Introduction

Bromodosis (smelly feet)
Bromodosis (smelly feet)

Bromodosis is the medical term for smelly feet.

Having smelly feet is a common problem caused by a build-up of sweat.  It can usually be improved with good hygiene and simple foot treatments.

What causes smelly feet?

The feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body. These glands release sweat regularly throughout the day to keep the skin moist and supple.

Some shoes and socks can increase the amount of sweat you produce and prevent it from evaporating or being absorbed, so your skin stays damp. These dark and damp conditions provide the perfect  environment for bacteria to thrive. When bacteria break down the droplets of sweat, your feet can start to smell.

Anyone can get sweaty feet, regardless of the temperature or time of year, but it's especially common in teenagers and pregnant women because hormonal changes make them sweat more.

You’re also more likely to have sweaty feet if you’re on your feet all day, if you’re under a lot of stress or you have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which means you sweat more than usual.

Poor hygiene can sometimes play a part. Washing your feet infrequently or not changing socks at least once a day can allow bacteria to thrive.

How to stop smelly feet

The following hygiene measures and foot products should improve your smelly feet.

Foot hygiene

  • Wash your feet daily using mild soap and a scrubbing brush. Dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
  • Keep toenails short and clean.
  • Check the soles of your feet for hard, dead skin and remove it with a foot file. Hard skin can become soggy when damp, which provides an ideal home for bacteria.

Socks and shoes

  • Change socks at least once a day.
  • Try to alternate between different pairs of shoes every day, so each pair can dry out for 24 hours before being worn again. Remove insoles to help the drying process.
  • Wear socks that will absorb the moisture, such as thick, soft socks made of natural fibres or socks specially designed to absorb moisture (such as feet-fresh socks and certain sports socks).
  • Wear shoes made of leather, canvas or mesh and not synthetic material, such as plastic.
  • Consider wearing open-toed sandals in summer and going barefoot at home in the evenings. However, be careful of going barefoot if you have diabetes as foot injuries may not heal well.
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting shoes

Foot products

  • Dab your feet with cotton wool dipped in surgical spirit every night to help dry out the skin, taking care to avoid any cracks in the skin.
  • Use an antifungal foot spray or medicated foot powder on your feet.
  • Use medicated insoles, which act as a deodorant, inside your shoes.
  • Antiperspirant sprays used for underarms can also be effective on the feet.
  • There are a wide variety of antifungal and antibacterial soaps made especially for feet available over the counter at your local pharmacy.

Seeing your GP

The measures mentioned above are often enough to help improve smelly feet, so you won't usually need to see your GP.

However, you should see your GP if these measures aren't helping, you are concerned about how much you sweat or your smelly feet are having a significant impact on your life.

If necessary, your GP can prescribe stronger antiperspirants and offer advice about specific treatments for excessive sweating. See treating hyperhidrosis for more information about these.

^^ Back to top

Selected links

NHS Direct Wales links

Athlete's foot

Fungal nail infection

Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

External links

The College of Podiatry: Common Foot Problems

^^ Back to top


The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Last Updated: 27/10/2015 09:40:13