Foot Odor (Bromhydrosis)
Stinky feet are possibly the most deadly foot problem you’ll ever
encounter. Don’t believe it? Consider this: representatives from two
volatile countries meet for peace talks. The moderator, who is wearing too-
tight synthetic shoes slips them off under the table to get some relief.
Slowly, a malodorous mist wafts up from the depths of the table and into
the irascible nostrils of the battling dignitaries. Appalled, one accuses
the other of breaking a capsule of poisonous gas. The other representative
grows beet-red at the accusation and shouts that if there’s any poisonous
gas in the room, it must surely be from the breath of the first
representative. A shouting match ensues, during which the moderator, face
pale, slips the offending feet back into the tight shoes. Peace breaks
down, war reigns, all because of some stinky, smelly feet.
Well. Even if this scenario seems a tiny bit far-fetched, feet that emit
unpleasant odors can certainly still be embarrassing and annoying. The bad
smell isn’t actually caused by the feet themselves, though: it’s a
byproduct of bacteria (or sometimes fungi) that are living on the foot (so
if anyone accuses you of having stinky feet, just blame it on the
bacteria). In damp, dark conditions (such as the inside of a sweat-soaked
shoe), bacteria tend to thrive. They feast on the dead skin cells and oil
that come off your skin. Then, they…er…excrete isovaleric acid, which
produces an odor human noses tend to regard with disfavor. Reactions with
synthetic materials may also contribute to the bad smell. And some
particularly unlucky people (usually with extra-sweaty feet) may have
bacteria on their feet that emit a sulfurous (rotten egg) smell.
Feet are predisposed to sweat anyway. In fact, the skin of the feet
contains more sweat glands than anywhere else, so foot sweat is hardly a
novel thing. While pretty much everyone has feet that sweat (unless you
have something like neuropathy, but we won’t go into that here), some
people have feet that sweat more than usual (hyperhydrosis), making it much
more likely that they’ll suffer from unpleasant foot odor (bromhydrosis).
Foot odor symptoms are not exactly easy to miss. If people scramble to
leave the room (or even just adopt strange, sort of tight expressions)
whenever you take off your shoes, you might have a problem with it. But
seriously, a bad odor (malodorous) is one of the main indicators. You may
also notice that your feet seem particularly sweaty.
While smelly feet are pretty easy to notice, your podiatrist may wish to
determine why exactly your feet have gotten so smelly. (Bad-smelling feet
are rarely, but still occasionally, caused by another condition, such as an
overactive thyroid or anaemia.) Your podiatrist may inquire about your
stinky history, such as how long malodorous feet have been affecting you,
etc. The foot doctor may or may not decide to get a whiff of your feet,
depending on the stoutness of his or her constitution, and whether or not
he or she has recently had lunch.
Fortunately, stinky feet are (despite the introductory example) not likely
to be life-threatening, and they’re quite treatable. The key to avoiding
bad smells emanating from your feet is to have excellent foot hygiene.
You’ll want to wash your feet daily in lukewarm water with mild soap, then
dry thoroughly after washing, particularly between your toes to avoid
fungal infections. (Fungal infections like athlete’s foot may be more
likely to occur if you have particularly sweaty feet.) You can also use
foot powders to absorb moisture, although you’ll want to clear the powder
away between your toes so it doesn’t gunk them up.
Change your socks daily (more often if your feet become particularly
sweaty, such as during sporting activities), and switch shoes daily too.
Letting shoes air out for a couple of days after wearing them lets them dry
out, preventing bacteria from thriving in them. (And it gives you an excuse
to buy an extra pair or two.) Also, avoid shoes that are too tight, or that
are made of synthetic materials. Leather, canvas or mesh are materials that
will allow your feet to breathe (allowing air to get to your feet and
dissipate moisture). You’ll also want to choose socks that wick moisture
away from your skin, such as wool (if you don’t react to it) or cotton.
Avoid nylon socks or stockings.
You may be able to remove and let your insoles air out, or even take them
out and wash them. Disinfectant sprays inside your shoes can kill the
bacteria that’s causing the bad smell. Going barefoot (unless you’re
diabetic or have other reasons to avoid it) can also help your feet to dry
out fully, making it harder for the bacteria on your skin to multiply and
excrete that foul odor.
Some people may also find relief from the stink by using antiperspirants
such as aluminum chloride hexahydrate, which may be available over the
counter or as a prescription. Some stronger measures may include sending an
electrical current through the skin (no, DON’T try this at home with your
wall socket-if this treatment is available for you, your doctor will have a
special machine for it) that often reduces perspiration for a few weeks. If
your problem is really severe, you may choose to have a foot surgeon cut
the nerve that controls sweating in your foot.
Call 719-543-2476 today to schedule your appointment!