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Smelly Feet? Here are 5 Ways to Prevent Foot Odor

foot odor prevention

In many areas of the US, warmer weather is here and, with that, we are spending more time in sandals and flip flops. One problem that you want to avoid when exposing your feet to the public is foot odor. Try one of these expert-approved steps to prevent smelly feet.

Switch to cotton socks

The main cause of foot odor is sweat. Did you know that each foot has more than 250,000 sweat glands? The sweat itself is odorless, but it creates a beneficial environment for bacteria to grow and produce bad-smelling substances. Certain types of socks can contribute to sweaty feet because they provide less ventilation. For example, wearing synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon socks, may increase perspiration and therefore may intensify foot odor. Natural fibers such as cotton and wool are best as they provide the best ventilation for the feet.

Those who go barefoot tend to have fewer problems with foot odor, but keep in mind that wearing closed shoes without any socks at all is not a good idea as the shoe materials may also increase sweating and bacterial activity that cause odor. If you must wear shoes without socks for fashion’s sake, try dotting antiperspirant on the bottoms of your feet and between your toes. You can also sprinkle baby powder on the sides of your shoes before and after you wear them.

Choose the Proper Shoes

Any shoe can have the ability to make the foot sweat, and therefore smell – even sandals. Shoe materials that have a propensity to hold in moisture are those that have a greater likelihood to create the environment for bacteria to grow and thrive. Plastic shoes and those made of suede are two examples of materials that trap moisture, increasing bacterial growth and the risk for foot odor.

For any shoe, it is best not to wear the same pair day after day. Give your shoes time to air out between wear. If you find that you have a pair of shoes that odor tends to stick around, even after spending time off your feet, try swabbing the inside with alcohol to disinfect then wait at least two days before wearing.

Keep Feet Clean and Dry

The best measure for preventing foot odor is good hygiene and self-care. Use an anti-bacterial soap to thoroughly wash your feet daily. After a shower (or a swim or a walk in the rain), be sure to completely dry your feet to prevent odor-causing fungus growth. Athlete’s foot, for example, is a type of fungal infection that thrives in a warm moist environment, such as wet feet inside of a shoe. You may also want to try an anti-fungal powder such as Tinactin or Desenex after your shower to prevent fungus growth.

Try Odor-Eating Shoe Inserts or Sprays

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Activated charcoal insoles have been developed to prevent foot odor by keeping the feet dry. Dr. Scholl’s uses both activated charcoal and baking soda to neutralize and protect against unpleasant odors. In addition to insoles, Dr. Scholl’s offers odor fighting foot powder and odor fighting foot sprays. All can be found in your local drug store or online at drscholls.com.

Also available are cinnamon insoles that absorb moisture and may be effective against inflammation. These can be found through online websites such as Amazon.com or Ebay.

Home Remedies for Foot Odor

You may already have some wonderful odor-killing solutions in your home! Try soaking feet nightly in 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water to eliminate odoriferous bacteria. Alternatively, take a daily foot bath in strong black tea (letting it cool first) for 30 minutes. The tannin’s in the tea kill bacteria and close the pores in your feet, keeping feet dry longer. (Caution: Only do this when your feet are free of cuts.)

Another home remedy for smelly feet is vodka. Wipe your feet with a vodka-soaked washcloth to get rid of foot stench. The alcohol is an antiseptic and a drying agent, so it destroys the odor-causing fungus and bacteria plus dries out the moisture. Of course, if you do not wish to waste your Absolut or Grey Goose on your feet, you can use rubbing alcohol instead. Swabbing feet twice daily for two weeks is a cheap and effective cure.

In your spice cabinet, try Allspice. Nineteenth-century Russian soldiers would put this in their boots as a foot deodorant. Dust the powder in your socks prior to putting on shoes.

If these solutions do not help your foot odor problem, it may be time to see a doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe Drysol, an anti-sweat prescription in the form of a roller ball specifically formulated for reducing the amount of sweat your foot produces.

Prevention Magazine - How to Prevent Smelly Feet
WebMD - Preventing Body Odor



There are some products out there that are really good at eliminating foot odor. Lavilin is by far the best. The packaging is a bit outdated and the price is a little steep, but well worth it given the benefits. Plus, it lasts up to 7 days per application so it's not like you are using it everyday. Great product.