Summer is a time when we pare down our wardrobe – and suddenly become a lot more self-conscious about the odor of our feet.
Our feet can sweat and stink year-round, of course, but the likelihood of both increases dramatically when the heat and humidity ramp up and we opt to go sock-free. Thankfully, with the right products and habits, foot odor is easy to treat and prevent.
What causes stinky feet?
Before you can fix smelly feet, you need to know what causes them. It’s accumulation of bacteria on your feet throughout the day, not unlike bad morning breath. However, bad morning breath is caused by a lack of moisture in the mouth, while stinky feet get stinkier as the foot encounters moisture.
Our feet are covered in sweat glands. As they perspire throughout the day, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish – if you don’t do anything about the moisture.
I’ll provide a sound plan for defending against this problem in just a moment. There’s another step we need to cover first.
Take care of your feet.
All of the information to come is useless if you skip the most essential part of keeping your feet fresh: actually washing them. Treat them just like you do your armpits and occasionally take it an extra step and scrub them.
Additionally, proper nail clipping can go a long way toward preventing fungus and bacterial buildup.
Think of it this way: The more consistently you practice good foot hygiene, the less hospitable your feet will be to the all the unwanted stuff. Even more, you’ll feel the difference.
Dry your feet after showering.
Mitigating moisture is key to treating and preventing odor. The first step in that process is making sure you’re completely toweling off your soles after you shower. Never put on your socks (or, if you’re going without them, your shoes) if your feet aren’t bone-dry. Powders (more on them to come) can help. But if you try to apply a powder to damp feet, you’re going to end up with an accumulation of paste. So dry off your feet.
Invest in moisture-wicking socks.
Just as you do with your food, get into the habit of reading product descriptions when you shop for socks. There, you’ll find a breakdown of the different materials they’re made from. This is important because cotton is a red flag. It retains moisture. Instead, seek out synthetic materials, which most socks billed as “moisture-wicking” are made from. Wool also does a great job of pulling perspiration away from the skin.
Use sweat-absorbing insoles.
If you’re still struggling, try using odor-absorbing insoles, which soak up moisture through active ingredients like charcoal.
Try a foot powder.
If all else fails, apply a moisture-absorbing powder to your feet before donning your socks (or shoes, if, again, you’re going without). Remember, though, only do it when your feet are totally dry.
Tapioca- and corn starch-based formulas tend to be more effective than talc powders at absorbing moisture and preventing further accumulation, eating up any odor in the process.
Give your shoes time to breathe.
Finally, get into the habit of never wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. By giving them sufficient time to air out, they’ll be entirely dry the next time you reach for them.
It’s also a good idea to wash your shoes as directed and swap out your insoles every few months.