Ask LH: How Can I Cure My Stinky Feet?

Dear Lifehacker, My name is Jiggs and my feet stink. There I said it and I need help. No matter what shoes I wear, when I take them off at the end of the day people two towns away are holding their nose and asking who cut the cheese. I’m on my feet all day and walk to and from work. Any diet suggestions, scrubs, creams or a foot exorcism? I’ll try it all! Thanks From Jiggs

Foot image from Shutterstock

Dear Jiggs,

Foot odour is usually caused by a combination of sweat, dead skin and the resulting growth of gas-producing foot bacteria. In most cases, it’s possible to eliminate the smell by regularly cleaning your footwear and ensuring your feet are free of sweat. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done if you need to wear socks and shoes for most of the day.

But hope is not lost. Here are a few tips that will help to keep the stink down.

Scrub your feet: This one might seem like a no-brainer, but feet are commonly overlooked while showering. Instead, you should be paying them extra attention: really get in there with a heavy-duty soap and lather them up from toe to heel. You should also scrub them clean with a loofah or wash cloth to remove as much dead skin as possible.

Choose the right socks: Try to avoid socks made from synthetic materials and that allow your feet to breathe. You might also want to keep an extra pair of socks in your bag to change into midway through the day.

Mix up (and fumigate) your daily footwear: Giving your shoes a chance to air out can help to cut down on lingering odours. Aim for three or four pairs that you can regularly swap between during the work week. For best results, keep your “spares” in a zip-lock bag and toss them in the freezer when not in use. You can also try stuffing them with cat litter — just make sure it’s unused! Another proven fumigator is peppermint oil: simply soak a few cotton balls in the stuff, stick them in your shoes and leave overnight.

Keep your feet dry with foot powders: In the hotter months, your shoes are basically foot ovens, which make them a perfect breeding ground for stinky bacteria. Some deodorising foot powder will help to keep your perspiration in check. You can also fumigate your shoes and feet with regular underarm deodorant. While this won’t kill the bacteria, it will help to mask the smell. Alternatively, you can achieve similar results with baking soda — this neutralises the PH of your sweat, decreasing the odour-causing bacteria in your feet.

Use activated charcoal/carbon insoles: If your shoes are roomy enough to house them, grab some insoles with activated charcoal (also known as carbon). These use a porous and incredibly absorbent material that helps to minimise sweat. This best thing about this solution is that it’s cheap: you can pick them up for under $4.

Air out your feet during the day: During your lunch break, pull off your shoes and socks somewhere private to give your feet some air. If you want to be really gung-ho about it, apply methylated spirits between your toes.

The above tactics all follow the same basic principle: it’s all about thorough foot hygiene and keeping your shoes/socks as fresh as possible. If you arm yourself with multiple pairs of shoes and remember to soap your hoofs daily, the problem should start to disappear. Good luck!

We’re also going to throw this one over to our readers. If your footsies were formerly repugnant, let Jiggs know how you banished the odour below!


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