Foot odor is a common foot problem that can be caused by any number of underlying problems. In most instances, the problem can be managed by engaging in good foot hygiene and keeping moisture at bay.
Keep Your Feet Dry
Bacteria and fungus both love a warm, moist, and dark environment. One aspect you can control is keeping your feet as dry as possible. After you shower, thoroughly dry your feet, especially between the toes, where moisture frequently becomes trapped. You should always start the day with dry socks and shoes. If your feet frequently sweat throughout the day, try taking an extra pair of socks with you. Before you change your socks, use a paper towel to dry off your feet again.
Rotate Your Shoes
You should have at least two pairs of shoes that you can rotate through. While you are wearing one pair, you can leave the other pair out to dry. Do not keep your shoes in a gym bag or other dark place while you are not wearing them, as this allows moisture to stay trapped in the shoes and they will start to smell bad. When you are leaving your shoes to dry, try to open them as much as possible. Take the laces out and expose as much of the shoe to the open air. You can also spray the inside of the shoe with a disinfecting spray or spray meant specifically for deodorizing shoes.
Use Moisture-Absorbing Products
There are many retail products available to either keep moisture at bay or deodorize your feet and shoes. Powders are typically the best at moisture-absorbing. After you wash and dry your feet, place powder on them, especially between the toes. If you need to moisturize your feet, only apply lotions and creams to the surfaces exposed to the air and put powder or sprays between your toes. Make sure the socks you wear are equally moisture-absorbing. Generally, cotton socks are the best at wicking away moisture, but some socks might be made from special materials. Socks made for athletes often have special materials that are made to be better at moisture-wicking.
Incorporate Natural Treatments
Natural antimicrobial products can reduce bacteria that cause odor. A popular natural treatment is tea tree oil, which is not only antimicrobial but also has anti-inflammatory properties. Generally, tea tree oil is not used alone or directly on the skin because it can irritate the skin and is pungent in smell. You can make a foot moisturizer by combining shea butter and tea tree oil and apply it to your feet, skipping between the toes. Another way to add tea tree oil is to use it in a foot soak. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to warm soapy water and soak your feet for at least 10 minutes.
Unless you have an active infection, the best defense against foot odor is keeping your feet dry. Frequently drying off your feet and rotating your shoes and socks should be enough to mitigate odor. For more tips on controlling foot odor or to learn more about other foot issues, contact a podiatrist.