There are 4-5 million sweat glands on the human body. Over 250,000 of those sweat glands reside on your feet. It’s no surprise that sweat and stink find their way between your toes and in your tennis shoes.
We’re not gonna to mince words here. Smelly, sweaty feet can be as embarrassing as public flatulence. Sure, stinky feet may not be as audible. But unlike an untimely “break of wind”, that silent –yet deadly– sweaty foot smell doesn’t fade.
The smell, slipping, sliding, blisters and infection are just a few of the side effects of sweaty feet. For those who suffer with plantar hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the feet), things only get worse.
How to Stop Sweaty Feet
If you’re tired of soggy socks and toe-curling foot odor, we’ve got some tips to help you stop the sweat and stink. For your convenience, we’ve divided these tips into three categories: Prevention, Home Remedies, and Treatments.
Tips to Prevent Sweaty Feet (and stinky feet)
1. Wash your feet daily
Wash your feet daily with an antibacterial soap. Dirty, sweaty feet attract bacteria which can lead to foot odor.
2. Use Antiperspirant for Feet
With all those sweat glands hanging out on your feet, sweat can come fast and furious. A strong foot antiperspirant is one of the best ways to stop unwanted sweating.
3. Use a Foot Deodorant Spray
You put deodorant in you armpits to stop smell. Why not do the same with your feet? A deodorizing foot spray like Right Foot or Lumi Outdoors can de-stink your feet and your shoes.
4. Use Foot Powder to Keep Feet Dry & Fungus Free
After cleaning your feet, apply an anti-fungal foot powder. This will help reduce wetness from sweat and control foot odor.
5. Use an Alcohol Wipe Reduce Sweating
Wipe down your feet with an alcohol wipe to close up your pores and reduce sweating temporarily. Do this before you put on your socks and shoes for the day.
6. Use Cornstarch to Absorb Sweat and Keep Feet Dry
Like foot powders, cornstarch can absorb sweat and keep your feet dry and comfortable. Sprinkle clean feet with cornstarch and let sit for a few minutes before putting on shoes and socks.
7. Put Baking Soda in Your Shoes
After you remove your shoes, put some baking soda in them to soak up excess moisture. This prevents nasty smelling bacteria from festering.
8. Choose the Right Shoes
Wear breathable shoes if possible. Shoes with poor ventilation won’t do your sweaty feet any favors. Avoid plastic and leather shoes. And … always wear socks. (but never with sandals. PLEASE!)
9. Keep Shoes Dry to Prevent Bacteria Build-up
Alternate shoes to give them time to dry out. Dry shoes are less likely to be stinky shoes.
10. Wear Socks, Wear the Right Socks
If you’re wearing closed toe-shoes, you need to wear socks — clean, dry, socks. Change your socks daily and avoid wearing cotton socks. The best socks for sweaty feet are going to be breathable, moisture-wicking socks. Wool, bamboo, and anti-bacterial materials are all good options for preventing sweaty feet.
Home Remedies for Sweaty Feet
Even if you’re just looking for a smelly feet cure, it’s important to remember that sweat leads to bacteria … which leads to stink.
11. Diet and Exercise
Eating a healthy diet and avoiding spicy, processed, fatty foods can help reduce sweating. More water and less coffee (or caffeine) can also help.
Foot sweating is largerly influenced by emotional stress. So, keeping stress to a minimum is in your best interest. Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can help manage stress before it turns into pools of sweat in your shoes.
12. Soaking Feet in Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a great home remedy for sweaty feet and stinky feet. It’s a natural astringent (tightens skin and closes pores) which can help reduce sweat — just like an antiperspirant. But it also keeps foot odor away with its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Use a cotton ball to apply the vinegar to problem areas of your feet or you can do an apple cider vinegar soak. Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part water, and 1/2 part baking soda in a large bowl or basin. Then soak for your feet for 15-20 minutes. This also works for sweaty hands.
13. Soaking Feet in Tea (Black or Sage Tea)
Like apple cider vinegar, black and sage tea are natural astringents. Many people claim that sage tea is one of the best remedies for sweaty feet and sweaty hands.
Just add 4 – 5 tea bags to a quart of boiling water. Once cooled, soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. Some report that drinking the tea can also be helpful in combating foot sweat.
14. Exfoliate Feet
This is more of a stinky feet remedy. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from your body. Odor causing bacteria love to feed on these dead skin cells. Use an exfoliating brush or glove on your feet 2-3 times a week to help keep bacteria away.
15. Lemon Juice
Use cotton balls to apply fresh lemon juice to the soles of your feet before putting on your shoes and socks. It helps to close your pores and prevent sweating. Lemon juice can also work as a natural deodorant.
Sweaty Feet Treatment Options
16. Prescription Strength Antiperspirant
Clinical strength antiperspirants can be very effective in treating hand and foot sweating. Antiperspirant works by plugging up your pores and blocking sweat. By blocking the sweat, it can also prevent bad foot odor.
17. Iontophoresis Treatment
If antiperspirant doesn’t stop foot perspiration, Iontophoresis might be a good option. It’s been used for over 50 years to treat excessive sweating of the hands and feet. Iontophoresis works by using electrical currents to drive medication into the skin surface. It’s similar to an injection, but without the needles. Iontophoresis machines can be purchased and used in home. (cost ranges from $300-$1000)
18. Botox Injections (Botulinum Toxin)
Botox injections temporarily block the chemicals that activate the nerves that cause sweating. Affected areas of your feet will receive enough injections to ensure that all the nerves have been treated. The desired effects will last 3-4 months. Then treatments must be repeated. Botox injections for plantar hyperhidrosis (excessive foot sweating) can be very painful.
What Causes Sweaty Feet?
Sweating is an essential part of our body’s cooling system. To regulate body temperature, the body releases excess heat via sweat glands in the form of sweat. Our feet are not exempt from this process.
In fact, our feet have more sweat glands per inch than any other part of the body. That’s over 250,000 sweat glands on just your feet. The feet alone will produce roughly half a pint of sweat daily.
So, even if you don’t have an extreme sweating problem, you’ll likely still sweat quite a bit on your feet.
But there are things that can cause more-than-normal sweating on your feet. Your genes, for example, could be the main reason you sweat more than normal (thanks a lot mom and dad).
Your shoes, socks, diet, and emotional stress levels can also dictate how much your feet sweat.
One thing to note is that sweat glands on the soles of your feet respond mostly to your emotions. So people who are prone to anxiety, get nervous easily or have a lot of emotional stress are more likely to have sweaty feet.
For some people, foot sweat flows in niagra-like proportions. For others, sweating is unpredictable and happens regardless of physical activity or temperature. This type of extreme sweating is called Plantar Hyperhidrosis (or excessive foot sweating).
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hyperhidrosis is abnormally excessive sweating that’s not necessarily related to heat or exercise.”
The most common types of hyperhidrosis are:
- Craniofacial Hyperhidrosis (Head and Face Sweating)
- Axillary Hyperhidrosis (Sweaty Armpits)
- Palmar Hyperhidrosis (Sweaty Palms & Hands)
- Plantar Hyperhidrosis (Sweaty Feet)
Think you might have plantar hyperhidrosis? Consult with your doctor about possible causes and best treatment options. Hyperhidrosis could be a side effect of certain medications or a symptom of more serious health conditions (i.e. diabetes, cancer, heart failure)
What Causes Stinky Feet?
Sweat isn’t the sole contributor to foul smelling foot odor. When the bacteria on your skin mingles with sweat, it causes that “stinky feet” smell (bromhidrosis).
For most people, the odor doesn’t start out strong. But over time, the smell gets locked into your shoes, and then, mixes with more sweat and bacteria.
In mathematical terms: Sweat + Bacteria = Stinky Feet
If you’re prone to anxiety or your hormones are out of whack, it only exacerbates the sweating and odor. That’s why teenagers have such sweet smelling feet (sarcasm alert).
How to prevent sweaty feet in shoes
If you wear tennis shoes, loafers, or similar closed-toe shoes, it’s important to keep them clean and dry. Sweat and odor can build up as you sweat each day. Alternating your shoes every day can give them time to dry out and reduce bacteria.
To help keep your feet from sweating while wearing this type of shoe, consider putting a bit of baby powder into your socks.
If you prefer, you can also use anti fungal foot powder, which you can purchase at amazon or most drug stores. It will help absorb the moisture and odor causing bacteria.
Also, when you take the shoes off, put a bit of baking soda inside them to absorb left-behind moisture and neutralize the smell.
How to prevent sweaty feet in flats and heels
If you have overly sweaty feet, you probably avoid wearing flats because they aren’t worn with socks — which helps keep moisture at bay. And of course, when it comes to heels, your options are pretty much limited to strappy dress sandals or nothing. Don’t worry! You don’t have to avoid those cute ballet flats or edgy stilettos anymore.
Try soaking your feet in a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and hot water three times per week to keep the smell away. Then, apply rubbing alcohol to the bottom of your feet before putting on your flats to help close the pores and prevent sweating. You can also use SweatBlock antiperspirant towelettes instead of rubbing alcohol.
Common Problems Caused by Sweaty Feet
Did you know sweaty feet can actually cause other problems? Basically, when your feet sweat a lot, they end up sitting in excess moisture all day long.
It’s the perfect environment for infection to breed — and some of them are pretty darn serious! And, if you have excessively sweaty feet, you’re probably more prone getting warts and blisters too.
Can sweaty feet cause athlete’s foot?
Sweat doesn’t cause athlete’s foot, but sweaty feet could lead to it if you aren’t careful. Athlete’s foot is actually a fungal infection. It’s caused when the bacteria on your feet mingles with moisture for too long.
You’re more likely to get athlete’s foot if you wear wet shoes and socks for long periods of time. By taking steps to prevent your feet from sweating too much, you lower the risk of getting athlete’s foot immensely.
Keep in mind, athlete’s foot is really easy to catch if you come in contact with the fungus directly — and because you have naturally sweaty feet, the infection is more likely to grow and spread.
So instead of going barefoot outside, at the gym, in public showers, and at swimming pools, wear flip-flops to protect your feet!
Can sweaty feet cause itching?
When most people think of skin itching, they think of dry skin. But moisture can make your skin itch too. So yes, excess sweat can cause your feet to itch. However, once you’ve washed and dried your feet, the itching should stop. The only exception to this rule would be if the added moisture causes the skin on your feet to dry out.
Keep in mind, excess sweat isn’t the only thing that can cause your feet to itch. Athlete’s foot, allergic reactions, and scabies are also common causes. So if your feet itch a lot or itch consistently, regardless of what you do, you should have a doctor examine you.
Can sweaty feet cause trench foot?
Trench foot is a serious condition that’s caused by prolonged exposure to cold and wetness. But because it depends more on the water exposure than the cold, it’s possible for people to get trench foot in the dessert too. This condition can cause nerve damage and low blood circulation, which could result in amputation if not treated.
However, you have to remember that it’s prolonged exposure to moisture that causes it. That means it takes awhile to develop. Basically, you won’t get trench foot from wearing sweaty tennies one day. You can avoid this condition by removing wet shoes and socks as soon as possible, and then, cleanse and dry your feet.
Sweaty feet aren’t fun. And the resulting foot odor is even less fun. Try some of the tips above and grab yourself a foot antiperspirant (This one comes highly recommended). If you don’t get the results you’re looking for, talk to your doctor about Botox Injections or Iontophoresis Treatment.