How to treat smelly feet

You’ve just had a long session on the bike, a big workout at the gym, or a marathon run. Completely exhausted, you slip your shoes off, and bam!! That horrible stench wafts straight through the air and into your sinuses, making you gag.

Yup, you have smelly feet. The smell is overpowering and takes over the entire house, with your partner wondering what just happened. The change rooms at the gym are a biohazard because of you. Your team mates won’t let you into the club rooms anymore. Even the next day, when you are getting ready for your next training session, you pick up your shoes and the smell is still lingering… already know what the result is going to be after your workout.

Is there anything you can do about it though???


Smelly feet, medically known as Bromodosis, is caused by an overgrowth of odour producing bacteria on the feet. The gas produced by these bacteria is what causes the horrid smell.

Feet sweat. A lot. Your feet can produce up to 500ml of sweat a day in order to try and keep you cool, and keep the skin of your feet moist. But when this sweat is allowed to build up, especially when combined with warm, dark conditions which accompany wearing socks and shoes, perfect conditions are created for bacterial growth.

The skin naturally contains some healthy bacteria, which assist with (among other things) the breakdown of sweat and dead skin cells. When we exercise, we sweat into our socks and shoes, creating a moist environment where bacterial growth occurs. Many of us also make the mistake of throwing damp socks straight into the laundry basket, as well as not allowing our shoes to dry out completely before putting them on again. These conditions lead to the increased levels of bacteria on our feet, which in turn leads to an increase of foot odour!


If you are the unfortunate victim of smelly feet, there are many simple things you can do to help treat and prevent this often embarrassing condition.

The best thing to do is to keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet with soapy water and a scrubbing brush on a daily basis. Make sure to dry them completely afterwards, especially in between the toes. Using antibacterial soaps can be a good idea….these are available from your local pharmacy.

Clean and clip your toenails on a regular basis; and be sure to use a skin file to help remove any build up of hard, dead skin on your feet. Both of these areas are ideal for bacterial growth.

Using a small amount of rubbing alcohol (iso-propyl alcohol) on both your feet and in your shoes can help to kill the bacteria causing the smell; as well as assisting to dry out your shoes and the skin on your feet. Just be sure not to use it on broken skin, as it will sting!

Wearing good quality sport socks is beneficial, as they are usually designed to “wick” the sweat away from your feet during exercise. Likewise, well ventilated sports shoes can reduce the amount of sweat build up. Be sure to allow your damp socks to air out properly before throwing them into the laundry basket, and make sure your shoes are fully dried out before putting them on again for your next workout. Having two pairs of shoes in rotation can be a good idea.

Anti-bacterial foot and shoe sprays can be purchased from your pharmacy treat smelly feet. You can also purchase anti-bacterial inner soles for your shoes, which will help to stop your shoes continuing to smell from a build up of bacteria. It may sound silly, but you can also use anti-perspirants on your feet before you exercise, as this can reduce the amount of sweat your feet produce.

Of course, severe cases of Bromodosis may be completely unresponsive to the above treatments. A visit to the doctor may be necessary, so stronger treatments can be prescribed to treat the condition more effectively.

Smelly feet can be a rather uncomfortable problem for many people, and those of us who exercise on a regular basis and sweat more often can be more susceptible. But this condition can be easily treated, to avoid those embarrassing moments after a workout!

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