A patient asks:
I’ve had an embarrassing problem with foot odour for years and have tried everything – powders, sprays, breathable socks – but nothing seems to fix it. It also tends to get worse in warmer weather. Is there anything I can do to permanently fix the problem?
Your feet have as many as 250,000 sweat glands making as much as half a litre of perspiration each day.
Normal sweat has no odour and is the body’s way of cooling us down but when it starts decompose it combines with Brevisbacterium, the same bacteria used in the fermentation of certain cheeses!
Humidity and temperature speed up this process, therefore socks and occlusive footwear create a perfect environment for bacterial growth. Socks should be made of material that wicks (releases the sweat retained in the sock fibres). Contrary to common belief cotton is the worst fibre for holding moisture. Acrylic, Coolmax fibres, wool especially merino and bamboo are the best. Change socks daily.
Thongs and sandals allow sweat to evaporate as does being barefoot when safe as the air can circulate. Change shoes regularly and alternate daily so they can dry out, leather footwear is the best. Wash your feet twice daily and dry well.
A cold tea foot soak (two teabags in a small bowl of water) is good as the tannin reduces sweating as does lemon juice.
Triggers for excess sweating: heat, stress, anxiety, hormones, menopause, high carbohydrate diet and plastic footwear.
Despite this advice, should the problem persist consult your Podiatrist or GP.