8 Surprising Home Remedies for Foot Odor

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Tamanna Sayed (B.Sc. Applied Nutrition)

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Good hygiene plays an important role in healthy feet but may not always prove to be sufficient. Feet and socks are easily washed and disinfected. But the inside of the shoes is often neglected. New methods and products that effectively sanitize the interiors of the shoes serve to be an important aspect of primary prevention against foot infections and strong odor. One such study evaluated the effectiveness of a sanitizing technique and measured the shoe contamination levels prior to and after the application of the product. The study concluded that the technique significantly decreased the bacterial presence in athletes’ shoes.

There are a large number of sweat glands present on the feet, which is another reason for foot odor. The isovaleric acid secreted by these bacteria is the primary reason for the bad smell of the feet.

Causes of Foot Odor

Causes for foot odor include the following.

  • Stress can contribute to increased perspiration.
  • Hormonal changes as observed in puberty and pregnancy can also cause a person to sweat more. Thus teenagers and expectant mums are more susceptible to smelly feet.
  • Medical conditions such as hyperhidrosis can cause excessive perspiration in the body particularly in areas like the hands, underarms, and feet. While it is a normal phenomenon for a human body to sweat in order to cool the body, those with hyperhidrosis perspire even when the body’s temperature doesn’t need to be regulated.
A man holding his shoes in his hand while pinching his nose at the same time

Lemon juice can help with foot odor. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The use of home remedies for foot odor or for any other foot condition is backed by limited scientific evidence as per the researchers at the American Board of Podiatric Medicine and Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH). The advisory board members are of the opinion that some of the strategies might work for some people, even though they aren’t proven. Additionally, it is equally important to focus not only on the feet but also on the environment in which the feet are exposed i.e. shoes, socks, and surfaces with which the feet come into contact.

Home Remedies for Foot Odor

Here are some of the home remedies that can keep smelly feet at bay, thus helping you to avert an embarrassing situation.

Keeping Socks and Shoes Clean

Keeping the shoes and the socks clean is the easiest way to keep the problem of foot odor at bay. Wash your socks regularly and do the same with your shoes, which are typically made of cloth. For leather shoes, keep them in the sun for some time to eliminate the bacteria. Sprinkling some baking soda inside the shoes will also help in removing the bad smell from the shoes.

  • Always carry an extra pair of socks in your bag. If your foot gets sweaty as the day progresses, you can simply put on a fresh pair with ease.
  • Choose socks made of cotton, wool or cool max and shoes made up of natural materials such as leather as these materials allow the moisture on your feet to evaporate. On the other hand man-made materials such as nylon trap moisture.
  • Treating the insole of the shoe with a sanitizing ingredient can also help remove the bacteria which contribute to the odor. Lightly spray the insole and let it dry for 24 hours before placing it back in the shoe. In some cases, using medicated insoles would also be a great idea.
  • Rotate shoes every few days; Inspect your feet daily for any signs of cuts, sores, itchiness or cracks between the toes which could indicate athlete’s foot.
  • If you feel the problem persists even after trying home remedies, seek professional help. Keep an eye on foot conditions that persist for long especially if you have diabetes or any other condition that affects blood flow to the feet. See a podiatrist.
  • The podiatrist or the health care provider may just prescribe you medication designed to treat foot moisture.
  • These may include topical steroids, antifungals or antibacterial spray.
  • Lemon juice mixed with water.
  • Lemon juice has antibacterial properties and it is also an astringent that can help remove dead skin from feet. Some people may benefit from this kind of approach.

Using Antibacterial Soap

The best way to eradicate foot odor is by cleaning your feet with antibacterial soap and warm water on a regular basis, at least twice a day. This will stop the bacteria that create those bad odors.

Tea Bags and Water

If the foot odor problem has become acute, use hot water and tea bag therapy to get rid of it. Take a tub of warm water and put some tea bags in it. Then, soak your feet inside the tub and leave them in for half an hour. The tannic acid in tea acts as an astringent thereby helping in cleaning and drying the skin and clogs the pores.

Home remedies for foot odor - infographic

The use of antibacterial soap can help remove foot odor.

Antiperspirants

Most people use antiperspirants and deodorants on various parts of their body; use them on your feet as well! They will certainly reduce foot odor and retain a much-improved smell for a long time. You can also use powder to stop sweating.

Boil Rice Water

One of the most effective ways to remove foot odor permanently is soaking your feet in rice water. You can put some plain rice in water for half an hour and then drain it to get the rice extract. Soak the feet in this water and the odor will never come back.

Apple Cider Vinegar

You can mix some apple cider vinegar with hot water in a small tub and place your feet in the bath for some time. This will easily eliminate your foot odor. You can also steep the socks in this water to effectively remove the bad smell.

Kosher Salt

If your feet sweat excessively, using salt can help remove the odor quickly. Put some water in a tub and put some kosher salt in it. Mix it well and soak the feet in the water for a moderate amount of time. After that, let it dry and do not use water to rinse it any further. This will help eliminate the bacteria and the subsequent smell.

Proper Diet

Foot odor is also related to the kind of food you consume. If you eat food that has extremely strong flavors, like onions, pepper, and garlic, chances are that your feet will stink even more! Therefore, keep away from these sorts of foods if you are planning to wear covered shoes for a long time.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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