“Ewwww, your shoes reek Ness!” was what I would hear on a constant basis from my two sisters after our gym training sessions together when I would to take off my shoes. Who’s had a similar experience? Raise of hands.✋ Suffice to say I thought it may be time that I do something about it, you know, before my shoe odour started asphyxiating my family.😉
So, as usual, I went to Google for help on natural remedies to help eliminate foot and shoe odour. Below is a small summary of the natural tips and tricks that have helped me in stopping my stinky feet and shoe odour using natural remedies I’ve put together using some of the every day ingredients I had at home.
What Causes Stinky Feet?
Palmoplantar hyperhidrosis (a.k.a sweaty feet) is a condition that results in excessive sweating and can often cause smelly feet. The sweat glands in the foot area of the body are what produces the odour.
Feet have a whopping 250,000 sweat glands, making them more likely to sweat compared to other parts of the body. But there is a purpose for these sweat glands. They help keep the skin moist and act as a thermostat, helping to regulate the body’s temperature.
When your temperature rises over the “normal” level, such as from exercising or when you step outside and the temperature is really hot, the body’s thermostat kicks into gear. This helps to make sure your temperature stays at the right level. To do this, the glands produce sweat, however the sweat from your feet is a little different from that of other parts of the body. It’s different in that the glands constantly secrete sweat that is unnoticeable.
Smelly feet occur when bacteria on the skin break down sweat as it comes out from the pores on your skin, usually releasing an almost cheesy smell as the sweat decomposes.
Some of the causes of excessive sweating can be overactive sweat glands (possibly as a result of genetics), daily stress, an injury due to some structural issue in the foot area, standing on your feet all day, wearing the same shoes daily without allowing them to dry, poor personal hygiene, hormonal changes in the body — particularly in teens and pregnant women — and, of course, athletes who may suffer from fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot.
This bacteria and excessive sweat causes the foot odour. Those who have hyperhidrosis may also experience emotional stress and worry concerning the foot odour, making it even worse. Sweat-related anxiety and isolation can be particularly severe among teens with plantar hyperhidrosis.
Ways to Get Rid of Stinky Feet
To begin with, I thought I’d start with the cause of the problem which is often excessive sweating of the feet. This provides a breeding ground for bacteria as they feed off the sweat, releasing that foul smell which we all scrunch our noses up at. Here are some of the things you can do that may help to bring relief.
It’s important to wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day, especially between the toes. Once you’ve dried your feet with a towel after a shower or bath, dab cotton wool dipped in witch hazel or apple cider vinegar between your toes. Sweaty feet can be treated with an antibacterial foot scrub, but avoid using scrubs if you have broken skin or eczema.
Keep your toenails trimmed and clean, as this helps prevent toenail fungus. Gently remove any hard skin with a foot file because when hard skin becomes soggy from dampness, it provides an ideal home for bacteria.
DIY Foot Powder or Foot Scrub
Once your feet are clean and dry, you can apply powders like baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, as these are great for absorbing moisture. Antifungal foot powders also work a treat and can be made right at home. Here’s a recipe I found from Dr. Axe that works wonderfully:
Homemade Antifungal Powder for Stinky Feet + Toenail Fungus
- 1–1/2 tbsp bentonite clay
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 2 drops of cinnamon essential oil
- 2 drops of clove essential oil
- 2 drops of frankincense essential oil
- A shaker bottle (glass preferably), or glass jar
- Combine the bentonite clay and cayenne powder in a small bowl.
- Add the essential oils and mix together well.
- Place the mixture into your container. A glass container or a BPA-free powder bottle is recommended to help prevent chemical leaching. Or, if you’d prefer, you can just use a glass jar and a spoon or clean makeup brush.
- Sprinkle the powder onto your feet. (It is important to remember to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes, especially since there is cayenne powder in the mix).
- An alternative way to apply it is to put the mixture in the toe of your sock, then slip your socks onto your feet. That should help it get between the toes.
- Apply it twice daily for 1-2 weeks. You can even sleep with it on, just make sure you wear your socks to prevent it from staining your bed sheets.
You can add essential oils like tea tree oil as it’s antifungal.
Soak Your Feet
Along with proper hygiene and rotating your shoes, things like salt baths, tea soaks, and apple cider vinegar can really help with getting rid of foot odour.
An apple cider vinegar bath can work as a temporary relief. Simply use one part vinegar and two parts water to help reduce bacteria on your body that may cause odour. Apple cider vinegar’s antifungal properties can aid in eliminating foot odour.
Tea soaks also work well and are one of the most effective home remedies. Simply place 4-5 tea bags per quart of water. You can use regular tea bags or mint tea bags. Simply make the tea as you normally would, then allow it to cool and soak your feet for about 20 minutes each day.
A salt bath is another excellent remedy. Simply pour 1/2 cup of kosher salt or 1/4 cup of Epsom salt into 4 cups water and soak for 10–15 minutes. Salt baths can help in improving skin health and may also aid in killing fungi, making it a great remedy for assisting in preventing skin disease, as well as removing odour.
Note: After each practice, ensure you dry your feet thoroughly.
Rotate Your Shoes
Rotating your shoes around to ensure you’re not wearing the same footwear each day can really help in preventing foot and shoe odour. Rotate two or three pairs of shoes to allow enough time for each pair to dry out thoroughly before wearing them again.
Leather shoes tend not to soak up as much sweat as cloth shoes, and can also help your feet to breathe better. When you can, wear open-toed sandals or flip flops, and when you’re at home, go barefoot so that your feet air out. Detachable insoles are also helpful. Just ensure you remove them as frequently as possible to allow them to dry.
Wear Socks and Change Them Frequently
Wearing socks can help absorb some of the moisture, especially woollen, cotton or a mixture of the two. Cotton or woollen socks are much better than nylon. Some sports socks even have ventilating holes which are great for helping keep feet dry.
Change Your Diet
According to Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld, founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine, “Diets high in refined carbohydrates will often serve as food for bacteria and fungus in the body, giving rise to discharge phenomenon. One such discharge is to expel these bacteria and fungus into the skin to slough off with dying skin cells.”
Dr. Kornfeld describes how, when this bacteria accumulates in the skin of the foot through perspiration, and is then enclosed in a shoe, the odour can become quite intense. But, by reducing inflammation through focusing on our diet; ensuring we have a balance of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates by eating anti-inflammatory foods, and eliminating refined carbohydrates, reducing alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, will aid in helping to relieve perspiration and foot odour.
Ways To Get Rid Of Shoe Odour
Now, if your shoes stink to the high heavens (like mine), you’re probably looking for something that can help ease these toxic fumes. Here some simple things you can do to help extinguish that foul smell emanating from your shoes, and also help stop your shoes from making your feet stink after wearing them.
Baking soda has the ability to absorb both odour and moisture, making it the best remedy in helping to eliminate shoe odour. How do you use it? Simply drop a tablespoon of baking soda into each shoe, in the insoles. Sprinkle well and let it work overnight. By the next morning, they’ll seem like new shoes.
A Simple Way to Eliminate Bacteria
Grab some sage and lavender. These two plants remove odours very well. All you need to do is place a few sage leaves and some sprigs of lavender in each shoe. Then place the shoes outside so the fresh air can help to remove bacteria too. By morning, your shoes will be fresh and ready to wear.
Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit
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.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is undoubtedly one of the most effective remedies for removing odours. All you need to do is place a few drops of this essential oil on the insoles of your shoes twice a week. This will help to remove the smells and eliminate bacteria.
Address the Root Cause of the Problem
Sweat from our feet is one of the most common causes of foot and shoe odour (as I talked about earlier). But, you may have noticed that sometimes, there are specific shoes that smell worse than others. One of the reasons for this is because the insoles of those particular shoes absorb and retain more sweat compared to others, contributing to the overgrowth of bacteria.
If you’ve noticed that the foul-smelling odour from your shoes won’t go away easily, it is a good idea to regularly change the insoles. If you cannot change the insoles, apply some of these tips above to help protect the insoles from bad odour and bacteria.
Maintain Good Hygiene in Shoes
- Avoid wearing closed-toe shoes every day. It’s unhealthy for your feet and contributes to bad odour.
- When you arrive home, change your shoes and let your shoes air out.
- It’s important that we continually keep our shoes clean. Brush off the outside of your shoes each day, and for the inside use a damp cloth with a little homemade detergent that you use to clean your clothes. Scrub them well to remove any stains and moisture.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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Have you tried out any of the remedies before? Which have worked for you? Do you have any other tips that have worked for you in the past in eliminating foot and shoe odour? Share them with me in the comments!
Oliver, Kyra. (June 22, 2017). How to Get Rid of Stinky Feet? 6 Natural Ways. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/stinky-feet/
Homemade Antifungal Powder for Stinky Feet + Toenail Fungus. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/antifungal-powder/
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/