lady preventing smelly feet

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

Read our guide for everything on foot odour, home remedies for smelly feet & discover the smelly feet remedy that works for you.

Why do we get smelly feet?

Feet are a breeding ground for bacteria and moisture, the two main ingredients needed to produce foot odour. Our feet, often encased in shoes and socks for hours at a time, can get very hot and sweaty, providing the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow. It is the bacteria, or rather the waste product they produce, that produce that whiff. While not the most glamorous part of any body care routine, looking after our feet is every bit as important as cleansing and moisturising our face - especially when you consider how hard our feet work for us. Smelly feet are totally normal, we all suffer from pongy feet at some point, particularly during warm weather. But while smelly feet are rarely due to a medical condition, foot odour can make you feel a little uncomfortable.

Hunting for a smelly feet remedy or a smelly feet cure? Here are some tips on keeping smelly feet at bay, including home remedies to help prevent foot odour.
lady with smelly feet

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

What causes smelly feet?

Your feet sweat a lot, and we mean a lot. There are more sweat glands in your feet than there are anywhere else on your body (250,000 in fact) which produce on average around 500ml of sweat a day. And half the time we are stuffing them into unventilated socks and shoes and wondering why they smell. But it’s not the sweat that makes feet smell. It is the bacteria that feeds on it. 

Bacteria are harmless and live naturally on the body. They help break sweat down, feeding on dead skin cells and oils from your skin. But if the moisture and bacteria build up, the bacteria will start getting rid of waste in the form of organic acids. And it’s that organic acid that produces foot odour. Sweat is our body's way of cooling down. All of our feet are under an enormous amount of pressure, but some people are more prone to sweaty or smelly feet - bromodosis to give it its science name - than others. Teenagers and pregnant women's bodies produce hormones that can make their feet sweatier. While people who are on their feet all day, who are particularly stressed, or who have a medical condition that makes them sweat more, tend to find their feet produce more sweat. 

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

How to prevent smelly feet?

Practising good foot hygiene is the simplest smelly feet cure. Here are some easy steps for fresh smelling feet:

  • Wash your feet with soap when in the shower or bath if you can. You may find it easier to scrub your feet separately
  • Dry your feet completely, paying particular attention to between your toes where bacteria can thrive - they love moist, warm areas
  • Keep your toenails short 
  • Remove hard skin with a file or pumice stone. Hard skin becomes soggy when wet and a popular hang out for bacteria 

woman preventing smelly feet

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

Smelly feet and your shoes and socks

smelly feet in socks

What you wear on your feet is also important to prevent smelly feet. Here are some shoes and socks dos and don'ts:

  • Do wear the right socks. Avoid synthetic materials and opt for cotton, some wools, or those made from sweat-wicking materials. These will absorb sweat and allow your feet to breathe 
  • Do wear a fresh pair of socks every day or maybe even change twice daily if your socks get particularly damp
  • Do make sure your shoes aren't too tight. Close fitting shoes can make your feet sweat more than normal
  • In the summer, do choose sandals and avoid shoes that are too tight. 
  • Avoid wearing shoes made from plastic as they do not allow the feet to breathe and can promote foot sweating
  • Do go barefoot inside as much as you can to allow your feet to dry out
  • If you can, don’t wear the same pair of shoes everyday. Alternating between shoes will allow them time to breathe and dry out

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

Use deodorant to banish smelly feet

A simple smelly feet remedy is to use an antiperspirant on your feet. The deodorant you use on your underarms to keep them dry can be every bit as good on sweaty feet. Spray deodorants can be easiest for this, although roll-ons allow you target the area more accurately. NIVEA Dry Confidence anti-perspirant deodorant has been tested in real life and was found to keep you dry through the toughest of situations. NIVEA Beauty Elixir Sensitive Deomilk Anti-Perspirant is particularly mild, non-irritating and well tolerated by sensitive skins and while it’s gentle on the skin, it’s tough on sweat.

If you opt for a roll-on, apply it over the sole and insole and leave to sink in for a couple of minutes before putting on socks. NIVEA Black & White Clear Original Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Roll-on will leave your feet feeling fresher and softly scented to keep your feet sweet smelling - and dry. If you do opt for a roll-on, use a separate deodorant to the one you apply on your underarms to avoid transferring bacteria. Using shoe insoles with odour-reducing or antibacterial materials can also go some way to neutralising smelly feet.  

Smelly feet: Tips on how to prevent foot odour

Home remedies for smelly feet

There are a few natural home remedies for smelly feet that can help freshen them up. If you’re looking for a smelly feet remedy, try these tips:

Epsom salts: Soaking your feet in a warm foot bath with Epsom salts will draw moisture out of your skin making it a less-inviting place for bacteria.

Vinegar: Vinegar (apple or white) mixed with warm or cool water can make a refreshing foot soak that could help alleviate foot odour. For best results use one part vinegar for two parts water. But do not opt for this if you have cuts, bites or scratches on your feet. 

Lavender: Rubbing your feet with lavender oil not only smells good, but it could help kill odour producing bacteria as well.

woman avoiding smelly feet