Foot Odour & Sweating

Foot odour, otherwise known as bromhidrosis, is an unpleasant and embarrassing condition for many patients. Developing foot odour often starts with excessive sweating of feet, with this sweat accumulating and affecting the skin (as opposed to being drawn away by good absorbent socks). Given that the feet contain over 250,000 sweat glands, and use these glands to effectively remove excess heat from our bodies, sweating around the feet is a completely natural occurrence. 



What is behind the foot odour we smell?


While regular sweating isn’t unusually overly pungent, when sweat mixes with bacteria that break down the skin, unpleasant foot odour is produced. It may not just be bacteria contributing to the smell, but also yeast and fungus. Given the location of the feet and the dirty grounds that we often walk on, the presence of these organisms is not surprising or unexpected. Aside from the unpleasant odour, you may also develop rashes and skin reactions. 


Anything that causes increased sweating in the feet can increase foot odour if the right conditions are met. This may be:


  • Hot climates 
  • Working on your feet
  • Long periods of physical activity
  • A genetic predisposition to increased sweating
  • Hormonal changes causing increased activity in sweat glands



How is foot odour treated?


Initially, the goal is to eliminate any existing infections that are making your feet particularly odorous. After this, you want to control the excess sweating – or the sweat that is allowed to accumulate and linger around the feet. Ways to do this include:


  • Drying your feet well after showering or swimming, especially between the toes
  • Removing shoes and socks after work or exercise to allow your feet to air dry
  • Choosing socks that wick moisture away from the feet
  • Cleaning your feet using an antiseptic agent
  • Using an antifungal agent where a bacterial AND fungal infection is suspected
  • Airing out shoes, and alternating between two pairs of shoes so you’re not constantly wearing the same moist pair of shoes daily
  • Changing socks frequently if they start to feel damp


If the smell is an ongoing problem and managing the sweat does not produce the results you want, you may need to get a medicated cream from your GP to treat the infection. This will often have antibacterial and antifungal components.



Can certain types of footwear or socks worsen foot odour and sweating?

Yes, certain footwear and socks can contribute to foot odour and sweating. Shoes made from non-breathable materials, such as synthetic materials or tight-fitting shoes, can trap moisture and heat, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Similarly, wearing socks made from non-absorbent materials can exacerbate foot sweating and odour.


Can antiperspirants or powders help with excessive foot sweating?

Yes, antiperspirants or powders specifically formulated for the feet can be effective in reducing excessive foot sweating. These products typically contain ingredients that help control moisture and inhibit sweat production in the feet.


Are there any specific types of socks or footwear that can reduce foot odour and sweating?

Opting for moisture-wicking socks made from breathable materials, such as cotton or bamboo blends, can help reduce foot odour and sweating. Additionally, choosing footwear made from breathable materials, such as leather or mesh, can promote air circulation and minimise moisture build-up.


How long does it typically take to see improvement with treatment for foot odour and sweating?

The time to see improvement can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the chosen treatment methods. With consistent and appropriate treatment, noticeable improvement in foot odour and sweating can often be seen within a few weeks. However, it may take longer to achieve significant and long-lasting results.


Are there any complications or potential infections associated with foot odour and sweating?

Excessive foot sweating can create a damp environment that increases the risk of fungal or bacterial infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. Additionally, persistent foot odour may lead to social discomfort or embarrassment. Prompt treatment and preventive measures can help minimise these complications.


What can I do to prevent the recurrence of foot odour in the future?

To prevent the recurrence of foot odour, consider the following:

  • Practice good foot hygiene, including regular washing and thorough drying of the feet.
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks made from breathable materials.
  • Rotate your shoes to allow them to fully dry between uses.
  • Use antiperspirant powders or sprays specifically designed for foot odour control.
  • Choose footwear made from breathable materials.
  • Consider using odour-absorbing insoles or inserts in your shoes.
  • Allow your feet to breathe by going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes when appropriate.