Stinky feet – Causes, symptoms and other risk factors

Stinky feet

The medical name for stinky feet or smelly feet is bromodosis. This condition can affect every single person. This condition is uncomfortable and embarrassing. The main cause for stinky feet is when our feet sweat. There are many ways in which you can prevent this condition. Many people have described this smell like a cheese or vinegar. They feel it on their feet, shoes and socks.

What causes smelly and sweaty feet

When you are making exercises, then your sweat glands should keep the skin supple and moist because the skin can regulate the body temperature. Also it should regulate the temperature when outside is too hot. In our feet we have the most sweat glands compared with other parts of our body. The sweat glands in our feet secrete all the time not only when is hot or when we do exercises. When the bacteria on our skin break down the sweat as it comes from the pores, then we get stinky feet. When the sweat decomposes, then we have cheesy smell on our feet. When the bacteria from your skin is mixed with sweat, then we get stinky feet. Most of us have over 250.000 in our feet which produce a pint of moisture every single day. [5]

Stinky feet

Also there are people who have more than average number of sweat glands in their feet and they sweat too lot. There is one group of people who sweat a lot during the hot months in the year. Also there is another group of people who sweat a lot during all year. When we sweat, then we do not have a smell. We should know that when our sweat comes in a contact with bacteria, then we feel bad smell. There are rare cases when the bacteria eat the top layer of our skin. Even this is a rare case the chances of getting it are not excluded. We wash our shoes and socks regularly, but still this is a perfect environment for the bacteria to grow. When we walk in socks and shoes, then we have the highest chances of getting smelly feet. It is hard to have normal hygiene in these cases. In the first period you will not feel the smell of your feet. But when we continue to walk in those socks and shoes, then we cannot ignore it. We can notice that people who are around us can feel it as well. You should constantly cut your toe nails. You can put baking soda in your shoes because it will kill the bacteria which is a reason for your stinky feet. You should wear clean socks and they should be synthetic socks. You should try your feet to be dry as long as you can. If you wear some shoes and socks which are a reason for the stinky feet, then you should change them. You should try with other material. Also when you are constantly in one pair of shoes every day, then you have increased chances of getting stinky feet. [1]

Reason for Stinky feet

Our feet produce moisture every single day which evaporates before this moisture has a chance to attract the bacteria. When we wear shoes and socks which cannot allow the evaporation, then the moisture is trapped inside and then the bacteria start to grow. In the first time the bacteria is stuck on our socks and shoes and then it is stuck on our skin which means that our feet start to smell bad. But socks and shoes are not the only reason why we get stinky feet. Also there are other causes for stinky feet such as

  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Sweaty feet which is also known as hyperhidrosis [2]
  • Stress [3]
  • Poor hygiene
  • Medication
  • Hormone changes such as can be brought on by puberty or menopause [5]

If you have normal hygiene and you still feel that your feet smell bad, then you should talk with your doctor. You should ask your doctor which is the real cause for your smelly feet. Also you can ask your doctor which foods can help you to improve your condition and which foods can lead to stinky feet. Your doctor will give you the right treatment for your condition. You can ask him or her how long you should do your treatment and when you will notice the results. If your condition is serious, then your doctor may tell you that you should do a surgery. Your doctor will give you the right creams, foot powders and ointment which can improve the bad smell. It is very important to follow the prescribed treatment of your doctor to treat stinky feet. [5]


[1] Ara K, Hama M, Akiba S, et al. Foot odor due to microbial metabolism and its control. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 2006;52(4):357-64.

[2] Pereira E, Sinclair R. Hyperhidrosis and bromhidrosis: A guide to assessment and management. Australian Family Physician. 2013;42(5):266-9.

[3] NHS. How to stop smelly feet. Retrieved from

[4] Brookshire B. Explainer: The bacteria behind your B.O. 2019. Retrieved from

[5] Kanlayavattanakul M, Lourith N. Body malodours and their topical treatment agents. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2011;33(4):298-311.


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