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Foot odor is considered to be an unpleasant smell.

Foot odor (or foot odour; see American and British English spelling differences) is a type of body odor that affects the feet of humans and is generally considered to be an unpleasant smell.



The main cause is foot sweat. Sweat itself is odorless, but it creates a perfect environment for certain bacteria to grow and produce bad-smelling substances. Bacteria are naturally present on our skin. Foot odor is also the result of wearing shoes and/or socks with inadequate air ventilation for many hours. Because human feet are densely covered with sweat glands, perspiration of the feet can combine with surface bacteria to produce odor. Hair on the feet, especially on the toes, may contribute to the odor's intensity by adding increased surface area in which the bacteria can thrive.

Given that socks directly contact the feet, their composition can have an impact on foot odor. Polyester and nylon are common materials used to manufacture socks, but provide less ventilation than does cotton when used for the same purpose. Wearing polyester or nylon socks may increase perspiration and therefore may intensify foot odor.[1] Because socks absorb varying amounts of perspiration from feet, wearing shoes without socks may increase the amount of perspiration contacting feet and thereby increase bacterial activities that cause odor.[citation needed]

Odor qualities

The quality of foot odor is often reported as a thick, cheesy smell. Some describe the smell like that of malt vinegar. However, it can also be ammonia-like. Brevibacteria are considered a major cause of foot odor because they ingest dead skin on the feet and, in the process, convert amino acid methionine into methanethiol, which has a sulfuric aroma. The dead skin that fuels this process is especially common on the soles and between the toes. The brevibacteria is also what gives cheeses such as Limburger, Bel Paese, Port du Salut, and Muenster their characteristic pungency.[2]

Propionic acid (propanoic acid) is also present in many foot sweat samples.[citation needed] This acid is a breakdown product of amino acids by Propionibacteria, which thrive in the ducts of adolescent and adult sebaceous glands. The similarity in chemical structures between propionic acid and acetic acid, which share many physical characteristics such as odor, may account for foot odors identified as being vinegar-like. Isovaleric acid (3-methyl butanoic acid) is the other source of foot odor and is a result of actions of the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis[3], which is also present in several strong cheese types.


A very effective and cheap way to deal with it is sodium bicarbonate (a mildly basic white salt also known as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda, bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, or simply bicarb). Sodium bicarbonate will create a hostile environment unsuitable for the bacteria responsible for the bad smell. Four pinches of it on each foot everyday are usually enough (two inside the sock and two on the insole of the shoe). Sometimes it might take one or two days before the shoes completely lose their old smell. Washing your feet and applying the sodium bicarbonate daily are also potentially useful solutions.

While there are a number of other remedies, sodium bicarbonate, if bought in a supermarket, costs approximately 20 times less than common odor-eaters or odor-killer powders.

A more recent approach to reduce odor producing bacteria caused by sweat in your shoes is based on UV light. This innovation was first introduced with the SteriShoe [4] ultraviolet shoe sanitizer. The UV light emitted by this shoe tree kills all microorganisms in the toe box of a shoe and thus reduces the unpleasant effects of foot odor. Sterishoe is accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Among the earliest foot deodorants were aromatic herbs such as allspice, which nineteenth-century Russian soldiers would put in their boots. Some types of powders and activated charcoal insoles, such as odor eaters, have been developed to combat foot odor by keeping the feet dry.[5] Special cedarsoles can be recommended for this purpose because of their antibacterial characteristics. Or as activated charcoal foot insert wafers, such as Innofresh footware odor absorbers. Hygiene is considered important in avoiding odor,[6] as is avoidance of synthetic shoes/socks,[6][7] rotation of the pairs of shoes worn[5][8] and the possible soaking of feet in a tub of iced tea.[9][10] Another method of preventing foot odor is the use of readily available Zinc and Castor Oil cream. Applying this daily after washing the feet will act as a barrier cream and allow the skin to recover from the saturation condition caused by the sweat. A period of seven to ten days of daily use should eliminate the problem when followed by weekly application of the cream, which will prevent any recurrence.[citation needed]

See also


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