How to Stop Foot & Shoe Odour Naturally

“Ewwww Ness, your shoes reek!” was what I heard whenever I took off my shoes. Eventually it got to the point where I HAD to do something about it, as I couldn’t put my shoes on without convulsing people…

So, as usual, I went snooping around online in search of some tried and tested natural remedies that would help in eliminating foot and shoe odour.

According to Dr. Axe:

Sweaty feet, known as palmoplantar hyperhidrosis, means excessive sweating and usually causes stinky feet. The sweat glands in the foot area of the body are what produces the odor.

It’s not the sweat itself that smells, but the bacteria that feed off that environment. Human sweat is almost odourless, it’s the bacteria on our skin breaking down protein molecules within sweat, which produce odour.

Did you know: Feet have a whopping 250,000 sweat glands, which makes them more likely to sweat than other parts of the body. AND, there’s a purpose for these sweat glands, they:

Keep the skin moist, acting as a thermostat, in a sense, to help regulate the body temperature

Dr. Axe

When your temperature rises over the “safe” levels, such as when exercising or when stepping outside into really humid, hot weather, the body’s thermostat kicks in; glands in the body produce sweat, although the sweat from your feet is a little different from that of other parts of the body. How? Well, these glands are constantly secreting sweat that’s usually unnoticeable.

It’s when excessive sweating arises that smelly feet occur. The bacteria feed off the sweat as it comes from the pores, producing foul odour as the sweat decomposes.

Hyperhidrosis is another cause of excessive sweating (usually occurring on hands and feet, but can show up in places like the face and underarms, too).

During my teen years, I struggled with sweat-related anxiety as a result of hyperhidrosis. For me, this excessive sweating was genetic, showing up during my early teen years (hyperhidrosis often appears during this time, due to hormonal changes), and staying with me since (though I’ve learnt to manage it much better now). There are no known cures for hyperhidrosis, and I refuse to go down the path of Botox and other sweat blockers, as 1) they’re unnatural and stop the body naturally excreting toxins as part of it’s detoxification process, and 2) the excessive sweating often appears in other places

So, I’ve just learnt to manage it as best I could, and use a few of these natural remedies to help with the odour produced from excessive sweat.

Natural Remedies for Getting Rid of Stinky Feet

To begin with, I thought I’d start with the cause of the problem, excessive sweating of the feet. This provides a breeding ground for bacteria as they feed off the sweat, releasing that foul odour we all scrunch up our noses at. Here are some things you can do at home that may help provide relief:

Practice Good Hygiene

Wash AND thoroughly dry your feet every day, especially between the toes (where bacteria hide). Once dry, dab some cotton wool dipped in witch hazel or apple cider vinegar between your toes (this will help kill bacteria lurking there). Also, keep toenails trimmed and clean to prevent toenail fungus.

DIY Foot Powder

Applying a powder like cornstarch or arrowroot powder to clean, dry feet can work wonderfully in absorbing excess moisture. Antifungal foot powders also work (particularly for Athlete’s foot and toenail fungus), and can be made at home!

DIY Antifungal Foot Powder

This powder can be applied straight to clean, dry feet, and to shoes to kill bacteria and fungus dwelling there, along with the odour the produce (just leave in overnight or longer).

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 tbsp aluminium-free baking soda
  • 1 tbsp bentonite clay
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 5 drops tea tree oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 4 drops of cinnamon essential oil
  • 3 drops of clove essential oil
  • 4 drops of frankincense essential oil
  • A shaker bottle or glass jar

To make:

  1. Combine the arrowroot powder, baking soda, bentonite clay and cayenne powder in a small bowl. Avoid using metal equipment when handling bentonite clay.
  2. Add the essential oils and mix well.
  3. Place the mixture into your container, preferably glass to help prevent chemical leaching. If using a glass jar, simply scoop out onto feet and apply using a clean makeup brush. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes, since there’s cayenne powder in the mix.
  4. Apply it twice daily for 1-2 weeks. You can even sleep with it on, just make sure to wear socks to prevent it from staining the bed sheets.

Foot Soak

Salt baths, tea soaks, and apple cider vinegar can really help in getting rid of foot odour.

Apple cider vinegar bath: Add 2 cups apple cider vinegar to bath water and soak for a minimum of 20 minutes to help eliminate odour and kill bacteria.

Tea foot soak: Place 4-5 mint tea bags per litre of water. Make the tea as normal, allow it to cool and soak feet for a minimum of 20 minutes each day.

Salt bath: Pour 1/2 cup sea salt or 1/4 cup Epsom salt into 4 cups water and soak for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Rotate Shoes & Socks Frequently

Rotating shoes often ensures the same footwear isn’t being worn day in, day out, which can lead to a build-up of bacteria and odour. Rotate between 2-3 pairs of shoes to allow enough time for each pair to dry out thoroughly before next use.

Opt for open-toed sandals or thongs (flip flops), and when at home, go barefoot to allow feet to air out. Detachable insoles are also useful, as you can remove them frequently to dry.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar serve as food for bacteria in the body. In order to reduce populations of these odour-causing bacteria, cleaning up the diet is essential; eating a balance of healthy fats, protein, complex carbs, and anti-inflammatory foods, while reducing (even eliminating) refined sugars and carbs, alcohol and smoking.

A few drops of tea tree oil on the insoles of shoes does wonders for eliminating shoe odour. (P.S. Can you see our little pup Ari in this photo? <3 )

Natural Remedies for Getting Rid of Shoe Odour

Here some remedies to help extinguish foul-smelling odour emanating from your shoes:

Baking Soda Shoe Powder

Baking soda works well in absorbing both odour and moisture. Pop 1 tbsp of baking soda into each shoe, sprinkling around all over the insoles. Leave it overnight, and by next morning, the odour should have disappeared. Note: Make sure to dust out the baking soda before wearing your shoes again. Alternatively, put a mixture of baking soda, baking soda, and cornstarch in a pair of cotton socks and stick in the shoes overnight (this will prevent the mess that comes with filling shoes with baking soda powder).

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Peels

These are very useful in getting rid of the bad smell from shoes. Once you’ve tried this simple tip, you’ll never want to throw away your lemon, orange, or grapefruit peels again. Simply place the peels in your shoes and leave them overnight. When morning comes, they’ll have a sweet, citrusy aroma.

Cloves

Clove is a natural antibacterial, and can be added to smelly shoes to help eliminate odour. Tie a handful of cloves in a handkerchief and place them in each shoe. Let sit overnight, and by morning the smell should be gone.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is undoubtedly one of the most effective remedies for removing odour. Place a few drops of tea tree on the insoles of your shoes twice a week. This will help remove the smell and kill bacteria.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.

Have you tried any of the remedies before? Which have worked for you? Do you have any other tips for eliminating foot and shoe odour? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

Oliver, Kyra. (June 22, 2017). How to Get Rid of Stinky Feet? 6 Natural Ways. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/beauty/stinky-feet/

Felman, Adam. (May 11, 2021). What to know about body odor. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173478

Oliver, Kyra. (January 24, 2016). Homemade Antifungal Powder for Stinky Feet + Toenail Fungus. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/beauty/antifungal-powder/

Button, Kimberly. (July 5, 2021). Homemade Antifungal Foot Powder. Get Green Be Well. Retrieved from https://www.getgreenbewell.com/homemade-foot-powder/

Bren. (May 4, 2015). Cooling Foot and Shoe Deodorizing Powder DIY. Bren Did. Retrieved from https://brendid.com/cooling-foot-and-shoe-deodorizing-powder-diy/

6 Simple Tricks to Eliminate Bad Odor from Your Shoes. (September 21, 2015). Step to Health. Retrieved from https://steptohealth.com/7-tricks-eliminate-bad-odor-shoes/

Nall, Rachel, MSN, CRNA. (August 19, 2017). Ten ways to get rid of smelly feet. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319002

4 Ways You Can Avoid Stinky Feet. (September 10, 2019). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/4-sure-fire-ways-you-can-avoid-stinky-feet/

Cirino, Erica. (Updated: July 26, 2017). How to Get Rid of Smelly Feet (Bromodosis). Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-smelly-feet

Kumar, Karthik, MBBS. (Reviewed: 1/6/2021). How Do You Get a Bad Smell Out of Shoes?. Medicine Net. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/how_do_you_get_a_bad_smell_out_of_shoes/article.htm