Healthy body

How to stop smelly feet

Smelly feet aren't fun for anyone, so good personal hygiene and changing your shoes regularly should keep your feet fresh and sweet smelling.

Medically known as bromodosis, stinky feet are a common year-round problem.

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

Why feet sweat

Anyone can get sweaty feet, at any temperature or time of year.

But teenagers and pregnant women are more likely to get them because hormonal changes make them sweat more.

You're also more likely to have sweaty feet if you're on your feet all day, wear shoes that are too tight, are under a lot of stress, or have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which makes you sweat more than usual.

Feet often become smelly if sweat soaks into your shoes and they don't dry before you wear them again.

How to treat and prevent smelly feet

The good news is that smelly feet are usually easy to treat by keeping your feet clean and dry, and changing your shoes regularly.

To treat sweaty or smelly feet yourself, try to:

  • wash your feet with an antibacterial soap once a day (a pharmacist can advise you about different products)
  • dry your feet well after they have been wet, especially between your toes
  • try not to wear the same pair of shoes 2 days in a row so they have at least 24 hours to dry out
  • change your socks (ideally wool or cotton, not nylon) at least once a day
  • keep your toenails short and clean, and remove any hard skin with a foot file (it can become soggy when damp, which provides an ideal home for bacteria)

If you often get sweaty feet, you might want to try:

  • using 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
  • putting medicated insoles, which have a deodorising effect, in your shoes
  • using a foot powder to absorb sweat (a pharmacist can advise you about foot powders)
  • trying socks for sweaty feet – some sports socks are designed to keep feet dry, and you can get special antibacterial socks
  • wearing leather or canvas shoes, as they let your feet breathe, unlike plastic ones
  • always wearing socks with closed-toe shoes

When to see a doctor

Smelly feet are a harmless problem that generally clears up. Sometimes, however, 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.

Get more tips on how to look after your feet

Page last reviewed: 29/10/2018
Next review due: 29/10/2021