Why Do My Feet Stink

Why Do My Feet Stink
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: What to Know About Smelly Feet. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Hormonal changes, like those that happen during pregnancy, can also cause stinky feet. Increased hormone production during pregnancy can cause you to sweat more, which, in turn, can lead to bad foot odors.

How to Get Rid of Smelly Feet

Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.

Published on January 04, 2022

Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you have smelly feet, you are not alone. Bromodosis , the medical term for foot odor, can happen for many reasons and is a common problem. Your feet may stink because of sweat buildup there. If you don’t address your moist feet, this can lead to bacterial growth, causing an unpleasant odor.

Sometimes, though, stinky feet can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. This article will discuss the causes of foot odor, home remedies to use, and medical treatments you may need.

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Causes of Stinky Feet

Your foot odor may stem from any of several causes.

Trapped Sweat and Hyperhidrosis

You can get sweaty feet because it’s hot outside or you’re exercising vigorously. Still, your feet can also sweat excessively for other reasons like:

  • Being pregnant
  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes
  • Stress
  • Spending long hours on your feet
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
  • Taking certain medications
  • Underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disease or diabetes


Hyperhidrosis is a condition that involves extreme sweating. It can affect any area of the body, including the feet.

When sweat isn’t cleaned off and gets trapped between your toes, bacteria can start to proliferate, creating a smelly situation.


Bacteria can grow due to trapped sweat, but you can also contract a bacterial infection that causes your feet to smell. Typically, this happens because a cut, wound, or ingrown toenail becomes infected. Left untreated, it can start to smell. A festering wound that stinks is definitely a sign to seek medical attention.

An abrasion on your foot is unlikely to get infected and smelly if you take care of it. But some people are more likely to develop foot infections, including:

  • Older adults
  • People with diabetes
  • People with a compromised immune system


Fungal foot infections are common causes of smelly feet. Your feet are a favorite spot for fungi. The moist crevices between your toes are the perfect home for fungi to hang out and thrive.

And fungal infections can be hard to get rid of, which means the smell can stick around. Some fungal infections that can affect your feet include:

  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)
  • Toenail fungus (onychomycosis)

Both of these can cause your feet to stink.

Poor Hygiene

Unsurprisingly, not washing your feet can cause them to start to smell, too. The same goes if you’re regularly wearing unwashed socks or shoes.

Poor Shoe Care

Your foot odor may stem from wearing smelly shoes. Sweat can soak into your footwear and cause bacterial growth that eventually leads to a nasty smell. The key is to let your shoes or boots dry out completely before you step into them again to prevent this from happening.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes, like those that happen during pregnancy, can also cause stinky feet. Increased hormone production during pregnancy can cause you to sweat more, which, in turn, can lead to bad foot odors.

It’s Treatable

Smelly feet are a common problem and nothing to be embarrassed about. The issue is also very treatable. You can try various home remedies, but if those don’t solve the problem, a podiatrist or dermatologist can help you find a solution.

Home Remedies for Smelly Feet

There are several steps you can take at home to improve your foot odor problem.

Good Foot Hygiene

Keeping your feet clean by washing them daily with soap and water can help keep them from getting smelly. Other good hygiene tactics to use include:

  • Using antibacterial soap to prevent bacterial buildup
  • Always thoroughly drying your feet
  • Changing socks daily
  • Keeping your toenails clean and trim
  • Removing dead skin and calluses (thickened areas of skin)​​

If you sweat excessively, you can also try changing up the shoes you wear. Wear a bigger size if your shoes are too tight. Opt for open-toed shoes, if possible. Foot powders and antiperspirants can also help keep your feet dry and bacteria free. In addition, you can find medicated insoles at most pharmacies.

Sock and Shoe Care

If sweat gets into your footwear, it can cause bacteria to grow in the nooks and crannies and lead to a smell.

Changing your socks every day and wearing socks made of materials that wick sweat can help prevent smelly feet. Cotton socks retain sweat, while socks made of synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and polypropylene will wick moisture away from the skin.

If you sweat a lot, you may want to strike preemptively and apply antibacterial powder in your shoes to sop up the sweat and keep them dry.

Another way to keep smells from developing is to rotate your shoes (alternating days that you wear a given pair), especially during times of the year when wet or hot weather is the norm.

Medical Treatments for Stinky Feet

If you have excessive sweating, your healthcare professional may recommend a medical procedure or medication to address it.


Doctors prescribe this procedure to treat excessive sweating, particularly of the hands and feet. You place your feet (or hands) in a basin of water and an electrical current is applied. It’s unlikely to cause any severe side effects, but it needs to be done weekly to provide lasting results.

Some people may experience:

  • Skin irritation
  • Dry skin
  • Discomfort


Doctors may also recommend Botox (botulinum toxin) to treat excessive sweating. Research suggests that it can reduce sweating by up to 87%. Results can occur within a few days after treatment and last several months—sometimes up to a year.

The biggest drawback is that injections to the feet tend to be quite painful. And some evidence suggests that it’s less effective for foot sweating than for other types of excessive sweating, such as under the arms.

Prescription Medication

A doctor may prescribe prescription drugs to treat excessive sweating. These block sweating from occurring in the first place. However, they can be dangerous because they stop your natural cooling-off mechanism.

Other side effects include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth


It’s not uncommon for feet to smell. Your feet are a prime spot for bacteria and fungi to grow. Footwear like shoes and socks can also cause odor. Often, at-home hygiene efforts can help reduce or prevent foot odor. However, you’ll sometimes need to see a doctor to treat an underlying condition causing the problem.

A Word From Verywell

Having smelly feet can be embarrassing. Usually, taking a few extra steps to make sure you’re cleaning your feet and keeping them dry, as well as taking care of your footwear, should solve the problem. If you’re worried about constant foot odor, you may want to talk to a doctor to find out the root cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why have my feet started to smell?

It might be for several reasons, including a bacterial or fungal infection or hormonal changes. Have you changed any habits recently? Your new shoes could be trapping sweat, leading to a foul odor. Or maybe you’re taking a new medication that’s impacting your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, increasing sweat production.

What can I soak my stinky feet in?

Soaking them in vinegar and water can help prevent bacterial growth. An Epsom salt soak can also help dry out your feet.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. NHS. How to stop smelly feet.
  2. International Hyperhydrosis Society. Sweaty feet.
  3. Mogilnicka I, et al. Microbiota and malodor—Etiology and management. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(8):2886. doi:10.3390/ijms21082886
  4. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Athlete’s foot overview.
  5. NHS. Common health problems in pregnancy.
  6. International Hyperhidrosis Society. Iontophoresis.
  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hyperhidrosis: Diagnosis and treatment.
  8. International Hyperhidrosis Society. OnabotulinumtoxinA injections (Botox).
  9. ClevelandClinic. 4 ways you can avoid stinky feet.

By Steph Coelho
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.

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What to Know About Smelly Feet

If you notice that your feet smell bad when you take off your shoes, you’re not alone. Having stinky feet is a very common problem. Learn more about what causes feet to smell bad and how you can help to prevent it.

Causes of Stinky Feet

The main cause of smelly feet is trapped sweat. Your feet create a lot of sweat each day since they have thousands of sweat glands. When the sweat becomes trapped in your shoes or socks, it can create a bad odor. This is known as bromodosis, or smelly feet.

Bacteria are also responsible for smelly feet. There are many kinds of bacteria on the bottom of your feet. These bacteria live off the sweat that your feet are constantly producing. When they feed on the sweat, the bacteria create an acid that causes foot odor.

Besides bacteria, fungus may also cause you to have smelly feet. Fungus grows and thrives in warm, moist areas. When your feet sweat inside your shoes and socks, this creates an environment where fungus can grow. These bad-smelling fungi are commonly known as athlete’s foot.

Some other factors that could cause stinky feet include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Wearing the same shoes every day or not changing your shoes frequently enough
  • Certain diseases

Sweaty Feet

Bromodosis doesn’t just occur in hot weather. Your feet sweat every day, no matter what the temperature is. While anyone can get stinky feet, it’s estimated that 10% to 15% of all people have feet that are smellier than average. These people host a certain bacteria on their feet called Kyetococcus sedentarius that create sulfuric compounds. These compounds can cause sweat to smell like rotten eggs.

Some people are more susceptible to sweaty feet. For example, women and teens may get sweatier due to hormonal changes in their bodies. People with hyperhidrosis may also have sweatier feet since this condition causes excess sweating. In turn, the extra sweat can cause your feet to smell bad.

You may also notice that your feet get sweatier and smellier if you:

  • Wear shoes that are too small or too tight
  • Stand on your feet for long periods of time
  • Are under a large amount of stress

Treating Foot Odor

Smelly feet are usually easy to treat at home. Here are a few things that you can try to reduce foot sweat and odor.

Soak your feet. If your foot odor is noticeable, you can try soaking your feet to give them a deep cleaning. To do so, mix half a cup of Epsom salt in warm water. If you don’t have Epsom salt, you can mix two parts of warm water with one part white or apple cider vinegar.

Let your feet soak for up to 20 minutes once a week. Epsom salt helps to remove moisture from your skin, so bacteria are less likely to hang around. Vinegar also helps to remove bacteria from your feet. You shouldn’t soak your feet if you have any open wounds or sores.

Keep your feet dry. Bacteria live in moist areas, so keeping your feet dry will help to cut back on foot odor. You can apply talcum powder to your feet to soak up any wetness or sweat. If your feet are very sweaty, you can even try using antiperspirant on the bottom of your feet.

While at home, allow your feet to get some fresh air by removing shoes and socks. Try to wear sandals when you can to reduce sweat. If you need to wear close-toed shoes, make sure that you wear shoes that fit properly. If your socks typically get sweaty during the day, carry an extra pair or two with you so that you can change them when your feet start to smell.

Practice good hygiene. If you have stinky feet, you should wash your feet every day. You can wash them as you shower or you can scrub them in a tub with warm water. Dry your feet thoroughly, including between the toes.

You should also keep your toenails clean and trimmed, and file off any dead skin on your feet. This can also help to reduce places where bacteria like to live on your feet.

Take care of your footwear. You should avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row to let them air out. In addition, you can wash the insoles of your shoes to help them smell better.

Another way to help reduce stinky feet is by using a disinfectant spray on your shoes and letting them air dry. This will kill off any bacteria living in your shoes.

Show Sources

CHP: “Men’s Health Line – Smelly Feet.”

Cleveland Clinic: “4 Ways You Can Avoid Stinky Feet.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “Why Do Feet Stink?”

LiveWell with UnityPoint Health: “6 Ways to Battle Stinky Feet Without Seeing the Doctor.”

NHS: “How to stop smelly feet.”