It's summer time in Houston, so I want to talk about something we may all have experienced in our hot, sweaty, humid city: smelly feet! I'm especially focused on foot odor this summer, since I know you're likely to be outdoors even more than usual, whether it's to stay social and distant, or to get in your runs before you're ready to get back to the gym. 

Now, this is one thing I know for sure: when your feet smell, you might not care why they get so stinky.  But I also know that identifying the cause of your foot odor is actually useful when it comes to beating back the stench. Read on for the top 5 causes of smelly feet, plus so many ways to fight off foot odor. 

Why Do My Feet Smell?

If your shoes or feet are just unpleasant, one of these five problems could be to blame: 

1. Sweat: Sweat carries bacteria and, left unchecked, this bacteria breaks down your sweat and dead skin cells, sparking a nasty little scent. The best solution to this kind of odor? Wearing sweat-wicking socks and changing them frequently.  Houston podiatrist discusses reasons for foot odor

2. Over Worn Shoes: Like socks, shoes absorb sweat, bacteria and odor. But, unlike socks, they don’t get washed on a regular basis. To keep smells from building up, try and gives shoes a day off to let fresh air in and smell-causing germs out.

3. Stress: Pressure often makes you sweat  (see point 1) but sweating when you’re stressed makes you extra smelly. Tale note and come armed with extra extra socks.

4. Hormones: Hormones have been known to make you sweatier and stinkier—hello, teenage socks—but this kind of stink is also known to affect pregnant women. Know that this time will pass, though it may take a while.

5. Infections: Of all the causes of smelly feet, this is one that should prompt a doctor’s visit. Infections such as athlete’s foot can leave feet itchy, scaly and—you guessed it—smelly. Fungal infections should be seen and treated by a podiatrist; over-the-counter treatments don’t perform as well as one might hope.

What Can I Do About Foot Odor?

Now we know some reasons why your feet may smell. And maybe you think you're unafffected by any of them. But, to paraphrase a line from Outkast’s “Roses”: I know you like to think your feet don’t stink, but lean a little bit closer…

Many of us suffer from smelly feet, but only some of us are aware of that fact. If you want to keep your feet fresh and odor free, read on for these scent-defying tips from your Houston podiatrist.

1.     When wearing closed shoes, always wear socks.

2.     Choose shoes made of leather, canvas, mesh, or other breathable materials.

3.     As soon as you're done with a sweaty activity, remove your shoes and socks so the moisture won't collect on your feet.  

4.    Leave sweaty shoes out to dry, either in the sun, or in a warm, sun-lit area of your home. And if you wear orthotics, remove those from your sweaty shoes and let them dry on their own. This will prevent bacteria from collecting on their surfaces, and transmitting odor to your feet at your next wearing. 

5.     Bathe feet daily in lukewarm water, and scrub with a gentle soap. Dry thoroughly before putting on socks again, to prevent fungus from growing.

6.     Change your socks everyday; if your feet sweat a lot or you’ve gone to exercise, change more often.

7.     If possible, rotate your shoes daily as well. This will reduce your risk of stepping into live, stinky bacteria when you slip on your shoes.

8.     Look for patches of red, dry or itchy skin between your toes and on the tops of your feet, as they could indicate a fungal infection that needs immediate treatment.

9.     Apply foot deodorant, spray or lotion to quell the smell.

10.     Consider switching to a moisture-wicking sock to keep feet dry.


Treating Foot Odor

If stinky feet or other foot issues are causing you or your children discomfort, don’t wait for the problem to go away on its own (because it might not, and that could be a major problem!) In fact, the only thing worse than putting on your own smelly shoes is picking up the kids' rank sneakers from the hallway while tidying up at the end of the day. So, if either of these scenarios sound familiar, you don't have to invest in a lifetime supply of Febreeze. Instead, just schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today.

First, we'll determine the underlying cause of you or your family member's foot odor. If it's an infection, you'll likely need an easy prescription, and that foot odor will be a thing of the past. If something simpler like sweating is the root cause, I can recommend foot sprays, proper sock choices, and offer more detailed guidelines to prevent recurring issues. So come on in as soon as possible! That way you you can start feeling better about your feet (and yourself), and finally be able to breathe deeply while going barefoot! 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.