Healthy Body

The Summer of Stinky Sneaker Feet Is Over Before It Even Started Thanks to 5 Tips From a Podiatrist

Kara Jillian Brown

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Photo: Stocksy / Evgenij Yulkin

Along with sunshine and long days, summer is the season of smelly sneaker feet. When it’s hot out, it’s nearly impossible to wear a closed shoe without being shocked by the scent of your own feet when you take them off. Foot odor, or bromodosis, is primarily caused by excessive sweating, says Alex Kor, DPM, MS, an American Podiatric Medical Association member podiatrist and spokesperson. And he knows exactly how prevent smelly feet.

“You could possibly say that these two entities go hand-in-hand—or foot-in-foot,” says Dr. Kor. “In other words, it is rather rare for a patient to experience bromodosis without also having excessive sweating. Thus, in the summer, when we are exposed to ambient temperatures that are excessive, sweating results. When the moisture lingers and is not allowed to evaporate, there is a greater chance for the odor to become a problem. Bacteria seek out warm and moist environments and are typically the culprit in causing foot odor.” Not all patients who experience excessive sweating have foot odor but nearly all patients who have foot odor also have excessive sweating.

If you’ve got stinky feet, Dr. Kor says not to worry. “Foot odor is not typically associated with any serious health issue,” he says.  But the type of sneaker you wear can impact how sweaty your feet get.

“There are definitely certain sneakers or athletic shoes that can play a role in causing excessive sweating and foot odor,” says Dr. Kor. “Athletic shoes that consist of materials that are synthetic and non-breathable will exacerbate sweating. Certain rubbers materials do not breathe well will only harbor more of the bacteria. The ideal athletic shoe has a mesh upper that allows for the moisture to evaporate. For certain athletic activities, canvas shoes that are washable can be of help as well. Some leather shoes also breathe well.”

The best thing you can do to avoid stinky feet is to wear socks. “The ideal sock is one that wicks away the moisture,” he says. “In other words, the sock should be designed to move the sweat to the other surface and also allows for the skin and sock interface to dry rapidly. Merino Wool socks are ideal for these two functions.” But, there are even more things you can do to avoid stinky feet. Below, Dr. Kor’s explains how to prevent smelly feet.

How to prevent smelly feet, according to a podiatrist

1. Take off sweaty socks

“After any athletic activity in the summer, even walking, remove your socks as soon as possible,” says Dr. Kor. “The purpose of this action is to reduce the moisture content of your feet to reduce the bacterial count that causes foot odor.”

2. Air dry sweaty shoes

“After any athletic activity in the summer, not only should you remove your worn shoes but you should allow the shoes to air dry in a sunny part of your home or even outside,” says Dr. Kor. “This action will reduce the residual moisture count and bacteria.” If you wear orthotic inserts, remove them and let them dry out separately.

3. Apply some deodorant to your feet

“Some patients use a roll-on and other patients can be prescribed Drysol, an aluminum chloride solution that can be used three to four days per week,” he says. “Antiperspirant sprays used on the inside of the shoe can also be an asset in reducing perspiration.”

4. Alternate sneakers

“If possible, when playing sports on a daily basis, do not wear the same athletic shoe two days in a row,” he says. “This action will allow less of a chance for the bacteria to again rear their ugly heads.

5. Consult your doctor

“If you have attempted the above options and you have no success, either a topical or an oral antibiotic may be needed,” says Dr. Kor. “You would need to see a healthcare professional like a podiatrist to be examined and provided the appropriate prescription.”

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