5 Cures For Stinky Feet and Shoes That'll Save Your Relationship

The Situation: Stinky Feet!

I have a wonderful girlfriend, who I am thinking about proposing to. Unfortunately, I have awful-smelling feet. She has over-active olfactory glands and can’t deal with the smell. What do I do to fix this, so I can propose to my girl?”

This letter was written to a columnist at Dead Spin magazine and reveals a troubling scenario that many people may unknowingly face. Are your stinky feet hurting your relationship? Personal body odor can be a sensitive topic that people are uncomfortable discussing with one another, no matter how intimate they are. If you’ve ever noticed a foul odor emanating from your socks, then chances are, someone else has noticed eau de cheese in your presence. You owe it to yourself and your relationship to look into the problem because, contrary to popular belief, feet should not smell.

What Causes Stinky Feet and Shoes?

Sweat. “Scented foot sprays and powders mask foot odor, but they won’t get at what’s causing it,” reports WebMD. “The main culprit is sweat.” They go on to say that the foot has over 250,000 sweat glands that sweat out up to a PINT of fluid a day! The average over-the-counter product can’t even begin to address this amount of moisture.

Bacteria. Of course, sweat is just water and salt. There is nothing particularly malodorous about that! “The smell is actually caused by bacteria on our skin that eats the sweat and excretes waste that has a strong odor,” an article in Discovery Fit & Health explains. While it’s normal to have some bacteria on the skin, the sweat provides a great source of food that attracts even more bacteria to the damp feast.

Are There Any Other Causes of Excessive Foot Sweat and Foot Odor?

Diet. “Diets high in refined carbohydrates will often serve as food for bacteria and fungus in the body,” reports Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld, the founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine. He continues that the body intends to rid itself of bacteria through dead skin cells. Dr. Kornfeld continues, “However, when they collect in the skin of the foot through perspiration and are enclosed in a shoe, the odor can become extreme.” He attributes smelly feet to an overabundance of refined carbs (like white bread, white rice, white pasta, flour pastries) and encourages people suffering from this condition to strive for a balance of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein.

Stress. Adrenal stress also causes the hormones to alert the body of danger, which causes perspiration, adds Dr. Kornfeld. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that offers a yoga program, you’ll not only de-stress, but may be able to de-funk your feet at the same time. Other ways to moderating stress include: strenuous exercise, massage, meditation, and other practices — all of which can help reduce foot odor.

5 Cures For Stinky Feet and Shoes That’ll Save Your Relationship:

The primary way to address stinky feet and shoes is two-pronged: 1) Eliminate sweat, and 2) Eliminate bacteria.

1. Reduce bacteria by… 

  • Washing your feet with anti-bacterial soap
  • Always wearing clean, moisture-wicking socks
  • Rotate your shoes to allow for proper drying
  • Seeing a podiatrist to see if you have a bacterial infection or foot fungus
  • Insert the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer into your shoes nightly to kill up to 99.9% of the bacteria

2. Reduce sweat by…

  • Putting antiperspirant on your feet
  • Add a few tablespoons of baking soda or corn starch to socks
  • Avoid poorly-ventilated materials like leather or canvas, which cause more sweat

3. Improve your body chemistry by…

  • Reducing stress
  • Changing your diet
  • Giving up bad habits like smoking or frequent consumption of alcohol

4. Seek medical treatments, such as…

  • Botox – The FDA has approved of Botox for treating underarm sweat, but not foot sweat. However, CNN reports that some patients have found that the controversial Botox injection treats their sweaty feet for three months to a year before another injection is needed.
  • Iontophoresis – WebMD describes a treatment, where the feet sit in a shallow tray of water for up to 40 minutes while a low electrical current travels through the water. This treatment will need to be repeated a few times a week, but for whatever reason, it seems to work.
  • Oral anticholinergic drugs – Seen as a last resort, drugs can stop the activation of sweat glands, but also carry side effects like heart palpitations, blurred vision, and urinary problems.
  • Surgery – Sweat glands may be physically removed through surgery, but — as with any surgery — there is a degree of risk associated with this procedure. Scarring, compensatory sweat, and surgeon error are all possible.

5. Talk it out by…

  • Being tactful. “A good partner, real man and best friend, would talk to you about it, rather than insult you and throw hints,” says the For Women To Women blog. “He would choose the right time to speak to you about it, in a sensitive and understanding manner, while also helping you to find ways to solve your problem at hand.”
  • Discussing this article. A good way to bring up the subject might be to say you stumbled across an interesting article online about all the icky bacteria on the average foot — not to mention the fact that we sweat up to a pint of liquid from our 250,000 sweat glands per day! You could say you are considering buying a device like SteriShoe® to sanitize your shoes and making a few other lifestyle changes. See if your partner is up for the ride! Even if you don’t have excessively stinky feet and shoes, it’s always less offensive and less embarrassing to tackle the issue together.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are those of the author. Be sure to speak with your doctor for medical advice.

2 replies
  1. Elisabetz
    Elisabetz says:

    Hey, I’ve had much experience with this topic. One important thing is to dry your feet very well! The second thing is to use medical insoles, which absorbs any moisture. Sweat is the main reason for stinky shoes. I prefer using Zederna inserts. They are almost new on the market and you can’t buy them in ordinary offline-stores. So you have to buy them on the internet. But it’s the only thing which really works for me.

    • Jenn F.
      Jenn F. says:

      Thanks for sharing! Sweat is half the equation when it comes to foot odor. The other half is the bacteria that builds up in the shoe. Sweat itself does not smell. Once it mingles with the bacteria on our skin or in our shoes, we have a stink problem. That’s why we invented SteriShoe — to kill the bacteria buildup in footwear. Give it a try!

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