Sweaty feet: the 7 best tips


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Cheesy feet are uncomfortable and embarrassing as soon as you take off your shoes in front of others. Those who suffer from stinky feet often prefer to keep their shoes on in the presence of others – and thus unfortunately promote the stink even more. But why do feet stink in the first place? And what can you do against sweaty feet? Dr. Christoph Schick, surgeon at the German Hyperhidrosis Center (DHHZ) in Munich in Munich explains how to permanently get rid of the strong cheese smell on the feet.

Why do sweaty feet stink in the first place?

The most important fact right away: Sweat alone does not cause the stench at all: “It is the decomposition of sweat that causes unpleasant odors on the feet. Bacteria metabolize the fatty acids contained in sweat,” says Schick, “and that unfortunately leads to the unpleasant odor that is commonly perceived as cheesy.

And yet: Cheesy feet rarely have anything to do with a lack of hygiene: “How much you sweat is mainly genetically determined. People who sweat a lot are more likely to have smelly feet – but they can’t help it,” says the expert. Still, foot and nail fungus and calluses can contribute to the stench. You’re out in shoes all day? That can also cause cheese feet, explains Schick: “Then bacteria thrive particularly well.”

How to avoid smelly feet effectively and permanently?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be afraid of taking off your shoes all your life. There are a lot of remedies and methods against sweaty feet and stinky feet. “The important thing is to tackle the sweat,” says Schick. Then the foul odor is usually reduced as well. Foot baths and foot sprays, on the other hand, are only short-term solutions. With these 7 tips you are guaranteed to get rid of that pesky Camembert aroma on your feet!

1. Change shoes more often

Time to store for new shoes! Yes, that’s right, because: If you wear the same shoes over and over again, the more bacteria will accumulate in them. “It is better to have 4 to 5 pairs of shoes and change them every day,” advises the expert. After you’ve worn a pair of shoes, you should put them in a bag and freeze them. Sounds unconventional, but it is effective. “In the cold, most of the bacteria responsible for the stench are killed,” Schick explains.

A wash cycle can also help, as long as the shoes are machine-washable. In less severe cases of cheese feet, perforated, breathable shoes can reduce sweat production on the feet.

2. Reduce foot odor with special insoles

Especially with cedar, cork and activated charcoal insoles are good to fight against cheese feet. They absorb sweat and have an antibacterial effect. However, the success is unfortunately only short-lived: “Experience shows that the odorants are exhausted quite quickly.” A long-term solution they are not, but quite helpful when the stern aroma of the feet spreads. 

3. Deprive bacteria the basis with the right foot care

“Again and again I am asked whether special foot care is useful for smelly feet,” says Schick. He answers with a clear “yes”. Because with broken nails, athlete’s foot and lots of calluses, all the more bacteria cling to the feet. Reason enough to take nail scissors and callus remover regularly in hand!

4. Tackle sweaty feet with the right socks

Wool socks are useful for sweaty feet because wool soaks up sweat before bacteria can break it down. The problem: wool is unwearable in hot temperatures. “Alternatively, synthetic socks are suitable because they also absorb sweat,” Schick says.

To maintain this function, however, care should be taken when washing: Many detergents (especially fabric softeners) have surface finishing ingredients that destroy the sweat-absorbing effect. 

5. Using electricity to combat sweating: iontophoresis

This method is suitable for very heavy sweating. The feet are immersed in shallow pools of water, after which a current is generated for about 15 minutes. “This has the effect of reducing sweat gland activity on the feet,” explains the expert.

Disadvantage: The effect remains only if you repeat the procedure continuously. In addition, there may occasionally be side effects such as skin irritation or muscle contractions, but normally the treatment is well tolerated.

6. Spray cure: aluminum sprays against foot sweat

We already know aluminum chloride from deodorants and anti-perspirants. It forms salt crystals that clog the ducts of the sweat glands in the areas where it is applied – so you sweat less.  “Initially, you should spray your feet in the evening and bag them – this keeps the aluminum on your feet longer,” says Schick.

The procedure is repeated for four nights. If your feet don’t smell so bad afterwards, you can try less sweating from now on. Sounds elaborate, but it is an enormous help to counteract sweating with something powerful and effective.

7. Treating extreme sweaty feet with Botox

You leave barefoot sweat marks on the floor? For such cases of hardship there is Botox, which the doctor injects into the feet. The nerve toxin is therefore not only suitable for fighting wrinkles. “Botox blocks the nerve passage that makes the foot sweat,” says Schick. Result: the feet stay dry and smell less foul. 

Conclusion: First prevent sweating!

With stinky feet, the first impulse is to want to do something about the bad smell. But foot baths or sprays only work for a short time. Instead, you should fight against foot perspiration. It is most effective if you change your shoes frequently or use an aluminum spray. These methods reduce sweat and thus the bacteria on the feet. Who even after that still does not get the problem under control, should see a dermatologist.

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Alicia Vargo Author
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