Foot Odor and Health

Smelly feet can be embarrassing or unpleasant, but what about foot odor and health? Are stinky feet a sign of illness or a dangerous condition? Smelly feet are common; the condition even has its own medical name: bromodosis. So if you have this condition, should you feel worried?

First, the good news: stinky feet are usually not a sign of any serious health condition.

The main cause of foot odor is bacteria that thrive in warm, moist environments. Feet have about 250,000 sweat glands — more than any other part of the body. As sweat accumulates on the feet, the bacteria feed off of it, producing an unpleasant odor. People with excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis, are more prone to developing foot odor. Additionally, tight-fitting shoes and socks made of synthetic materials can worsen the problem by trapping sweat against the feet.

In most cases, foot odor can be managed with good hygiene practices. This includes washing the feet daily with soap and warm water and drying them thoroughly afterward. Wearing clean, breathable socks and shoes can also help to reduce foot odor. Antiperspirant or an absorbent powder on the feet can help to keep them dry and reduce the amount of bacteria.

Skin conditions

However, in some cases, foot odor can be a sign of an underlying health problem. One such condition is athlete’s foot, which is caused by a fungal infection. This can cause a characteristic redness and itchiness of the feet, as well as a bad smell.

Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, can also cause foot odor. Treating these skin conditions can solve the problem of bromodosis.


10 to 15 percent of people have particularly strong foot odor. If keeping your feet clean and wearing clean socks and shoes don’t solve the problem, these additional steps might:

  • Soak your feet in a mixture of vinegar and water. 
  • Choose natural materials such as cotton or leather for your shoes and wool or other natural fibers for your socks.
  • Try antibacterial socks — your pharmacist can help you find some. 
  • Use a disinfectant spray on your shoes, and do not wear the same pair every day. 
  • Let shoes and socks dry thoroughly after cleaning. 

If foot odor persists despite regular hygiene, it is best to see a doctor to determine the cause.