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Stinky Feet = Stinky Shoes

Updated on January 23, 2017

Stinky Shoes?

Do you have a foot odour problem? If so, you are in good company because everyone has sweat glands in their feet – over 250,000 of them – more sweat glands per inch than any other part of the body. These glands produce around half a cup of sweat per day so little wonder if your feet become malodorous. Be thankful if all you have are sweaty feet because between 7 and 8 million people in the US alone suffer from hyperhydrosis (extreme perspiration) which affects BOTH the hands and the feet!

The odour starts when bacterium on the skin of the foot begins to break down the sweat. The fact that you have bacteria on your skin does not mean that you are dirty; it is quite normal. The by product of this broken down sweat has a smell often likened to cheese or vinegar and sometimes a meaty/oniony odour.


How to Deal with Sweaty Feet

How to deal with sweaty feet is to take a common-sense approach. If you think you are suffering from excessive sweating contact your doctor who can help by prescribing special anti-perspirants or referring you for a surgical intervention such as Botox injections or Iontophoresis which can stop the problem. There is also an operation available – Video Assisted Thoracic Sympathectomy or VATS but this is normally used as a last resort when all else has failed.

If the amount of sweat seems to be normal but odour is a problem then scrupulous foot hygiene would be the first step to take:

  • Change socks or tights at least once per day

  • Wash feet both at night and in the morning using soap and warm water. If foot-odour is a problem use an anti-bacterial soap

  • After washing stand the feet in cold water for a few seconds

  • Dry thoroughly (including between the toes to minimise the risk of athlete’s foot)

  • Dab on Surgical Spirit and allow to air dry

  • Dust with unperfumed talcum powder

Alternative Remedies

  • Sprinkle cornflour on the feet and in socks and shoes to absorb excess moisture and neutralise odours
  • Try dabbing the feet with Listerine mouthwash – the original kind and allowing to dry
  • Soak your feet in warm water to which is added a cup of Cider; which is quite acidic, so can neutralise the bacteria. It also has astringent properties and dries up the excess perspiration
  • Soak the feet for 15 – 20 minutes in a bowl of water with bubble bath of choice plus ½ cup of peroxide and ½ cup of baking soda (it may fizz)
  • Wear pure Merino wool socks
  • Soak the feet in a saline solution of half a cup of sea salt crystals to a quart of water for 15 mins. Dry without rinsing


What to do about Stinky Shoes

As mentioned above, up to half a cup of sweat can be secreted per day. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out where it goes. If you tend to wear the same shoes every day they do not have ample time to dry out and so the bacteria begins to breed and produce the characteristic stench of stinky shoe. For this reason, try not to wear one pair of shoes day in, day out. Trainers and Sports shoes can be a particular problem too, especially if you exercise vigorously every day. However; many sports shoes are washable so if you have a day or two off the gym they can be freshened up with the rest of your sports kit.

Leather and synthetic day shoes obviously cannot be washed so what can be done about them when they start to smell?

There are various remedies on the market for beating malodorous footwear:

  • Summer Soles
  • Odour fighting insoles such as Odor Eaters deodorizing insoles
  • Cedar wood shoe trees in shoes when you’re not wearing them
  • Lush T for Toes foot powder
  • SteriShoe® sanitizer

The SteriShoe® sanitizer is an innovative gadget which effectively sanitizes the interior of your shoes. It uses ultraviolet light which is a germicide. It is proven to destroy micro-organisms which cause Athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections as well as keeping your shoes smelling sweet. The SteriShoe® Sanitizer is sold in pairs and is available in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • India
  • Germany
  • Lithuania
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • USA
  • Rest of Europe (Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal) via Amazon EU storefront.

And finally, here are some home remedies:

  • Sprinkle the inside of the shoes liberally with Baking Soda and leave overnight. Shake them thoroughly before wearing
  • Place the shoes in a polythene bag. Tie or seal securely and place in the freezer overnight. The cold will kill off any bacteria causing the smell.
  • If the shoes are particularly smelly and resistant fill some old socks with odour neutralising cat litter. Secure the tops firmly with twist ties or rubber bands. Place in shoes and leave for a couple of days. If any odour remains fill the shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. After shaking out the powder stuff with tumble dryer sheets and leave for a further night.

Sweet Feet!

© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Freezer trick does work

    • Sue Bailey profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Bailey 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Thanks again Nicole.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Here's what I'm talking about:

      It doesn't come up under search unless you're REALLY specific about it, i.e. bamboo shoe deodorizers. Yeesh!

    • Sue Bailey profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Bailey 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      No problem and thank you. I'd heard of them and also some that contain silver but was unable to find brand names for either product or locate stockists.Thanks again

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      The Container Store makes these bamboo shoe inserts that I got for my man, they work pretty well & are reusable! All you do to "recharge" them is let them stand in direct sunlight for a few hours. I didn't see them listed here so I wanted to pass this information along, hope you don't mind, Sue!

    • Sue Bailey profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Bailey 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Not having tried it I wouldn't be able to say. You could visit their excellent website and read the scientific facts and make a decision from there.

    • anatomynotes profile image

      Edmund Custers 

      6 years ago

      Useful information. Thanks!

      I assume the shoe sanitizer works better than the spray that my local bowling club uses.


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