Foot odour is an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition, which can be an indication of infection.
Foot odour has two causes:
- perspiration – our feet and hands contain more sweat glands than any other part of our bodies and provide a ready supply of perspiration, particularly if you also suffer from inherited hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating;
- footwear – the interaction between your perspiration and the bacteria that thrive in your shoes and socks generates odour.
Any attempt to reduce foot odour must therefore address both your perspiration and your footwear.
In more severe cases, foot odour may indicate a low-grade superficial skin infection called ‘pitted keratolysis’, which is common among athletes and active people. Feet with pitted keratolysis are particularly malodorous, with discrete pits or craterlike lesions on the thicker, pressure-bearing areas of the heels, balls of the feet, and toe pads.
Effective long-term treatment and prevention of pitted keratolysis requires removal of the warm, moist conditions that promote bacterial growth. Steps you can take at home are:
- wash your feet every day with an anti-fungal soap;
- dry your feet thoroughly and apply a foot antiperspirant;
- use a shoe deodorant in your shoes;
- only wear shoes made of materials that allow ventilation, such as mesh or leather – avoid vinyl;
- alternate your shoes – never wear the same pair two days in a row;
- avoid cotton socks, as cotton holds moisture next to your skin, and try socks with moisture-wicking properties instead;
- change socks frequently, especially after strenuous workouts;
- go barefoot or wear sandals when possible, to expose your feet to more air.
When pitted keratolysis resists hygienic measures, your podiatrist can provide more clinical measures. If you suffer from persistent, problematic foot odour, contact us.