The Malodorous Foot

Smelly feet are a troubling problem that can result in social embarrassment, poor acceptance in the work environment, and excessive damage to expensive shoeware. Some people become so adapted to their odor that they become unaware of its presence.

Sweat, the main offender, is a secretion of the eccrine glands of the skin and the thick skin of the soles can contain as many as 3,000 per square inch. Fluid intake, emotional stress can all increase sweating. The temperature inside a shoe can reach 102 degrees on a cool day.

The unpleasant odor results from the direct action of bacteria on the sweat covered skin of the foot. Increased moisture and heat cause the normally occurring bacteria to go into a feeding frenzy producing isovaleric acid, a substance you would normally associate with the foot odor. 

Treatment of the problem should initially be aimed at reducing local sweating and inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Frequent washing and dusting the foot with absorbent power is essential. Change your shoes and socks at least once a day. Wear shoes that breath; leather does, plastic does not. Shoes should be allowed to air out for 24 hours after use.

Cotton is absorbent but do hold on to odor. As soon as socks are wet they need changing. People who sweat more require frquent changes.

Unfortunately many people hold onto favorite shoes that are permeated with odor. No matter what you do to make your feet smell better, if you shove them back inside a pair of smelly shoes, they'll stink all over again. Get rid of them, and treat yourself to a new pair.

Some people are born with a genetic defect casuing excessive sweating. Most common in young and middle aged adults the severe sweat production can be triggered by mental and emotional stress, a job interview.

Routing foot odor can easily be handled by the above regimen. Soaking feet for 30 minutes a day in strong black tea for a week may help. The tannic acid will kill the bacteria and close down pores keeping yor feet dry longer. (Use two tea bags per pint of water and boil for 15 minutes; add two quarts of cool water and soak in the cool solutioin). Sometimes home remedies will work, if problems persist, you probably have a low-grade infection or a severe case of herediatry sweating. It's hard to examine your own feet, and an irritaion between the toes or a rash on the soles is hard to visualize. Athlete's foot can become further infected with bacteria producing an ugly odor. You need to see a Podiatrist or a Dermatologist.

When all else has failed surgical release of the nerves that control sweating (sympathetic nerves) can have dramatic results but may produce unpleasant side effects.

We should not easily dismiss the troublesome problem of smelly feet. With appropriate treatment and perhaps seeking the advice of a skilled physician this embarrassing problem can be treated and its psychological distress be avoided.

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