Ask LH: How Can I Cure My Stinky Feet?

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!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • My own feet and then my sons feet were fixed by getting 20 pairs of socks and making sure to change them every day, also removing shoes as soon as we got home for the night. Might take a little while and a new pair of shoes at the start, but it will work.

  • Rub any cheap Sorbolene Cream into your feet, between your toes. With in a day or 2no more smell.

  • No expert here but have you read : Its quite interesting.

    My problem is foot dryness, A.K.A – cracked foot skin and heels. I am doing a long tour group walk very soon, will cover around 20km per day. After some research I went for woolen socks. You can get merino wool blend socks (mine from David Jones around 80% merino wool). I have walked around 18km on these (a day) and they are great. Yes they do cost a bit more. Supposed to “wick” away moisture and they seem to work. Foot odor seems to be bacteria related so if it was me I would get really good socks (as mentioned ), and start “afresh” with new shoes too.

    • Sorbolene on special $3.12 at Woolies or Coles. Once a day in the morningcover your feet liberally including between your toes. Put any type sf sock you want. I wear 5 pair for $5 type. Your shoes will stop smelling as well .Not much to risk.

      • Hi chapps – thanks for the advice. I use a cream that repairs well and moisturizes. I think I tried sorbolene before. I ended up using a paw paw cream, not petroleum based , seems to work well and repairs the skin.

  • I’ve been having great results using the following tactics. I use Curash baby powder (made to fight nappy rash) on my feet before I put on socks. It has 25% Zinc Oxide which fights bacterial growth and prevents blisters. Non-synthetic socks are a must. I find that socks with mostly wool content end up smelling too, just differently. If my shoes take on a musky smell I’ll seal them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Mould, mildew and bacteria wont survive a night in the freezer and I won’t have to wash and dry the shoes which isn’t all that great for their longevity.

  • StephenF
    My problem is also dry skin, at 12 my hands looked like they were 70 year old hands. My fingertips are more of a problem than my feet but not by much. The pain of the cracks on my feet was the reason I started using Sorbolene, putting it on was not for smell but it was a pleasant result. I put it on twice a day but others at work only once a day. It also eliminates smelly shoes.
    Its $3.12 when on special at Woolies or Coles and I buy Aldi socks 5 for $5.

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