to grow. The bacteria continue to breed once you’ve taken your shoes off, especially if you put them in a dark cupboard. Then, when you put your shoes back on the next day, even if you’ve just had a shower, putting your feet into still damp shoes creates the perfect conditions for the bacteria to thrive – warm, dark and moist."

Preventing smelly feet

According to Lorraine, keeping feet fresh and sweet smelling is all down to good personal hygiene and changing your shoes regularly.

“The key is never to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row," Lorraine says. "Instead, wear different shoes on successive days so they have a minimum of 24 hours to dry out. And make sure teenage boys have two pairs of trainers so that they don’t have to wear the same pair for two or more consecutive days.”

Lorraine says that it’s also important to wash and dry your feet every day and to change your socks (ideally wool or cotton, not nylon) at least once a day.

If you’re particularly susceptible to sweaty feet, Lorraine suggests that you could also:

  • dab between your toes with cotton wool dipped in surgical spirit after a shower or bath – surgical spirit helps dry out the skin between the toes really well – in addition to drying them with a towel
  • use a spray deodorant or antiperspirant on your feet – a normal underarm deodorant or antiperspirant works just as well as a specialist foot product and will cost you less
  • put medicated insoles, which have a deodorising effect, in your shoes
  • try feet-fresh socks – some sports socks have ventilation panels to keep feet dry, and antibacterial socks are impregnated with chemicals to discourage the odour-producing bacteria that feed on sweat
  • wear leather or canvas shoes, as they let your feet breathe, unlike plastic ones
  • wear open-toes sandals in summer and go barefoot at home in the evenings

Treating smelly feet

Top tip for prevention

'Never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Instead, wear different shoes on successive days so they have a minimum of 24 hours to dry out' 

Lorraine Jones, chiropodist

If you already have foot odour, the good news is that there’s a simple, quick solution.

Lorraine says: “A sure-fire way to get rid of smelly feet is to wash your feet with an anti-bacterial soap called Hibiscrub. There are lots of over-the-counter foot hygiene products at your local chemist, but Hibiscrub is the best one.

“Leave on the Hibiscrub for a couple of minutes, then wash it off. If you do this twice a day, you'll definitely banish smelly feet within a week.”

Lorraine adds that you shouldn't use Hibiscrub on your feet if you have broken skin, such as eczema.

When to see a doctor

Smelly feet are a common problem that usually clears up, but sometimes it can be a sign of a medical condition.

See your GP if simple measures to reduce your foot odour don't help, or if you're worried that your level of sweating is abnormally high.

Your doctor can offer you a strong prescription antiperspirant or refer you for a treatment called iontophoresis, which delivers a mild electric current through water to your feet to combat excessive sweating.

Here are more tips on how to look after your feet.

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2013

Next review due: 11/12/2015


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The 19 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Chemist73 said on 22 October 2015

I had smelly feet for years despite extremely good foot hygene. The doctors I saw in due time would typically prescibe foot cream based on aluminium chloride against perspiration. I have never found it very effective, certainly not against the smell. One day, I was prescribed a foot cream based on sulconazole nitrate (10 mg/g) against athlete's foot. The day after I applied it, the smell was gone. The following days, the skin and callus between and under my toes that would normally be soft and white from "sweat" and even have small holes in it turned back to normal. My foot hygene nowadays is less than it used to be, yet my feet don't smell nor have any white, soft skin as before. They are also much dryer now, as if the bacteria/yeast/fungi... were actually stimulating perspiration. Athlete's foot proved much more difficult to cure than smelly feet. I don't know about Hibiscrub. It may work very well. I only know that over-the-counter "foot hygene products" did not work for me. You may need to see your GP for getting sulconazole nitrate-creme or something similar.

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fifeman said on 03 October 2014

I've tried Lorraines remedy using Hibiscrub, only used it for two days the smell has subsided so much. Wish I had read this comment earlier

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dandyhall1 said on 27 September 2014

It is not true re. wool and cotton socks! I wore them for years but have gone back to wearing nylon socks because they SMELL LESS!! Woollen socks were particularly awful!

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paulB79 said on 17 March 2013

OK, I have ordered the product. We will see what it does…

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paulB79 said on 07 March 2013

Hi everybody, I have heard about a product named Graalu that could treat this problem. Has anyone tried it? Thanks

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Emily465 said on 27 April 2012

Thanks a lot for your great advices. I made also good experiences with zederna insoles personal. There are thin and make a natural healthy feet without foot odour.

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MartinasVoice said on 17 February 2012

Hey Sandra, thank you so much! I also tried several remedies... but the cedarsoles worked best for me! My feet problems have already disappeared after two distressed years!

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SandraBlack73 said on 25 April 2011

Washing your feet daily should be a basic thing! But it can't solve the problem itself.

Sometimes vinegar is a good remedy: Less complicated: Put some Cedarsoles in your shoes. They are made from natural antifungal cedarwood and they give your feet a very long-lasting menthol-like aroma. Cedarwood is also very useful to prevent fungus or similar disorders.

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Lovesfeet said on 24 June 2010

The best things to do for smelly feet are:
1.Wash feet every day using Hibiscrub soap (leave on skin for 2 minutes each time) - this will help destroy the bacteria that causes the smell.
2. Never wear the same shoes two days in a row - always have 2 to 3 pairs of shoes on the go so that you always put a dry pair on in the morning. (Shoes do not dry out enough overnight).
3. wear open walking sandals whenever you can to let sweat evaporate easily.

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Gillyinnes said on 23 September 2009


I have never had smelly feet until one month ago. I had bought a new pair of boots and had worn them repeatedly - I do ALOT of walking with my dog. When i came home I used a new pair of slippers and first noticed them being smelly and traced it to my boots - they got thrown out - but to my horror - from then on i notice my feet stink like I have never smelt them - funny smell. My feet look healthy and clean - no dry skin - but sooooo smelly?! Anyway I noticed that even after a bath the smell was still there used the usual scholl athetes foot spray thinking it was fungal - helped somewhat but not much. So then I tried soaking them in a a bowl with loads of sea salt (natural cleaser) then rinse them - followed by some tree tea oil (the one safe to put on skin) if you buy it 100% you need to add 5 drops to an egg cup full of almond oil or if youve no cash - sunflower oil! ..and rub into clean, dry feet. And finally the smell is vamooshing :-) I did this every couple of nights then missed a couple of nights then started it up again every two nights for about a week and a half.

But my point is: i changed my shoes to breathable ones (with holes in) and wore flip flops out of work. I also bought slippers with no backs in so my feet could breath or you could get the ones with no toes in - either would work.

So keep them clean, allow them to breath and treat with a salty soak followed by tea tree oil :-))))

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Mariah100 said on 21 May 2009

Hey folks... I'm totally frustrated... I still have stinky feet a few years. I've tried nearly every home-remedy. Has anyone tested cedarsoles made from cedarwood? I've recently found them on the internet. Could this be an effective remedy for me?

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User46118 said on 25 September 2008

Hi there

I have the same problem as you guys for a long long time. But now I think I have solved the problem. This was recommend by my doctor to use.

Dermol 200 Lotion and Shower Emollient to wash feet with.
Anhydrol Forte - only to use for two nights then two night rest and start over again.
Daktarin aktiv - Spray powder. used twice a day.

I hope this helps you as I have only been doing this for a few days and already my feet are smelly free.

Please try this and report back on here. I am so pleased with what my doctor told me as I have bought countless pairs of shoes and sleepness night too


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Denise said on 26 August 2008

try this website
for advice on smelly feet.

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infernoman said on 25 August 2008

i found a solution to my foot oduer and it is quite simple i always buy shoes that are one size too big so my feet are allways getting some air that combined with long soaks in a foot spar once or twice a week with mild soap did the trick for me hope that helps

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Stinky Tinky said on 20 August 2008

My feet stink too Kirsty and the girls in the office are complaining. I wash, I spray but to no avail. I just brazen it out but it is a little upsetting.

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Kirsty said on 11 August 2008

My feet absolutely stink

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john said on 28 July 2008

not much help,we have to wear shoes&socks ,the idea of a surgigal spirit dab can only be applied once a day if your a working person,cannot see that would help much.

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smelly foot man said on 23 June 2008

too right we need a cure a more helpful one please

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swollen feet said on 29 April 2008

That wasn't very feet swell and get smellier while I'm at work....advising me to wipe them with cotton wool is not an option while I'm at work!!

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