Category Archives: Cures

Got Sweaty, Stinky Feet In Winter? 10 Causes and Cures

We all know that feeling, having sweaty cold feet in winter. Some people suffer from it more than others.

Have you ever wondered why you might experience foot odor, even during winter months when you’re feeling cold most all the time?

Even though you might think foot odor should be something you only have to worry about in the summer when you’re sweating more, there are a number of things that happen to your feet in the winter time that can contribute to those smelly feet.



Change in the weather

One common cause is simply the change in the weather. Any temperature change, whether it’s getting warmer or colder, can trigger excessive sweating.

It has to do with a process called autonomic regulation which is when your body has to work overtime in tolerating change in temperature.

Sweat is the main cause of foot odor, and it can happen even when you think it’s cold and don’t realize your feet are sweating.

Temperature differences

The one moment you walk outside in the freezing cold on a snow-layered pavement. Wet snow sticks to your shoes. Then you step into a heated space and your cold feet start to warm up again.

These variations in temperature will make that your feet have to work hard to regulate temperature. As a result, perspiration ensues.


The shoes on your feet

Probably the most common reason for smelly feet during the winter is your footwear.

Maybe you don’t suffer from foot odor at all in the summer time, because you go without shoes much of the time so your feet have more of a chance to air out.

In the winter, though, you’ll usually find yourself wearing warm (UGG)boots or non-breathing footwear like rubber boots, insulated boots, and waterproof footwear.

With your feet being closed up, they don’t get the chance to air out and get rid of that odor. Bacteria causing the foul odor thrive in these enclosed environments.


Layering thick winter socks

Many of us, in the cold winter months, wear several pairs of socks. While this can keep your feet warm and toasty, it also keeps the sweat closed up and on your feet.

This leads to worse foot odor, since the sweat is pooled up against your feet.


Dry skin

Since the air is so much drier during winter months, your skin can dry out more rapidly. The dead skin cells that get left behind are a major food source for the bacteria that can cause smelly feet.

Also stuffing your feet in wadded boots or shoes while wearing multiple layers of socks can cause pressure and friction. As a result calluses or corns can develop which may also contribute to excessive sweating and odor.



So how do you keep your feet free from stinkiness in the winter? There are a number of things you can do to prevent foot odor in the winter time.


Take your winter boots off when inside

Make sure you take off those warm boots ASAP when you’re indoors.  This to air them out and to avoid overheating of your feet when inside.

For some people it may be hard or impossible to change into another pair of (normal) shoes during the workday. Creative thinking can help.

  • If you can slip out of your hefty pair of winter boots when in the warmth, do so. Perhaps you can keep a pair of fuzzy slippers or normal shoes at the job.
  • Or you could rent a locker near your work to keep your alternate pair.
  • Or if you park in a garage under the workplace you could change footwear in your car.


Rotate your winter boots

To ensure the pair you wear one day may dries completely you best switch to a dry pair the next day.

This is especially important if your boots have become wet because of melted snow or rain too. More moist equals more bacteria.

If  you don’t have two pairs to wear, consider getting a boot dryer or use these tips to dry boots and shoes.


Which winter socks?

There’s nothing wrong with wearing layers of socks. In fact, if you do it right, it can help keep your feet dry and fresh.

Make sure change those layers of socks frequently if you sweat a lot. Or much easier, get the right socks. It’s simply a matter of knowing which type to pick.

Some socks will contribute greatly to sweating and smell. But there are various types of socks that will wick moist away, neutralize odors, keep your feet cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.

These are commonly made from ‘polypro’, a synthetic blend or Merino wool.  Another option is to wear thin synthetic liner socks with thicker wool outer socks.

Recommended socks for ultra cold conditions are Carhartt Men’s Extremes Cold Weather Boot Socks. (They come in pairs for women too.)


Combat dry, flaky skin

Exfoliate your feet. Use a simple pumice stone, a dry brush, or scrubs to remove dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). Exfoliating loofahs too can work wonders to help your feet stay clean and odor-free.

For ultimate convenience, get an electronic pedicure foot file to buff away thick and cracked skin which also provides harbor for bacteria.

Soft, smooth skin is far less conducive to growth of microorganisms. The less dead skin, the less food for the bacteria. Make sure to keep your feet moisturized as well.


Wear breathable footwear

You should also spend some time wearing breathing footwear, giving your feet even more of a chance to air out.

Need boots for really cold winter weather?

Highly recommended winter boots that let your feet breathe and keep them nice and warm even on the coldest days are Sorel Caribou boots.


Need more tips?



Here’s how to prevent foot odor.

Here’s a top 13 of best foot odor products.


Image: Ginny

Top 13 Best Foot Odor Control Products

Are you ashamed of foot odor? Of course you are. Who wouldn’t be? I know I was.

Body odor carries a social stigma and even though you are taking good care of personal hygiene people may think you are not.

Fret no more, various quality products able to eliminate foot odor come to the rescue. Curing your foot odor problem basically comes down to picking the best options for you and using them religiously.

How did this top 13 come about?

I have been a sweaty, smelly feet sufferer for years. And with me suffered my close friends, family members, and lovers.

My feet were white, macerated and hurt because of the sweat and bacteria biting my skin. After only a few months of wearing, my mega musty shoes were beyond any improvement, and I had to toss them out.

So I tried almost anything there is in the quest to subdue my stinky feet.

If you only occasionally suffer from mildly stinky feet you may benefit from one or two of the here mentioned products.

If you however have seriously stinky feet all some more of these remedies will be necessary to help you get rid of the problem.

  • You could take a look at The Amazon Top Rated in Foot Odor Control Products. However this list doesn’t make much sense.
  • The number two, three and four on this bestsellers list are occupied by Mueller Pre-tape, probably a great product to secure tapes and wraps but it has nothing to do with stopping feet from smelling.

Therefore, here’s my list.

It’s based on my own experiences. I had stinky feet for years until I went to my doctor who prescribed me something that actually helped.

Apart from that I tried so many products that I exactly know what works and what not.

Are you in the same shoes? Have you too gotten an ultimatum like this? Get rid of the smell or there’s the door?

These foot odor control products can save your marriage. Or keep you from being fired. Saving you a whole lot of shame and misery.

Head to toes, the building blocks for your action plan:

Foot odor products come in various types. Some reduce sweating while others keep your feet dry despite perspiration. Certain products kill odor producing bacteria and others remove or mask odors.

In order to find out which product is best it’s helpful to know about its method of action. Find out about their pros and cons.

If your feet don’t sweat a whole lot but are still smelly you will benefit from another product than when you suffer from excessive perspiration.

Foot odor products can be divided in roughly 11 categories:

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Foot soaks
  • Antiperspirants
  • Creams
  • Foot powder
  • Shoe spray
  • Foot spray
  • Odor-fighting and sweat reducing insoles
  • Shoe deodorizers
  • Shoe dryers
  • UV sterilizers
  • Socks that reduce odor
  • Dietary supplements


1. Antibacterial soap: Hibiclens Antimicrobial Skin Cleanser


Your feet are true workhorses. Each day the 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of muscles, tendons, and ligaments perform a truckload of work and withstand tons of pressure. The 250,000 sweat glands in your feet prevent overheating. Bacteria thrive because of it. That’s why proper foot odor control starts with washing your feet thoroughly.

How does it work? This is basically the same stuff surgeons use to disinfect their hands and arms before operating. It will give the bacteria residing on your feet the boot.

Hibiclens Hibiclens Antimicrobial and Antiseptic Skin Cleanser Liquid – 16 oz

Pros: it’s the most powerful soap you can get to fight bacteria colonies living on your feet and infesting your shoes. Get some.

Cons: Hibiclens is thin, thus easy to waste. Tip: Use a foaming pump bottle or another container for more convenience and frugal use.

Good to know: When buying an antibacterial soap, always check if it contains triclosan. Many over-the-counter soaps do. To be sure, you wil want to avoid this ingredient.

Not only are triclosan concentrations in most store-bought soaps too low to be effective, triclosan has recently been linked to altering hormone regulation in animals
Mayo Clinic also states it: Might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs and Might be harmful to the immune system.


2. Foot soaks: Epsom salt – tea tree oil foot soak


Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak With Epsom Salt

Foot soaks galore so which one to choose? This blend of Epsom salt and Tea Trea oil is one of the strongest.

Who can benefit? Obviously you will have to take the time to soak your feet for at least 15 minutes, a few times a week. Anyone open to taking foot baths (a great way to relax and wind down) can enjoy healthier, softer, fresher feet.

Pros: It contains two of the most used most potent substances to reduce bacteria as well as soften skin.

Cons: It has a strong tea tree oil scent, if that’s not your thing, best get something else.

Learn more about Tea Tree Oil  Therapeutic Foot Soak.

3. Antiperspirants: Sweat Block


How does it work? The clinical strength antiperspirant wipes contain 14% aluminum chloride. They stop your feet from sweating by constricting the pores in your feet.

Aluminum chloride is the recommended treatment for excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) according to medical experts and dermatologists.

Pros: aluminum chloride reduces sweating significantly. If your feet sweat profusely you absolutely need this.

No matter how sweaty your feet, aluminum chloride keeps ’em bone dry*

* over-the-counter and prescription antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride are the golden standard in plantar hyperhidrosis treatment. However, some people may not benefit from this treatment. For them, other options exist.

Cons: concerns about the safety of the active ingredient have risen, current study findings however indicate that aluminum in antiperspirants is harmless when used as instructed. These products should not be applied to irritated or wounded skin.

Special note: Strangely, dedicated foot antiperspirants are hard to find. Hardcore hyperhidrosis sufferers know how important a high-quality antiperspirant is and this underarm product works well.

A popular alternative to Sweat Block, commonly used on feet is Certain Dri.

4. Creams: Lavilin foot cream


Lavilin is a clinically proven effective botanical antibacterial cream. Its active ingredients are Calendula, Arnica, and zinc oxide to kill bacteria and Chamomile for skin soothing purposes.

Who can benefit? Proponents of ecological and natural remedies will love this cream. Before hailing this cream the holy grail among foot odor products, keep in mind that severe cases of excessive sweating may require more robust cures. That being said, this cream works for most people and is often recommended by visitors of this website.

Pros: Aluminum and alcohol free. Highly effective according to masses of users.

Cons: Depending on how much your feet perspire and the severity of the foul odor you may have to apply more often than the advertised once in 7 days. Can be a bit of a struggle to apply.

Good to know: Studies show that Calendula plant extracts have “excellent antifungal activity against tested strains of fungi, while comparing with the traditional drug Driflucan (Fluconazole)”.

Arnica extract is a popular ingredient foot balms, tinctures for foot baths and creams and is proven effective in soothing bruises, sprains and muscle pain.


5. Foot powder: On Your Toes Bactericide Powder


How do they work? Foot powders have roughly 3 types of action, shrinking pores to reduce sweating, killing bacteria to fight odor, absorbing sweat to keep feet dry.

Like many other brands, this product mainly contains zinc oxide of zinc. The same stuff diaper rash creams, anti-dandruff shampoos, and baby powder.

On Your Toes Foot Bactericide Powder however has a unique “microfined” formula that penetrates the pores of your shoes and boots. Because of this they guarantee it to work for 6 months.

Who can benefit? Again, everybody but especially people who want an easy solution for both feet and footwear should get this powder.

Pros: it’s the best rated foot powder out there. Literally a game-changer.

Cons: it does not prevent your feet from sweating.

Good to know: As Amazon reviewer Kasia points out, the active ingredient is zinc oxide which you can buy in bulk for less. You do have to mix this plain powder with a cream though. There’s also the question if plain zinc oxide offers the same purified micro-fined formula that On Your Toes does. In other words, will it be absorbed into the footwear pores just as well?

Special note: The manufacturer promises to “eliminate odor for over six months” or you get your money back.

The pinnacle of foot powders, On Your Toes Foot Bactericide Powder.

If, for some reason, you don’t appreciate this stuff , Gold Bond Medicated Powder is a well-reviewed alternative.

6. Shoe spray: Rocket Pure’s Natural Shoe Deodorizer


How do they work? Misting an antimicrobial and odor-repelling blend works in two ways. You address the source of the problem and fix the results. Or in plain English, it kills the germs residing in your shoes and deodorizes the shoes.

Who can benefit? Who can’t!? Marathon runners, steel-toed boots wearing railway workers, cowboys, snowboarders and anyone else whose footwear doesn’t smell like roses (let’s face it, nobody’s does).

Pros: This tea tree, mint, eucalyptus and thyme essential oil spray is the apex of foot odor sprays. It’s all-natural, can be used on footwear and feet, and works like a charm.

No more shamefully stuffing your fusty Fred Perry’s somewhere in a corner of the garage.

Seriously, even if your shoes stink like something died in there, this stuff gets rid of the stench. Well, that’s a bit too much praise, sometimes, super-stinky shoes are beyond recovery.

Cons: It has a strong peppermint scent. If you are not a fan of peppermint this spray may not be for you.

What to keep in mind: You’ve got foot sprays and shoe sprays. In the battle against foot odor, a foot spray is optional, as you can also treat your feet with a cream, powder or an ointment to get the same results.

Shoes, however, you need to spray. Granted, you could make your own concoction from rubbing alcohol and herbs in an empty spray bottle but why re-invent the wheel when you can benefit from Rocket Pure’s Natural Shoe Deodorizer, Foot Deodorant Spray for Athletes?

Special note: This product comes with a 100% satisfaction or 100% refund policy. If you don’t like it you’ll get your money back or can receive another product instead.


7. Foot spray: Elite Foot Deodorant Spray for Athletes


Like I said, various ways to treat your feet exist. Creams, lotions, potions all do their thing, soothe your feet, reduce bacteria, keep feet dry. This ‘Multifunctional Natural Shoe Deodoriser’ does too. What’s more is that it’s so friggin’ well-reviewed. It’s hailed the web over as the ‘best hygiene product ever sold’.

What’s in it? This spray has 100% non-toxic ingredients. A smorgasboard of essential oils and plant extracts including cocos, lavender, chamomille, ginger and rooibos tea.

Pros: of course it helps you get rid of that dreaded foot odor but it does more. It soothes, feels cool to the touch (like sticking your feet in ice but in a good way), heals cracked skin, and even relaxes tired feet. It contains no aluminum, parabens or harsh toxic chemicals.

It’s basically a foot spa treatment in a spray bottle.

Cons: Little to none. The only critical thing we could say is that it’s not a miracle product. Simply spraying this on your feet will not magically freshen your already musty, by bacteria colonized flats. Also, scents are very personal. You may not like a specific scent, but then again, everything is better than foot pong.

It’s unofficially propelled into the Foot Odor Product Hall of Fame. Seriously, people love this stuff. This spray by by Elite sportz equipment helps with callused and cracked foot soles too.

Read its, almost entirely positive, reviews here.



8. Shoe inserts: Dr. Scholl’s Odor-X Odor Fighting Insoles


How they work: Insoles either contain baking soda, activated charcoal, zinc oxide or a combination of  these substances that block odor and keep your feet dry. Other insoles are made from naturally odor absorbing cedar wood.

These Dr. Scholl’s Odor-X Odor Fighting Insoles are made from comfortable foam and activated charcoal to absorb odors.

Who can benefit?: Pretty much anyone. You know that smell ladies tend to get from wearing nylons and shoes, running around the office all day? Or, how your hubby’s work boots can knock you backwards? I rest my case.

Pros: they deodorize even when you take your shoes off.

Imagine being able to air out your feet without the embarrassment drawing all attention to you.

Cedar wood insoles (such as Zederna) do not only ‘eat up’ unwanted smells but absorb excess moisture too. [ add link to Zederna?

Cons: certain brands and models may tear easily or slide in your shoes.

What to keep in mind: Make sure to get the right size (to prevent slipping). Be mindful that thickness may cause problems, so that after insertion you feet won’t fit or shoes may stretch.

Special features:  Are your feet “too hot to trot?” Do your feet get burning hot while wearing shoes, pumps or boots?

Mine did,  my feet heated up so quickly, even when walking short distances.

A lifesaving* product I found are cooling insoles. Dr Scholl’s Odor-X Ultracool for instance, wick sweat away and promote air flow. (* not exaggerating here, not having the guts to take of your shoes while your feet are on fire isn’t a trifle).


9. Shoe deodorizer: Mini Moso Natural Air Purifying bags


You could hassle with baking soda in a paper bag but why not use a proven, much more convenient solution? Mini Moso bamboo charcoal bags are excellent odor absorbers you just toss in your shoes. That’s all, no tedious scrubbing or drying required.

Pros: these deodorizers do not emit a fragrance of their own. Many products use a strong scent to mask other smells which you may find offensive. These bags just suck up smells and moisture. Completely organic, the linen bags contain 100% charcoal. After use you can put the biodegradable linen bags in the yard to feed the plants (charcoal is high in plant nutrients).

Cons: none.

Bamboo charcoal has millions of tiny pores and cavities that act like a huge sponge. —As air passes through the pores, odor particles are trapped on the surfaces inside, which purifies your air

Who can benefit? Besides shoes, also sporting equipment, gym bags, luggage,  cars, bathroom and closets can be refreshed. Because they absorb moisture they prevent mildew, mold and bacteria from thriving.

Nice feature: these bags last super long. You can reuse them for almost 2 years. Once they start to smell funky you just re-charge them by laying them in the sun for a few hours.


10. Shoe dryer: PEET Dryer M97-FSB


How does it work? A simple gadget that does what it’s designed for, drying boots and other footwear. Turn the Peet electric shoe dryer on when back at home from work (or the ski piste). Leave it on all night, or as long as you deem necessary with use of the timer and the next day your feet can enjoy completely dry shoes.

Pros: It’s often underestimated how crucial it is to stick your feet in footwear that is dry as dust.  Start the day with even slightly damp boots and bacteria and fungi colonies will expand enormously.

Who can benefit? Not only those wearing work boots, but athletes can dry their running shoes, fashionistas can dry their UGGs,

Good to know. Daily rotating footwear is a golden recommendation but you often have only one pair of work boots. Considering the fact that you wear them about 10 hours or longer each day while being physically active (read sweating a lot) you will realize how much a simple boot dryer can help you keep your feet from stinking.

Or get a second pair and stuff them with newspapers in between wearing.


11.  Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizers: UV Total Recovery Shoe Sanitizer

yet to psphop

UV sterilization, also used in the food industry, laboratory settings, and in air-purification systems, kills cells by damaging their DNA

UV light kills not only bacteria but also fungus, spores, and mold causing nasty foot conditions such as toenail fungus (Onychomycosis) and Athlete’s Foot.

The UV Total Recovery Shoe Sanitizer emits short-wave length ultraviolet light (UV-C), killing these micro-organisms. The result is sanitized and deodorized shoes.

Pros:  convenient and effective. Just insert the devices in your shoes and after 15 minutes they will automatically turn off.  Fits all shoes and saves you from hand washing and waiting hours for shoes to dry or get banged up in the dryer.

Cons: They only sanitize the front part of the shoe interior. If your shoes get really musty and soggy quickly you may need additional measures to sanitize the rest of the shoe’s interior. For most people, addressing the front will be sufficient though.

Good to know: If your shoes are beyond a certain point in terms of smell and bacterial infestation UV light sanitation will not help. Nor will any other remedy. Shoes that have reached the super-stink status are good for only one thing; being thrown away.


12. Sweat resistant socks that reduce sweating and smell: Wigwam Merino wool socks

Wig-Wam-sweat-reducing-socksContrary to what is commonly thought, cotton socks are not your best option when it comes to reducing sweaty feet. Wool socks and wicking socks are the way to go.

It’s not a coincidence desert nomads such as the Bedouins and Tuaregs have been wearing wool throughout the ages to keep cool during the day and warm at night.

Pros: Wigwam Merino Wool Comfort Hiker Socks are made of Merino wool. This special type of wool, some even call it Mother Nature’s miracle fiber, does not itch and feel very soft to your skin.

What’s more is that garments made of Merino wool can absorb and release moisture and are breathable.  Because of these properties, and the fact that the fuzzy structured, highly crimped fibers contain millions of air pockets these socks do an excellent job regulating temperature.

The cool your feet when it’s hot, keeping them warm when it’s cold, as well as keep your feet dry.

That’s not all, Merino wool has a natural odor-retention ability. This may sound incredible but you may even wear these socks for days without smelling them.

Cons: they are not the cheapest socks you can get but they do reduce sweating and wick the sweat away from your feet.

Good to know:  Although they are called hiking socks these make perfect socks for day-to-day wearing. Read all there is to know about socks that combat foot odor.


13. Dietary supplements: zinc


Zinc is a nutritionally essential mineral. Dietary zinc deficiency,  which is quite common, can contribute to foot odor.  Consuming foods rich in zinc can help reduce sweaty hands and feet.

Who can benefit? Mainly those who have tried various foot odor remedies to no avail.  Adding zinc rich foods to your diet can be a first step in reducing plantar hyperhidrosis.

Zinc rich food types include; meat eggs, and sea food (oysters). And to a lower bio-available degree in whole grains and legumes (source: Linus Pauling Institute).

Good to know. This is not a science-backed remedy. There are no well-designed clinical trials linking zinc supplementation to reduced foot odor. Yet there are many anecdotal reports.

Learn more about which type of supplement (there’s gluconate, picolinate, sulphate) to take, how much to take, why this remedy may help you and more here.



I have really sweaty/ stinky feet, do I need all of these products?

Nope, that would be overkill. Even if your feet stink like a dead skunk.

Fighting bacteria, tackling excessive sweating, and treating fungal infections are important but using a few of these products will go a long way.

Which ones to pick?

Some remedies work better for some whereas others prove more effective for others. Don’t worry, all of these products are highly effective when used appropriately.

At the end of the day it’s merely a matter of convenience.

  • If you know you’re not the type that finds the peace and quit to take regular foot baths, get a foot spray instead.
  • Don’t see yourself applying a cream on your feet at least a few times per week? Some easy to sprinkle foot powder may be your best choice (don’t forget to rub it in between the toes though).
  • Don’t appreciate extra odor killing insoles in your comfy shoes? Use deodorizing bags for when you’re not wearing them.


Whatever remedy you choose..

…if every man, women and kid on the planet would use at least a few of these foot odor products, stinky feet would become a rarity, thereby clearing up the atmosphere at home, on the job, in the world, reducing the hole in the ozone layer, saving the polar bear, and decreasing standing in line at the grocery store impatience by 42%.

Just don’t quote me on all of that.

All kidding aside, these products work. Use them to your advantage.





How To Prevent Foot Odor – 21 Science-Backed Tips

Having to deal with foot odor stinks. Whether it’s your own or that of someone close to you.

Smelly feet make you feel self-conscious. I know what it’s like. I really felt ashamed at times. You are terrified to kick off your shoes. You’re dying to cool off those burning hot feet, but you keep your shoes on anyway. Making matters only worse.

Bromhidrosis, as the condition is also called, is very common.

But here’s the thing.

People may get the idea you don’t take personal hygiene seriously.

Which of course you do.

But that often isn’t enough. Foot odor rears its ugly head despite you washing your feet  and wearing clean socks.

Here’s what you should know about foot odor.

Foot odor causes

To understand is to combat. Or wasn’t that the saying? Ah, who cares, what’s important is that knowing what causes foot odor helps us prevent it.

WebMD states:

“The best way to fight body odor is through prevention.”

Two things to keep in mind.

1. The sweat doesn’t stink, it’s bacteria that cause foot odor

The so common cheesy, ammonia-like, or malt-vinegary smell is caused by bacteria feeding on (waste material in) sweat and dead skin cells.

When the bacteria eat, the sweat decomposes and during the accompanying chemical process isovaleric acid (and propionic acid) are released. Those organic acids cause the foul odor.

Yup, sweat itself is odorless, but bacteria thrive because of it.

Which explains the link between sweating and foot odor. The sweatier your feet, the more bacterial growth, the more chance on developing nasty foot odor.

There are different types of bacteria causing the unpleasant scent:

  • Brevibacteria. They feed on your feet’s dead skin. In the process they produce a sulfuric aroma that makes your feet stink like cheese.

The typical scent of stinky cheeses like Port Salut, Munster, and Limburger is also caused by brevibacteria.

  • Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria break down leucine present in the sweat on your feet, thus creating isovaleric acid, a main source of foot odor.
  • Bacillus subtilis is another bacteria type responsible for the characteristic pungency. (PubMed)
  • The worst cases of foot odor (about 15% of the people suffer from these) are caused by Kyetococcus sedentarius bacteria. Besides organic acids they produce volatile sulfur compounds which makes feet stink like rotten eggs.


Deterministic as this chemical jargon may sound, you can avoid getting stinky feet (or cure them if it’s already too late).

The other cause to keep in mind,

2. Bacteria thrive in dark, damp environments

Such as the insides of sweaty shoes. Or nylon socks.

Because of these two main causes we can conclude that effective prevention involves steps that reduce;

  1. The amount your feet sweat
  2. The amount of bacteria living on your feet


Benjamin Franklin, the archetypal American overachiever said it best;

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’

So let’s nip those foot odor causing bacteria in the bud.

Here we go, science-backed tips to prevent foot odor.

1. Wash your feet like like Jesus washed his disciple’s feet

Seriously, it all starts with cleaning your feet, toes and toe webs really well. Don’t just rinse them off under the shower. Wash them religiously.

In other words, frequently and thoroughly. At least once a day, with appropriate soap.

Deodorant soaps don’t cut it. To control bacteria you have to go beyond the way Medieval queens thought of personal hygiene, masking their putrid body odor with perfumes and bouquets.

Here’s what works:

Wash your feet with a surgical-grade antibacterial soap such as Hibiscrub or Betadine® Skin Cleanser.

These bactericidal soaps kill those stinky bacteria dead. Use ’em, they are a gift from the Almighty in your quest for fresh feet.

  • Other brands are; Hibiclens® or Phisoderm®  (or their generic equivalents). Get them at your pharmacy or online.

A quick and dirty trick for hasty blokes and gals

You in hurry? Overslept, need to run to get the bus and don’t have the time to thoroughly wash your feet?

Use hand sanitizer for a quick cleansing. It fights off the naturally present bacteria which are part of our human flora. Don’t make a habit out of this, it’s an emergency fix.

Make sure to dry those toes well before you hastily put on your Allstars or Jimmy Choo heels.

2. Scrub like a surgeon

Exfoliating your feet helps because the bacteria that produce foot odor not only feed on sweat but dead skin cells as well (and on naturally present skin oils).

Eccrine bromodosis is caused by bacterial breaking down dead skin cells.

Take their food away and they can not emit that cheesy stench. It’s like not feeding your gassy little brother onions anymore.

Pumice stones are great for scrubbing. Or use foot scrubs or acid-based exfoliation creams to slough away dead skin cells.

Check your foot soles for thick hardened layers of dead skin (hyperkeratosis). Use a foot file to remove it.

  • When damp, hard skin such as corns and calluses can become soggy which is the perfect environment for bacteria.

Make sure to scrub not only your foot soles but between your toes too where dead skin is common.

3. Keep calm and dry your feet well

This is crucial because bacteria thrive in moist conditions. In our busy modern day lives, drying our feet well is often not part of the routine.

We’re always in a hurry. A quick shower, some rubbing with a towel and putting on clothes while already eating breakfast does often not allow for thorough foot drying.

Make time to do this. No moist equals much less bacteria.

Don’t forget to dry your toe webs. If necessary  use a hair dryer. (for instance when Athletes foot does not allow towel drying)

4. Ban bacteria from your feet

4 simple tricks:

  • Keep toe nails short. Clip and brush them regularly.
  • Get rid of that hair on your feet. You’re not a Yeti, are you? Especially hair on the toes adds to the stink. Simply because the bacteria have a larger surface area to thrive.
  • Also benzoyl peroxide gel, sold as acne treatment gel, is effective in minimizing bacterial growth on your feet. Be cautious with this stuff, it can discolor and bleach dark garments.
  • Wipe or dab your feet, toes and webs with rubbing alcohol or dip cotton wool in surgical spirit a couple times daily may be helpful too.


5. Soak your feet like beans

Well actually you don’t have to soak them as long as you soak beans. Especially if you pick the most potent soak you can suffice with 10 or 20 minutes at a time.

I’m putting it like this because, black tea foot soak, for instance, does not work very well. If you need a truly effective preventive measure, get something more powerful. Or prepare to sit all night, ending up with wrinkled white feet.

There are as many types of foot soaks as there are grains of sand on the beach (well almost). To help you pick one, here are a few of the most powerful:

  • Black tea, works in mild cases of foot perspiration. Tea contains the astringent tannic acid and for many people daily soaks for about a week can be helpful (it may “stain” your feet a little bit).
  • Epsom salt is another popular home remedy.
  • Listerine is both an astringent and has antimicrobial properties which is why I prefer it over tea soaks.
  • NYC-based podiatrist Johanna Youner recommends apple cider vinegar foot soaks. (half cup to a quart of lukewarm water) It kills bacteria and dries excess sweat “It’s a really good, effective and cheap cure,”
  • Click here to find out about the 6 best foot soaks for foot odor.


6. A is for Astringent Antiperspirants

Way back when Victorian brides carried bouquets* to mask their smell they didn’t have much options. Things got fancy in the 1910’s, when deodorants and especially antiperspirants were invented.

  • *It’s a hoax by the way

We suddenly had the means to locally reduce the amount of sweat we excrete.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Try a antiperspirant containing Aluminium chloride. It makes your feet sweat considerably less.

No wonder this substance is the #1 recommended foot odor cure by podiatrists and dermatologists (medical name bromodrosis).

Apply the antiperspirant at bedtime. If you apply it in the morning and then shower or wash it off it doesn’t get the chance to work. Let it do its job while you sleep and your feet are not sweating (so much).

Most antiperspirants are astringents which means they tighten the pores.

Astringent literally means; causing contraction, usually locally after topical application. (Medical Dictionary)

Since sweat is excreted by sweat glands in the pores, minimizing them reduces how much you sweat (the sweat simply can’t get out). And thus allows you to prevent foot odor.

  • Aluminum zirconium and aluminum chloride hexahydrate are the active ingredients in commercial products such as Odaban, Drysol, Hydrosol, and Certain Dri. Here’s an extensive write up about good antiperspirants for feet.
  • Other sweat-reducing solutions contain the active ingredient zinc.
  • Antibiotic creams such as cleomycin or gentamicin are also helpful in reducing bacteria living on the feet.


7. Powder your feet like a geisha her nose

No need to wear your kimono but do this with all your attention. Like you’re attending a Japanese tea ceremony.

two reasons:

1. By powdering slowly and thoroughly you will address your feet, toes and webs. Treating all these parts is essential to successfully reducing sweating and odor.  Powder before donning your stockings or socks.

2. You will prevent inhaling a cloud of powder. It’s not only unpleasant, talc powder has been linked to cancer. It’s likely to be a very small health risk. Still, it’s best to avoid prolonged exposure.

Types of (medicated) foot powder ingredients:

  • talcum  – is an astringent talc
  • baking soda – is alkaline meaning it’s antibacterial
  • corn starch- helps absorb sweat
  • tolnaftate – used for treating fungal infections such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, itch, and ringworm.
  • clay foot powder  – (e.g. Bentonite clay) clay absorbs moisture. Sometimes used in combination with herbs.
  • aluminum acetate – Brands such as Domeboro powder or Burrows Solution
  • ZeaSorb® – contains microporous cellulose

The most popular foot powder is Gold Bond Maximum Strength Medicated Foot Powder. It absorbs moisture, controls bacteria and odor and offers itch relief as well as soothes irritated skin.

  • Warning: Foot powders containing cornstarch contain nutrients that feed fungal spores, which may cause or worsen infections.


8. These 2 creams are the crème de la crème

For all you non-French speaking folks, that means ‘best of the best’. No kidding, these two creams truly are amazing.

  • Zinc sulphate cream is what my mom always applied on my little girl paws (If you didn’t know already, little girls can have surprisingly smelly feet).

But even if you don’t have stinky feet, you’ll probably want to keep it that way. This cream helps prevent foot odor.

Zinc sulphate cream has antibacterial action and there are studies proving it fights foot odor. Sharquie et al. [1]

  • Lavilin foot deodorant cream is a Godsend. Now I can hear you think, “hold on there, you don’t fool me, deodorizing creams only mask”.

True, this stuff does not stop you from sweating but it does stop the sweat, when it’s being processed by bacteria, from smelling.

I could start a sales pitch like Gordon Gecko rambling on steroids but just take a quick glance at the reviews. Trust me, you will want to get this cream.

9. Footwear, First and Foremost

Very often, shoes are a major part of the problem. Bacteria love the enclosed, tight, dark, damp environment your shoes provide. Especially shoes that restrict air flow make bacteria colonies explode.

Although these bacteria are a normal part of the human body’s flora, the more there are, the bigger the chance on developing a nasty case of malodorous feet.

  • Prevent this by wearing good shoes. Even with good shoes you are not totally safe, but appropriate footwear is a prerequisite.
  • Without good shoes you are, eventually, guaranteed to stink up the place when you take them off.

Synthetic shoes are bad m’kay? Avoid them like the Bubonic plague.

Closed, tight shoes made of non-absorbent materials, such as plastics, vinyl, patent leather, and rubber will make your feet sweat like a morbidly obese pig in summer.

Check the labels when shoe shopping. Get footwear that allows your feet to ‘breathe’ such as;

  • Shoes with open-mesh sides
  • Sandals
  • Shoes with uppers made of leather, mesh or canvas
  • Shoes with leather soles

Additional shoe shopping tips:

Wear shoes that fit properly, by closely matching the shape and contours of your feet and toes.

Be measured for new shoes and allow plenty of room in the toe box. You should be easily able to wiggle your toes in the shoe. If not, they are too tight.


10. Powder your shoes too

Lightly coat the bottom of your footwear with baby powder, baking soda, or another antibacterial, odor-removing powder.

Find powder clumps in your shoes or boots at the end of the day? You may have used too much.

11. Soggy socks vs. soothing socks

A lot of socks are made of sweat-retaining materials. When your feet sweat, your socks get wet and stay wet and bacteria love that.

Not only thin nylon stockings but also certain synthetic socks and even low percentage cotton socks are worthless in averting bad smells.

Wear socks that wick sweat (moisture) away from your skin to the sock’s outer layers to prevent foot odor. Various fabric types and brands exist:

  • Coolmax, the original moisture wicking material.
  • Merino wool (brand name SmartWool or Wigwam Durasole socks)
  • Aetrex copper sole socks, a synthetic moisture wicking material with copper fibers woven in. Copper is a science-backed perspiration reducing agent.
  • Thorlo, known for their padded, moisture-reducing socks
  • Teko socks, valued for insulation, moisture absorption, and odor control.
  • Wright socks have double layers that wick moisture and provide insulation from heat and cold.

If you are adamant on plain cotton socks make sure to wear at least 80% cotton. Or, experts advice, wear cotton over nylon.

Another option is to wear normal, natural fiber socks in combination with liner socks. Here’s more on the best socks to prevent foot odor.

Additional tips

  • Wash your socks inside out. This way dead skin cells are removed more thoroughly.
  • Change your socks at least once a day, replacing them with a clean pair.
  • Don’t wear socks in bed. Let your feet get some air during the night. If you have really cold feet you can make an exception but don’t make a habit out of it.
  • Don’t walk on your socks outside or on unhygienic floors. Bacteria are picked up this way and when you put your shoes back on, the bacteria population, able to thrive in their damp, dark, warm domain blows up to epic proportions.

12. Skip the sockless trend

Rocking loafers without socks has sparked a foot odor outburst mirrored by a spike in foot deodorant and perfumed insoles.

The fashionable habit, introduced by Hollywood celebs like Jude Law and Ryan Gosling, is pretty friggin’ far from hygienic.

Always wear socks with your shoes. Going sockless is a surefire way to summon foot odor (especially when you wear UGGs). Your footwear retains sweat which fuels a potential stench.

That’s not all,  it will ruin your shoes and you are more likely to trigger a fungal infection such as Athlete’s foot. Absolutely need to sport those sexy bare ankles? Get Sole Socks, they offer the looks without the downsides.

This tip does not only concern men adopting the metrosexual trend, nylons-wearing women too, are better off wearing socks underneath.

13. Barefoot walking

Barefoot walking helps air out your feet. The practice also known as ‘earthing’ simply sets your tootsies free from being locked in shoes (that aside, the feeling of grass between  your toes is priceless too don’t you think?).

Don’t overdo it though. Especially in the outdoors you run the risk your feet attract Kyetococcus bacteria (the ones that cause a rotten egg stench).

Don’t like walking on your bare feet? Perhaps sandals or open-toed shoes are something for you. You still wear soles and benefit from maximum aeration.

14. Solace from smell-absorbing insoles

From high-tech ionized insoles with copper or silver elements to more natural wool or wooden shoe inserts, options abound.

  • Cedar wood
  • activated charcoal
  • absorbent
  • wool (biocide)
  • ionized
  • aromatherapy

Read more about the best insoles for sweaty feet.

15. Give your shoes a break

Upon a hard day’s walking and sweating your shoes need time to air out. Let them sit at least 24 hours in bright (sunny), ventilated, dry places. In dark closets or moist basements bacteria will increase.

Dry your shoes and boots by using the following techniques, tips, devices:

  • Use shoe-trees to allow your shoes to dry completely before wearing that pair again
  • Use boot or shoe dryers if you sweat a lot or get wet feet for another reason.
  • UV lights, such as the Sterishoe device, are proven effective at killing bacteria and reducing foul odors.

Here are more tips on how to dry shoes and boots.

16. Freshen up your shoes

Besides, airing out, drying and washing your shoes you can also freshen them up. This will help prevent your shoes from becoming musty.

Even if your shoes don’t stink  yet, put some of the following refreshers in them in between wearing.

  • cloves, Mother Nature’s deodorizer. Put a few in your shoes or pierce the skin of an orange and stick a bunch in there.
  • sachets filled with cedar chips work wonders.
  • mesh pouches filled with Zeolite rock powder. Zeolite is a natural volcanic mineral that attracts and traps odors
  • baking soda, a multifunctional odor-removing and bacteria killing shoe freshening agent.

Wash your shoes, if possible

See label instructions on your athletic shoes. If they’re washable, toss them into the washing machine every few weeks. Or wash them by hand, preferably in bleach, detergent, and hot water.

17. Fine-tune your diet / take supplements

Do you get the USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc?

If you don’t you may have a zinc deficiency which can cause foot odor. A lack of nutritional zinc is also known to cause bad breath and body odor.

If you take a multivitamin, check if zinc is included. Take a zinc supplement or adjust your diet. More info about how zinc links to smelly feet.

How to correct your diet

Simply put, if you want to adjust your diet to prevent stinky feet, eat more fruits, herbs, complex carbs and leafy greens.

Diets high in refined carbs, protein and spicy foods are known to contribute to foot odor. Also alchohol and cigarettes do not work in your favor. More about how your diet may cause foot odor.

18. Subdue stress

Chronic (adrenal) stress can cause unbridled sweating. Fight or flight hormones may become out of sync which leads to increased perspiration and subsequent smelly feet.

If you’re under a lot of stress, practice yoga, meditation, massage therapy or another calming activity. Don’t have the time or energy? Apply the other tips.

19. Cure foot conditions

Check between your toes and your foot soles red, dry, patchy skin. This may indicate a (low-grade) fungal infection. If you notice such irregularities, get treatment.

  • Athletes foot
  • Toenail fungus
  • Skin maceration
  • Blisters

Our feet not only carry us through the day.

An archaic German saying refers to feet as your “auxiliary kidneys” (auxiliary means assistive, supplementary). Our kidneys main function is metabolism waste removal and blood filtering.

The health benefits of routine inspections

Just like your kidneys, your feet(and armpits) excrete acids and toxins. By taking good care of your feet and keeping an eye out for problems you are doing more than just preventing smelly feet, you are taking care of your body as a whole.

20. Wear breathing, moisture-wicking shoes

If you’re like me, your feet sweat a lot, not only when you’re walking but even when sitting still.

Quick tip: Are you sitting behind a desk and your feet get damp or wet at the end of the day? Wear scuff or clog slip-ons and take your feet out of them regularly.

But if you have to be on your feet all day you can benefit from specialty footwear.

  • Geox makes breathing shoes that make you sweat a lot less. They work really well. Their patented system consists of “a membrane that absorbs sweat from the insole and expels it as water vapor through micro-holes in the outsole”.
  • Many hiking boot brands offer models that feature climate control foot beds and moisture wicking liners.


 21. Spray your feet

Two popular foot sprays are Crystal Natural Foot Deodorant Spray containing 100% natural ingredients and Gewhol’s Caring FootDeo Spray.

Or use Vitae 100% Confident deodorant spray. It has seaweed extract, essential oils and other all-natural ingredients (it’s my personal favorite and even has a 1 year money-back-guarantee).

  • This product is loved by many because it does not contain Aluminum chlorohydrate or zirconium.

Note: Aluminum is generally considered safe to use, this is backed by studies and dermatologists, and is the most effective substance in reducing excessive sweating.

Wrapping it up

Do your feet smell less than swell? Even just a little bit?

Start with prevention right now. The sooner you do the footwork, the better. The longer you wait, the more chance the bacteria have to proliferate and infest your feet and shoes.

If your efforts in preventing foot odor don’t proof successful you may suffer from excessive, hereditary sweating (it runs in the family).

In these cases, a prescription antiperspirant or more invasive treatments may be necessary.

3 Quick Foot Odor Fixes

You came home from a hard day’s work. Kicked your sweaty boots out on the  porch before you entered the home (you already know by now that taking them in wreaks havoc on the household atmosphere).

Tired you drop on the couch for some serious slouching. The pungent odor however, doesn’t stay outside with your boots.

Soon the misses, hands on her sides, stands in front of you. Yelling.

She has had it. This is the last time. You will be kicked out if you don’t do something about your smelly feet. The putrid stench has to go, with or without you.

Time to do something about it. Quickly.

The Quick and Dirty Fix

This is if you need to take immediate action. An emergency fix you can apply right now. A DIY remedy to take care of foot odor immediately to save your marriage.

  • Take off your socks too. Besides kicking off your shoes, remove those sweaty socks. The smell is in the socks as well.
  • Wash your feet before entering the living room. No time or energy to wash with an antibacterial soap?
  • Rinse with rubbing alcohol, pure alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, vinegar or vodka even. It kills the bacteria. Prepare a spray bottle so you can easily and effortlessly treat your feet when necessary.
  • Apply a deodorant. Take any underarm deodorant or antiperspirant you can find and apply it to your feet. We’re not picky during  this quick-fix solution because we need to mask the foul odor. That’s our primary goal. The foot odor will diminish but you probably won’t be able to completely get rid of it right now. That’s why you should use a deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Put on clean socks


A quick-fix solution for when you’re on the go

  • Make sure to always pack at least one pair of clean socks.
  • Put a damp wash cloth with some antibacterial soap applied to it in a plastic sandwich bag for instant cleaning (you can wash your feet in the car or a public restroom). You could use Damp Ones or another brand of antibacterial wipes too.
  • Add a little towel or some paper towelettes for drying your feet afterwards (remember, drying is crucial since bacteria grow like crazy in dark, damp environments)
  • Bring an extra pair of shoes so you can change shoes during the day.


Take this ‘smelly feet survival kit’ with you in your bag and put an extra set in the car so you’re well prepared.

These preparations are lifesavers for when you (or the misses) suddenly decide to go shoe shopping or eat out in a Japanese restaurant.

You will avoid a lot of embarrassment in the shoe store or prevent you from getting refused to be ‘seated’ by mr.  Akiyama.


The 3 Days Slick & Solid Fix

When you risk getting evicted you will probably want a more thorough solution. Something to tackle the problem at its core.

Here’s what you should do to get rid of the foot odor within a few days.

Go to the store or order online:

  • Antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride. It’s the most effective at reducing the amount you sweat, recommended by dermatologists and podiatrists (foot doctors). A bestseller is Sweatblock antiperspirant. Here’s more info on good antiperspirants for foot odor.
  • Surgical-grade antibacterial soap. It kills the bacteria living on your feet. I recommend Betadine Surgical Scrub or Hibiscrub.
  • Odor fighting insoles. Popular choices are Dr. Scholl’s Odor-X Odor Fighting Insoles, Cedar Soles, and Summer Soles Ultra Absorbent Insoles.
  • Foot powder such as On Your Toes Foot Bactericide Powder. It helps keep your feet dry and reduces foul odor.


In addition to these quick fixes you can take more action.

Other measures

Rotate shoes, never wear the same shoes two days in a row.

Change to clean socks at least daily. Do it twice or more often if necessary.

Take your shoes off to air them and your feet out. The more you do this the less chance the bacterial colonies have to grow.

  • Take them off while waiting at the bus stop (keep your feet from the ground though, what I do is let my feet rest on top of my shoes), kick them off while at your desk at work,  and so on.

Treat your shoes. Washing our socks is normal but shoes often get neglected. Do not only de-stink them but get rid of the bacteria too. Here’s how to sanitize shoes.

You may have to throw out your shoes and get new ones. If so, get well-ventilated shoes made from canvas, mesh or leather.

  • Some shoes are beyond refreshing. Once thoroughly infested by bacteria they will only cause your freshly washed and powdered feet to stink again.

Dry your footwear. Shoes should be completely dry before wearing them again. Here are some quick and easy tips on how to dry your shoes.

Wear the right socks. Cotton is good right? Wrong. There are better socks for you. Merino wool socks, or Drymax socks help reduce excessive sweating of your feet.

Fixing other foot odor causes

These quick fixes will help most people suffering from bromhidrosis (the technical name for foot odor).

In some cases however, excessive sweating and bacteria feasting on sweat and dead skin cells are not the (only) cause.

Athletes foot, fungal infections, Candida albicans yeast overgrowth, your diet (i.e. a zinc deficiency), emotional stress can all contribute to the problem.

If you suspect any of these conditions are the cause, make sure to address these too.


Do you need a quick fix too?

Or does your spouse, room mate or child? I once took of my shoes at night while sleeping over at my boyfriends house.

His parents and siblings were already in bed in their own bedrooms but shortly after, heads came out door openings informing me about the smell. And if I could do something about it. Boy did I feel ashamed.

With red cheeks I quickly tossed my shoes out of the house and gave my feet a soapy rinse. Needless to say this experience made me resolute to find a solution.

What’s your situation? Are you in dire need for a quick remedy too? Drop a comment below.


The Safety of Aluminum-Containing Antiperspirants

Are antiperspirants and other topical cosmetic products containing aluminum (Al) safe to use? Or should you avoid such products as is often led to believe?

These questions have been asked frequently as the deodorant industry has grown to achieve approximately $18 billion in annual revenues and aluminum in deodorants has gotten a bad rep.

Since topical aluminum chloride hexahydrate application to the feet is generally considered a “simple, safe, and inexpensive therapy”, that requires continuous application since “results are often short-lived, and they may be insufficient”,  it’s critical to find out if using aluminum in this manner is hazardous to our health.

  • Source: Palmoplantar Hyperhidrosis: A Therapeutic Challenge.

How Antiperspirants/Deodorants Were Conceived

The first deodorant, Mum, appeared in 1888, while the first deodorant and antiperspirant, Everdry, appeared in 1903.

Prior to development of these products, people took care of their sweat and odor issues through careful washing of their affected body-parts and masking odors with perfumes.

Those concerned about sweat piercing their clothing wore items like dress shields or special pads that protected clothing from sweaty armpits.

The initial antiperspirant products were not very well received by society and sales were low. Around 1912, a young woman began marketing an antiperspirant that her father, a surgeon, had developed to keep his hands from sweating while in the operating room.

The active ingredient in this product was Aluminum chloride, and she named it “Odorono” (Odor? Oh No!).

Odo-ro-no-vintage-deodorant-adMarketing for Odorono was also initially slow, until the woman joined forces with an advertising professional who decided the key to the product’s success would be to focus on underarm perspiration and body-odor tied to the vanity of women.

This marketing strategy worked, vaulting the sales of Odorono to over $1 million by 1927.

The increase in sales of spurred others to develop competing products, and the basis of the current multi-billion dollar industry was formed.

Deodorants and antiperspirants were mostly advertised to women at the beginning of the industry, and it would take another two-decades to get men to believe that they had the same deodorant problem that women had.

It was found that Aluminum chloride (AlCl3) could be harsh to both exposed skin and clothing, so alternate compounds that elicited similar properties were developed, the most common being Aluminum chlorohydrate, which is largely used in modern antiperspirants.

How Aluminum Works in Antiperspirants

The way Al works in antiperspirants is that Al salts in the products (i.e., chlorohydrates, etc.) form insoluble Al hydroxide polymer gel plugs within sweat ducts, temporarily preventing sweat from reaching the surface of the skin (SCCS, 2014, June 18).

By keeping sweating down, the Al salts prevents the ordinarily odorless sweat from being fermented by bacteria that inhabit the surface of the skin. Thus preventing foot odor.

  • These bacteria thrive in the warm and moist environments provided by folds of the skin, and the byproducts of their metabolism give rise to what is known as “body-odor”.

How Safe are Toiletry Products Containing Al?

There has been much thought put into whether Aluminum-containing antiperspirants are safe for human use. The concerns have included possible Al toxicity, to Al antiperspirants causing breast cancer, to the products causing renal-failure, to them contributing to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

A 1974 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives examined over 800 references on Aluminum since the mid-1950s. This review encompassed the occurrence of Al in soil, air, water, plants, products, and air/water pollution, and examined the biology and toxicology of Al, along with its medical and therapeutic uses.

The study noted that applied to the skin in antiperspirants, Al compounds act as protein precipitants with a low cell-penetration capability. As such, the Al remains bound to proteins in the stratum corneum, and presents no significant pathological changes.

  • The study concluded that there is no need for concern by the public or producers of Al or its products concerning hazards to human health derived from well-established and extensively used products.
  • It also stated that there have been no reports of either acute or chronic poisoning from the use of Al and its compounds in the processing of foods and beverages (Sorenson, John R. J., Campbell, Irene R., Tepper, Lloyd B., & Lingg, Robert D. 1974, August).

A 2001 study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology examined the dermal absorption of Al from antiperspirants.

The study concluded that a small fraction of Al is absorbed through the skin from Al-chlorohydrate products applied to both underarms, compared to the Al typically absorbed by the gut from food over the same time period—saying that antiperspirants do not significantly contribute to the body-burden of Al (Flarend R., Bin T., Elmore D., & Hem S.L., 2001, February).

Aluminium penetration of the skin is very shallow.

This study also concludes that:

“Contact sensitivity to aluminium is very rare. [..] Less common is sensitivity during continuous application of aluminium-containing antiperspirants, topical aluminium application..”

  • Aluminium and its compounds occur naturally in bauxite rock and other types os stone and comprise about 8% of the Earth’s surface. Aluminum chloride is derived from aluminum hydroxide. Source: Wikipedia.

Breast cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, an email campaign evolved saying that compounds in antiperspirants were contributing to the incidence of breast cancer in women.

The absorption of these compounds through razor nicks from under-arm shaving was the pathway for this issue.

This organization has declared that there is no clear link between Aluminum-containing antiperspirants and breast cancer, due to the very low absorption of Al into the skin from these products (citing the study referenced in the paragraph above) (American Cancer Society, 2014, October 14).


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, during the 1960s and 1970s a possible link between Al exposure and Alzheimer’s disease was claimed.

The Alzheimer’s Association contends that these links are false and that experts no longer believe that exposure to Al (to include antiperspirants) causes Alzheimer’s disease (, 2014).

What Government Sources Say

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled extensively on Al-antiperspirants. In 2003, the agency concluded that small amounts of Al can be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and through the skin.

  • However, the accumulation of Al resulting from usual exposures to antiperspirant drug products (application to the underarms once or twice daily) and subsequent absorption is considered minimal (HHS. 78 Fed. Reg. 110, June 9, 2003).

A 2014 study by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) examined the safety of AL exposure through food and the use of cosmetic products.

  • The study noted that a wide-range of Al compounds are used in a host of different consumer products. Pertaining to antiperspirant products, the SCCS concluded that in the absence of better data to estimate skin penetration of Al, no firm conclusion on internal exposure to Al following use of Al-containing cosmetics can be drawn (SCCS, 2014, June 18).

In Summary

The use of antiperspirants and deodorants got off to a slow-start in the last century, and only took off when slick marketing campaigns appealed to the vanity of people (targeting women first, then also men).

By the first decade of the 21st Century, the industry was a multi-billion dollar per-year seller of products.

There have been multiple efforts to study the effects of Aluminum exposure in various consumer products; including antiperspirant products.

None of these studies, including efforts by government agencies, have conclusively connected exposure to Al from consumer products to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or other human malady.

The conclusion was that antiperspirants do not contribute significantly to the overall body-burden of aluminum.

Add that up with another conclusion researchers drew:

“The most effective topical treatment for palmoplantar hyperhidrosis is 20 percent aluminum chloride hexahydrate in absolute anhydrous ethyl alcohol (Drysol)”. Stolman LP. Treatment of hyperhidrosis. Dermatol Clin. 1998; 16:863–9.

And you know what to use when suffering from excessive sweating (of the feet). Here’s more info the best antiperspirants for the feet.



  • (2014). Alzheimer’s Myths.
  • American Cancer Society. (2014, October 14). Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk. Retrieved from
  • Antiperspirant Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use-Final Monograph; Food and Drug Administration, HHS. 78 Fed. Reg. 110 (June 9, 2003) (to be codified at 21 C.F.R. pts. 310, 350, & 369).
  • Flarend R., Bin T., Elmore D., & Hem S.L. (2001, February). A preliminary study of the dermal absorption of aluminum from antiperspirants using aluminium-26 [Abstract]. Food Chem Toxicol, 39(2), 163-168. DOI:10.1016/S0278-6915(00)00118-6
  • SCCS. (2014, June 18). Opinion on the safety of aluminum in cosmetic products. Retrieved from Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.
  • Sorenson, John R. J., Campbell, Irene R., Tepper, Lloyd B., & Lingg, Robert D. 1974, August). Aluminum in the Environment and Human Health. Environ Health Perspect, 8, 3–95.


Image: Nesster Flickr

Foot Sweating Causes, Treatments and Myths (Infographic)

Foot odor is essentially caused by bacteria. Other factors, that often worsen the smell are poor hygiene, medical conditions, diet, skin problems, inappropriate footwear and emotional and physical stress.

Just like with sweating in general, fresh sweat doesn’t smell. Often people think that the sweat directly causes the foul odor. In fact it’s the sweat and in lesser degree skin flakes eaten by the bacteria on your skin and in socks and shoes that produce the smell.

While feasting on the sweat these micro-organisms produce isovaleric acid. Which is the direct cause of reeking of your stinky feet. Inhibit the bacteria and the amount of sweat and you will be able to prevent foot odor.

This infographic offers a great overview of the causes, treatments, myths and other noteworthy facts regarding (plantar) hyperhidrosis aka excessive (foot) sweating.


foot odor infographic

Do your feet smell too?

Have a question?

Drop your comment below.

freshen up stinky shoes

How To De-Stink Smelly Shoes? Disinfect, Then Deodorize

Do your shoes stink permanently? Experiencing foul odors ascending from your shoes even when they are on your feet? Then you could say it’s about time do de-stink them.

There are various ways to get rid of the smell your shoes emit and most of them are fairly easy to accomplish. Certain methods are more effective than others though.

Before we delve into the ins and outs of freshening up your shoes, first this..

  • Some shoes are beyond recovery. If your shoes really stink do your feet a favor and throw them out.

These shoes are probably invested with bacteria. The bacteria may have taken over the inner and outer linings, the fabric, the deepest pores in the soles. The microbes thriving there are hard, if not impossible to drive out.

In other words, really raunchy shoes just don’t benefit from any de-stink treatment.

More importantly, if you do wear them you will nullify your smelly feet cure efforts.

I mean, if you thoroughly wash your feet, wear appropriate socks, use a quality antiperspirant and at the same time wear those old musty shoes you are giving those pesky bacteria a chance to proliferate. In that case, all those other efforts have been for nothing.

For shoes that aren’t totally wasted, here are some proven de-stink methods.

How to get rid of the stink in footwear?

Step 1. Disinfect

Step 2. Deodorize

You will have to disinfect them to get rid of the bacteria in the shoes. After that you can deodorize them.

If you don’t first disinfect your shoes the smell is likely to be back in no time. * Some substances may have both qualities allowing you to disinfect and deodorize at once.


How to properly disinfect your shoes

The following are common methods to get rid of the bacteria, fungi and other micro organisms in shoes. Although all of these remedies are rampant over the internet they are not all equally effective. Some are just plain old wives tales.

Let’s take a look at efficiency and other pros and cons of each method based on contemporary research and common sense.


Disinfect: to clean (something) especially by using a chemical substance that kills all germs and bacteria

The freezer method. Take the pair of smelly shoes and place them into a plastic bag, don’t forget to seal them tightly. Place the bag into the freezer overnight and thaw the next day in the sun. Extreme cold, just like extreme heat, can take out bacteria.

  • Does it work? The problem with this method is that freezing is ineffective since such low temperatures do not kill bacteria. Freezing mostly renders bacteria inactive. Which is why  it doesn’t work well. I tried it and in my experience the smell returned rather quickly upon wearing. It seemed to me as if not all bacteria were killed off. Which I now know is probably true since freezing may kill some but not all bacteria.


Dryer sheets can prove helpful. Simply slide them into your shoes, and enjoy the fresh scent they will leave behind. Because their mild to moderate antibacterial action and fragrances they are a popular means to freshen shoes.

  • Does it work? Again, not a solution for the stinkier shoes since soaking shoes in a potent antimicrobial solution is more effective. Also, dryer sheets may contain all kinds of hazardous target chemicals such as chloroform, pentane, and ethyl acetate. Fragrances are increasingly known to trigger asthma and to stimulate growth of breast cancer cells in lab studies.


The washing machine. Sometimes simply a good washing can help take the smelly away. Remove the soles and laces, and put the shoes into a pillow case. Wash in the washing machine in 40-50 degree water twice and air dry. Don’t forget to wash the soles and laces too.

  • Does it work? One study concluded that washing at 60°C (140°F) for 10 minutes is sufficient to decontaminate hospital uniforms and significantly reduce the bacterial load. So yes washing shoes in the machine is likely to help freshen up stinky shoes by killing bacteria. Not all shoes are suitable for a treatment in the washer though.


Steaming. If your washer or dryer has a steam function, you can use it to destroy bacteria and fungus that are present. You can also try using a (hand-held) steam machine commonly used to remove wrinkles from clothing to clean them thoroughly.

  • Does it work? Steam is also a potent bactericidal. Its high temperaturs are likely to kill odor-causing bacteria and fungi.  There are even special anti-bacterial steam cleaners on the market. These are clinically proven to remove 99,99% of bacteria. Remember that you have to be careful with suede shoes.

Rubbing alcohol. One of the more potent remedies. Dab some rubbing alcohol onto a cotton swab or a Q Tip, and rub that into your shoes. Not only does it dry relatively quickly, but it evaporates liquids like sweat.

  • Does it work? Yes. There’s however a more effective method than the one described above. More in a bit.


Vinegar. It is commonly thought that vinegar, a.k.a. acetic acid is a great odor killer. Advice like, “Use half water, half vinegar, spritz, let dry and follow up with some baking soda”, is omnipresent.

  • Does it work? Vinegar may be able to remove odors but it it’s not your best option when it comes to fighting bacteria.

In the popular media, vinegar is commonly recommended for treating nail fungus, head lice, and warts, yet scientific support for these treatment strategies is lacking.

Whether or not the popular food preservative actually helps reducing shoe odor remains to be seen.

Studies comparing vinegar with commercial chemical cleaners also show that

natural products were less effective than commercial household disinfectants

This particular PubMed study assessed the efficacy of natural products such as baking soda, vinegar and common commercial disinfectants such as

  • Lysol Vesphene IIse Disinfectant Spray,
  • Lysol Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner,
  • TBQ,
  • Clorox,
  • and Mr. Clean Ultra, ethanol.


We have to point out that this study examined the antimicrobial activity against selected potential human pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and viruses. It did not research the disinfecting activity of these compounds specifically against bacteria living on the feet.

However, it will be obvious to conclude that there are better disinfectants for shoes then vinegar.

Recommended shoe disinfection method:

Rubbing alcohol soak and bleach spray. recommends the following treatment.

  • Soak the shoes in a rubbing alcohol solution. The alcohol seeps into the inner parts of the shoes where it will kill them.
  • After seeping for a while, remove the shoes and let them dry, in a place with sufficient air circulation, preferably directly placed in the sun.
  • Bleach mixed with some water should then be sprayed evenly on the outside and inside of the shoes. All parts need to be sprayed. The bleach kills fungus and germs.
  • Porous surfaces and the inside of footwear should be applied with anti fungal shoe spray to help kill fungus that may cause athletes foot which can cause odor too.


If you dont’ want to soak your shoes use a spray such as Lysol Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner instead. You could use an antiseptic powder in addtion to reach in crevices and seams.

Foot powders

There are numerous antifungal foot powders, and various foot sprays, that can assist in keeping odors at bay. While they are generally recommended for athlete’s foot, which can contribute to foot odor, these are formulated to cut into the stink.

DIY foot powders. Some people swear by mixing baking soda and zinc for an odor and fungal fighting powder that you can simply sprinkle into your shoes and leave overnight.

  • Does it work? Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is known for its deodorizing ability. This study on PubMed for instance also demonstrates its germ fighting ability. However, baking soda is NOT a sanitzer nor disinfectant. In other words, it is not able to kill most bacteria. This corresponds with my own baking soda for shoe odor removal experiences. So it can help remove foul odor but you will have to use something in addition to kill bacteria. On they explain the difference:

A product that “sanitizes” means it can kill 99.9% of identified germs as written on its label. “Disinfect” does the same thing, with a “nearly 100%” batting average. According to the California Childcare Health Program, baking soda doesn’t “kill germs well enough to be used to sanitize” nor does it mention disinfection as one of baking soda’s uses.


Commerical foot powders. Now we know that baking soda, despite its reputation isn’t a sanitizer pur sang.

If you will be using a commercial foot powder you’ll have to look at the label. It’s not for no reason Arm and Hammer does not mention “sanitizing” or even “disinfecting” on its packaging. The words “baking, cleaning and deodorizing” are listed.

Commerical foot powders however often contain zinc oxide. Among other ingredients. Zinc oxide has superior antibacterial action, relieves itch and has a soothing effect. Zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NP) are also used in the food industry,

ZnO NP […] can be applied as a potent sanitizing agent for disinfecting and sterilizing food industry equipment and containers against the attack and contamination with foodborne pathogenic bacteria. (Source. Wiley Online Library)

Examples of commercial foot and shoe powders are Gold Bond, Tinactin. These are mainly used to prevent Athlete’s foot and skin rash.


How to deodorize your shoes

Cat litter. Quirky but effective. As strange as it may sound: cat litter actually isn’t such a weird remedy since the stuff is produced for odor prevention and deodorization.

Simply fill an old sock, seal it shut and loop it into your shoe overnight. Just remove anytime you plan to wear them, and put them back after.

Charcoal. Charcoal is commonly used in air filters because of its deodorizing properties. Therefore charcoal can work wonders in removing odor from shoes too. Fill a cloth bag or old socks with charcoal, insert these in the footwear and keep it there during the night.

Tea tree oil based deodorizer spray. This Rocket Pure Natural Shoe Deodorizer can be used on both feet and shoes and has raving user reviews. It’s all-natural containing essential oils of tea tree, mint, eucalyptus, and thyme.

Deodorizing insoles. Shoe inserts made out of cedar wood, bamboo or containing charcoal can help remove nasty scents. These however do not attack the problem at the source.

freshen up stinky shoes
lemon won’t help you much when your shoes are really stinky


Why masking scents doesn’t really help

According to some people, masking odors is an effective way of reducing footwear odor. Commonly used all-natural remedies are fresh orange peel, or grapefruit, lemon or limes. They simply place them into shoes for that fresh, citrus scent.

Others use a few drops of lavender oil dripped onto the soles of each shoe so that it can give off a flowery scent that eliminates the reek.

Well, if your shoes really stink this isn’t going to help.

Natural methods such as spraying some lavender oil are nice for when there’s only a really mild scent. Fact is that these remedies do not kill of the bacteria living in your shoes.

For really smelly shoes it’s time to take out the big guns.


Once you managed to freshen up your footwear you may want to take some preventative action. Here are some things to consider.

Damp or damaged insoles need to be taken care of properly. Remove them from the shoes, and dry them out. Dry the entire shoe beneath a heater or in the sun on a hot day. To quicken the process, remove the laces and lift the tongue up. This will destroy any bacteria currently in the insole.

Or simply buy insoles that don’t allow bacteria to grow. Bacteria are one of the primary causes of foot odor, along with wearing shoes made from unbreathable material synthetic or plastic materials.

  • Cedar wood insoles are antifungal, odor repellant and smell delightful. Simply pick up a pair and stick them into your shoes to regularly combat stinky shoes.


Click here for The Ultimate Guide on How To Prevent Foot Odor.


Never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row but rotate. Shoes can take 36 hours or longer to dry completely. If you wear them every day, they’ll never dry completely and bacteria have free play.

Once your shoes are fresh again, wear good socks, wash your feet properly, use insoles, and if necessary an effective antiperspirant and you are good to go.

Perhaps you have to throw in an occasional foot soak, but then your feet will probably be fresh n ‘dry.


Or de-stink shoes with this device:

StinkBOSS Shoe Sanitizer, Deodorizer & Dryer Review



Image: Yogma.

The Pros and Cons of Boric Acid For Shoe and Foot Odor

I found this antique book excerpt about a cure for exceptionally stinky feet. It’s from The British Medical Journal edition Sept. 18, 1880.

Since we, in our pharmaceutical dominated culture, have a hankering for remedies from grandma’s era I did some research. Checking if it’s a good alternative to more modern cures.

In the book, a doctor called George Thin, MD, describes how he goes about treating a patient with, in his own words, evil smelling feet.

There are few persons of experience, medical or lay, who have not had the misfortune to discover that certain individuals smell so offen- sively, that it is almost to approach them. In many instances, the evil smell is connected with the feet.

This evil smell is so strong and gross that it fills an area “with a sickening effluvium” that somewhat resembles “putrefying cheese”.

The doctor also describes how the foul odor may linger long after the person with the stinky feet has left the room.

In some cases the smell is so strong and penetrating, that it pervades a room long after the person from whom it emanates (and who may have remained in it only a few minutes) has left.

The doctor expatiates a bit more about the social consequences of such a medical problem before he proceeds with his experimental, yet successful treatment of such extreme cases of foot odor with boracic acid.

He also explains that in case of such extremely smelly feet there’s more to it than just bacteria feeding on the excessive sweat and skin flakes on one’s feet.

The cause of the extreme foot odor

George Thin M.D. notes:

Profuse sweating of the palms and soles is not uncommon, but, in order to produce the specific odor to which I refer, something more than mere profuse sweating is required. The excessive perspiration, when confined by stockings and boots, macerates the epidermis, and, if the per becomes tender. This tenderness is accompanied by redness, slight blistering, or more decided localized eczema.


What is boracic (boric) acid?

Boric acid, also referred to as boracic acid, has anti-bacterial , anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. As almost all effective antiperspirants, boric acid is a topical astringent.

It is often referred to as sodium borate in the list of ingredients in products.

Boric acid is made from the mineral boron, from sodium salts and from oxygen

During WW1 boracic acid was used to treat wounds of British soldiers. In fact, the ancient Greeks already used it to make cloth fireproof.

The substance is still today used as a mild desinfectant on skin and as an eye wash. Because of its antiseptic properties it’s a common ingredient in baby powder, contact lens solutions, and various cosmetics.

It is popular as a remedy for yeast infections (ladies issues), Athlete’s foot, jock itch, yeast, in the laundry and more.

The substance, in powder form, was and still is sprinkled in corners and crevices of rooms to repel and exterminate mice, insects such as silverfish, cockroaches, termites, fire ants and other vermin.

The chemical boric acid has proven to be a potent topical agent that requires apropriate and cautious use.

Is it safe?

It’s basically toxic but with correct use it’s generally considered safe.

From Wikipedia:   Toxicology

While strictly speaking, Boric Acid is poisonous if taken internally or inhaled, it is generally not considered to be much more toxic than table salt (based on its mammal LD50 rating of 2660mg/kg body mass).


The New York Times reported that products containing boric acid are safe according to research but may cause skin irritations in people with sensitive skin and babies.

Is it a good idea to use boric acid on extremely sweaty feet?

While it may generally be safe, is it a good idea to use boric acid on extremely smelly feet?

Feet of which the skin has been broken or otherwise damaged because of maceration?

Probably not.

The general rule of boric acid (liquid or powder) is,

Don’t eat it, Don’t inhale it, and Don’t use it on broken skin. states

While boric acid, borates, and other compounds containing boron are used medicinally, they are potentially toxic if ingested or absorbed through nonintact skin.

Which is often a problem accompanying very sweaty feet. Maceration of skin, blisters, pitted keratolysis, cracks, in other words, nonintact skin.

Treatment of feet

It’s a commonly used agent to both treat feet and shoes. For shoes often boric acid powder is used. It’s a very potent cure according to some. As this user experience demonstrates.

I was in Mexico visiting my aunt, and I showed up at her door after having spent 24 hours straight on a bus from Guatemala. I was wearing hiking boots and have been known to have sweaty feet. As soon as I took my boots off in her house she pointed me to a container with a white powder.

After washing my feet I applied the powder directly onto my feet and sprinkled some in my boots. For one of the first times in recent years I was not worrying about how stinky my feet were.

Apparently her husband was in the Mexican army and upon walking into the rancid barracks recommended that his COs put out bowls of boric acid for the soldiers to rub their feet with. It worked so well he got a promotion on his first day. cheers, J.


Treatment of shoes

To treat your shoes you can use boric acid powder or wash them with a solution of borax, vinegar and water.

Elissa Altman, editor of “Baking Soda, Banana Peels, Baby Oil and Beyond” recommends to use 1/2 cup of borax, 1/2 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water to kill lingering bacteria.

If your shoes can’t be washed you could spray this solution in a fine mist in shoes and let it dry completely before wearing the shoes.



Does it work better to desinfect footwear from bacteria and as an astringent than other foot powders and antiperspirants?

Since it’s a weak acid it may not be such an effective astringent (thus antiperspirant) compared to more potent antiperspirants.

Although the cooling and tightening effect of boric acid may be average it seems to be an effective shoe sanitizing agent. If you do want to use it as a topical for feet, don’t forget to check if the skin on your feet is whole and not damaged.

As for effectiveness, it often also depends on what works best with your body’s chemistry. What works well for some people may not work for others.


The Best Deodorants and Antiperspirants for Sweaty Feet

Are there antiperspirants for feet? This is what I asked myself a while ago. You may have pondered this question too. When searching for products it almost seems like they all are dedicated to use on armpits, neck and face.

But yes, they do exist although most over the counter products are not dedicated to use on feet. Still, varying in strength and action there are quite a few rather effective products available.

In fact there are various ways to control excessive foot sweating and odor. A quality antiperspirant is one of them and is an essential part of a multimodal approach.

They are generally the first resort of treating plantar hyperhidrosis, a condition in which you have overactive sweat glands located on your feet.

Years ago I was, as they say, gellin. Squishing and slipping in my shoes, white macerated skin from the sweat and bacteria eating my skin alive. Sometimes it hurt and it always smelled really bad.

My first encounter with an effective cure was a prescription solution from my physician; aluminum chloride. There’s a wide range of non-prescription antiperspirants that contain this stuff too.

I have compiled a list of products designed to reducing the amount of perspiration and controlling the unpleasant odor. There are 3 in particular that I recommend.

If you want to find a solution for your sweaty feet, deodorants or, even better, antiperspirants can help

I will delve in their active ingredients, how they work, which product is best, and also essential to success, how to use.

Types of antiperspirants /deodorants

There’s a difference between deodorants and antipersiprants.

  • Deodorants reduce odor, usually through an antibacterial action.
  • Antiperspirants reduce sweating, often by closing sweat glands.

Some of the foot deodorants also double as an antiperspirant but you will want to make sure you read the label carefully to make sure.

If your foot sweating is serious you will want a product that has at least antiperspirant action. This will reduce the wetness and slipperiness of your feet and subsequently foot odor.

These products generally come in sticks or sprays. Sprays allow for easier application between toes.

If you want to prevent your feet from sweating and causing offensive odors, then you will want to skip the deodorants and look at antiperspirants for your feet.


Active ingredients

Quality antiperspirants for the feet contain metallic salts. Ancient peoples such as the Romans and Greeks already used aluminum salts as wound dressings because of their  astringent properties.

  • Astringent action: causing the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues.

Nowadays these substances are still used to contract tissue. Either to seal harmed blood vessels or to inhibit sweat glands. The following are two commonly used types of metallic salts.

Aluminum zirconium (tricholorohydrex) has a multimodal method of action. In other words, it helps reduce out-of-control sweating of the feet in several ways.

  • Your skin absorbs the substance, where the aluminum and zirconium ions trigger the skin cells to swell. This constricts the sweat glands, once closed they can’t release sweat. Besides this effect the substance also absorbs perspiration that does take place.

Commercial “clinical strength” antiperspirants containing aluminum zirconium are are a little stronger than typical antiperspirants. They are often applied at night and work for many people suffering from sweaty feet.

  • Other antiperspirants have a slightly different method of action. Once applied to the skin the sweat from the sweat ducts pulls in the antiperspirant. It then fills up the sweat ducts (forms a plug) blocking them, thus preventing sweating from being secreted on the skin.

Aluminum chloride (hexahydrate) is another commonly used, generally effective active ingredient. If you need the strongest antiperspirant one that contains this ingredient will be your best option as dermatologists refer to aluminum chloride as “a particularly effective antiperspirant”.

Prescription-strength Drysol is an example of such an antiperspirant for the feet. However, Drysol is often linked to skin irritation whereas clinical strength brands such as seem to cause less skin irritation.

Aluminum salts do not stop your feet from sweating, they keep (parts of) the sweat from being released onto the skin



In terms of potency you could divide products in 3 categories:

  • regular antiperspirants
  • clinical strength
  • prescription strength

Secret Clinical Strength offered a breakthrough leading to most antiperspirant brands now offering clinical strength

Just looking at the percentage and which ingredient may be a less confusing way to decide which product you need.

In case of serious foot sweating (plantar hyperhidrosis) a strength of 30% aluminum chloride is recommended. For instance by the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

Formulas with concentrations of 20 to 40 percent are typically used for the soles of the feet compared to the 15 to 20 percent concentrations prescribed for other areas of the body.

While over-the-counter antiperspirants may help with mild hyperhidrosis symptoms, products that contain high levels of aluminum-based compounds, are not always effective.

Aluminum chloride and aluminum chloride hexahydrate do offer relief to a certain extent to most sufferers from excessive foot sweating.

Dermatologists acknowledge that clinical strength or prescription strength antiperspirants “work slightly better than regular antiperspirants”.

If such commerically available products are not sufficient you can aquire stronger antiperspirants through prescription by your dermatologist. Do note that OTC products typically are linked with less skin irritation than prescription products such as prescription Drysol.

20% is the maximum amount of aluminum solutions available in an over-the-counter antiperspirant

Also good to know, it’s not only the percentage of active ingredient that determines how well it works. According to dermatologists, correct use also determines how effective the antiperspirant will be.

How to use

These antiperspirants should be applied at night when you sweat the least. This way the substance is better able to block the sweat glands.

When left on during the night, a lasting barrier will form which is less likely to be washed away in your morning shower or by initial sweating that may occur.

If you need more protection put on your antiperspirant at night time and in the morning. When you start, use it for several days on end for maximum effectivness.

  • don’t forget to apply on the sides and top of your toes too
  • your skin is constantly regenerating so you should keep applying the product otherwise sweating will return.

If you use the antiperspirant according to instructions you should see a dramatic reduction in the sweat that you produce. If not you may need a stronger concentration.

The best brands

The following are so called ‘clinical strength’ antiperspirants.

The strongest OTC antiperspirants you can use for your sweaty feet:

  • Odaban Antiperspirant Spray. Has 20% Aluminum Chloride. If you are looking for the strongest commerically available product get Odaban. If you haven’t tried aluminum antiperspirants yet you may want to get one with a lower concentration since this may sting or burn. On the other hand, some users find Odaban to be more tolerable than other brands with lower aluminum concentrations such as Drysol and Certain Dri. This is probably due to the blend. Pros: powerful, spray. Cons: may cause skin irritation since it’s 20%.
  • Driclor Roll On 20% Aluminum Chloride. Tip from one Amazon user, to save some money you could get a small squirt bottle and purchase the 75ml Drichlor Roll On instead of the Odaban spray. Pour the contents of the roll on into the bottle and you have more than double the solution for half the money. The Odaban spray is about $14 for 30 ml while the Driclor roll on is about $7 for 75 ml. Both contain 20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate. This does of course does involve some hassle.

Other brands offering clinical strength include Arrid, Gillette, Secret, Dove, Degree, PerspireX and Sure.

Recommended for sensitive skin and injured feet:

  • Hydrosal Professional Antiperspirant Gel. 15% Aluminum Chloride (Hexahdrate) Pros: a gel may be less harsh on delicate skin than an alcohol based solution. Some studies confirm this. Cons: gels are less convenient than sprays. Less affordable.

Less potent yet very popular antiperspirants:

Keep in mind that although the following products may have more user reviews and higher sales numbers, they are used for other purposes than combating foot sweating too. Personally I would get a spray or gel for easier application.

  • Sweat Block towelettes. 14% Aluminum Chloride (Hexahydrate) 4,5 stars 2038 user reviews.
  • Maxim Extra Strong Roll On.  15% Aluminum chloride.  Without alcohol. Probalbly less risk on drying out your skin and cause itch. 4,5 stars, 392 user reviews.
  • Certain Dri Roll On.  4,5 stars 772 12% Aluminum Chloride. Comes in a, lower rated, solid stick version too.


Prescription strength

If these don’t work, your next step is to get a doctor’s or dermatologist’s prescription for, for instance, Drysol deodorant.

Drysol contains 30% aluminum chloride. It is available in most drugstores however you can’t get it without your prescription.

Consult a dermatologist or a physician if your experience with the products does not produce a change in foot odor or sweating.

See your chiropodist if these treatments fail.  You may need and even stronger “industrial strength” antiperspirant such as Xerac-AC®.

This preparation is so strong (and effective) that professional guidance is recommended.

Side effects?

Basically, what you feel after applying these substances is that your skin dries. It may dry out a bit even but the sweating will stop. Or significantly reduce.

Aluminum chloride is known to irritate the skin in some people according to WebMD. It is therefore recommended to strictly follow the instructions.

Some people experience a burning and itching sensation upon use. Others don’t feel anything.

Aluminum zirconium is less linked to side effects but is also known to be less effective.

  • Is shrinking and closing off pores and sweat glands safe?
  • Yes it is harmless since your body has much more pores and sweat glands. It simply redistributes perspiration the other thousands of square inches of your skin’s surface.

Topical aluminum health hazards?

You may have read warnings about aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants. These controversial stories may have worried you.

Today, antiperspirants are still claimed to cause cancer and Alzheimer’s. They are claimed to do so by preventing the body from “purging toxins”.

It is true that aluminum can be toxic if swallowed and can also be a skin irritant but these rumors do not have any scientific backing.

There is no convincing scientific evidence for the link between using aluminum topically and diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. WiseGeek notes,

As of 2012, no medical or environmental study had proved that aluminum zirconium — a common ingredient in antiperspirant — increases the risk for any disease, including breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

And to zoom out instead of focusing on aluminum zirconium, WebMD states that “antiperspirants have no proven impact on the risk of diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

Additional products

To control foot odor some people insist on using a deodorant that does not have ingredients perceived as harmful. Various of such all-natural, hypoallergenic, organic deodorants exist. How effective these are in case of serious foot sweating remains to be seen.

If you are more into natural or herbal remedies there are are also different brands that stick to 100% natural ingredients such as the Crystal company with their Natural Foot Deodorant Spray and the Gewhol’s Caring FootDeo Spray.

These too are available in roll on, sprays, lotions, creams, and powders. In fact there is much variety when shopping for foot deodorants.

Zinc oxide

You may have heard off zinc oxide as an active ingredient. This substance however is generally used to protect wet skin from getting irritated.

For example to treat and prevent diaper rash in babies. Or when your feet sweat a lot and skin irritation occurs zinc oxide helps protect your feet. So this is not a sweat reducing compound.

Popular products for foot odor control containing the active ingredient zinc oxide include Dr.Scholl’s Deodorant Foot Powder (has baking soda too), Gold Bond No Mess Spray Powder Fresh and Odor Destroyer Deodorant Powder.

Gold Bond Medicated Powder and Spray is great if you also suffer from foot fungus because it uses Menthol as a way to relieve itching and Sodium Bicarbonate to absorb moisture and control odor.

Essential oils

If you, despite aluminum’s proven effectiveness are looking for a botanical alternative I think you should look into this Elite Sportz foot and Shoe Odor Spray. Its active ingredients are essential oils.

It is very well-reviewed and seems to moisturize your feet and take care of your shoes too.

Advertised as the “Only Multi-Functional Moisturising and Deodorising “ALL Natural” Foot Care Product”  it has 7 essential oils and 11 botanicals to reduce smelly feet and soothe dry cracked, callused itchy feet.

Nanosilver foot spray

Not as widely used as aluminum antiperspirants, colloidal silver is popular among some people. Silver Foot Spray is more a deodorant than an antiperspirant. Besides colloidal it has essential oils to fight off bacteria yet no ingredients known to block sweat glands.

In summary

Antiperspirants containing aluminum are safe and effective. They are available over-the-counter or via a dermatologist prescription

Since these are the typical first-line treatment, try an over-the-counter antiperspirant. If you are still having issues with sweaty feet and none of the over the counter products seem to be working for you, see your dermatologist to write you a prescription for Drysol.

The only difference between the over the counter products and the prescriptions is that the prescription products contain higher levels of the active ingredient which is often anything over 20%.

Sweaty feet is a bothersome condition but you can use foot deodorant and antiperspirants to make your life easier. Don’t forget to wear appropriate socks, use the best soap, get quality odor fighting and sweat reducing insoles, and let your shoes thorougly dry.

Stop worrying about taking off your shoes at a friend or family members house because of the odor. Enjoy being able to wear open toed shoes again and save yourself embarrassment with one of the products mentioned above.



Do Essential Oils Cure Sweaty Smelly Feet?

There’s a wide range of websites providing you with information on aromatherapy. Often, claims are made regarding the topical application of essential oils to cure foot odor.

If such sources aren’t backed by either trustworthy reviews (e.g. your own personal experiences or those of peers) or PubMed and Wiley Interscience studies we are not sure how to judge these statements.

Fact is that there’s little clinically backed evidence to support the wide variety of therapeutic claims made by aromatherapists.

So we did some desk research to find out what sources are available regarding the topical use of essential oils in order to combat stinky feet.

In medical terms, whether or not there’s a clinical indication for essential oils as a plantar hyperhidrosis remedy.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extracts from specific plant species, and are designed to contain the true essence of the plant from which they are derived.

They are actually not “oily” to the touch, but instead are pure liquid extracts that are distilled from the plant using various means, and then concentrated to form the extract.

They usually come in small bottles and the liquid is concentrated enough such that only a few drops are needed for each use. The uses of essential oils range from aromatherapy, to natural remedies for physical discomfort, to household cleaning, to insect repellents.

Essential oils are commonly used for inhalation and, generally in diluted form, for topical treatment.

essential oils
essential oils

Why Essential Oils for Smelly Feet?

Foot odor is caused by the interaction of microbes (chiefly, bacteria) with the sweat and dead skin cells on your feet. The metabolism of these bacteria can leave odiferous byproducts that are “cheesy” in smell.

One way of combatting foot odors is establishing a treatment regimen that uses essential oils. According to proponents of the use of these oils there are several essential oils that can be used on smelly feet.

What does research say?

PubMed Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®):

Topical application of aromatic oils may exert antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects.


This is obviousdly very generic information. However, these aspects may be helpful in curing feet sweating and subsequent foot odor since it’s the bacteria that cause the smell.

More specific information was offered by another case study that showed..

..that the use of an ‘oil-powder compound’ consisting of arrowroot, baking soda, basil oil, clove oil, tea tree oil, and sage oil reduced bacterial and fungal growth in shoes and socks.

In fact, a number of essential oils may be beneficial for the relief of foot odors, as explained in the following paragraphs:

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaf of Eucalyptus, sp. Eucalyptus oil has a long history of use as a pharmaceutical, antiseptic, repellent, flavoring, fragrance, and also in industrial processes.

To make the essential oil, leaves of Eucalyptus are steam-distilled into a plant extract (“Eucalyptus oil,” 2014). Two aspects of Eucalyptus oil can help foot odors: Its antiseptic properties can retard the growth of bacteria, and its fresh fragrance can help mask your foot odors.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is extracted from the flower spikes of the lavender flower, Lavandula, sp. Lavender has long been raised for its flavor, scent, and medicinal properties.

This essential oil has anti-microbial properties when used on the skin, and a very pleasing natural aroma to help mask smelly foot odors.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has a long history of use in aromatherapy and as a folk medicine. Active chemicals in peppermint oil include terpenoids and flavonoids.

Terpenoids add peppermint’s aromatic component, while flavonoids provide an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory component. These compounds help peppermint oil to retard microbial growth and mask any foot odors with a pleasant smell, while also helping to relive inflammation of your tired feet.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is also known as melaleuca oil. It is extracted of the leaves of the narrow-leaved tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia (not to be mistaken with the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, from which tea beverages are derived).

It is known to have a fresh, camphor-like smell, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (“Tea tree oil,” 2014). Applied to the feet, tea tree oil can help fight the growth of microbes that cause foot odor, and its potent natural fragrance can help mask any existing foot odors you might have.

In a study on the antimicrobial and medicinal properties of tea tree oil researchers concluded that:

There’s a wide range of laboratory studies that support the long-held beliefs that Tea Tree Oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

This study concludes “there is still a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating efficacy against bacterial, fungal, or viral infections.”

Which may lead you to think that tea tree oil may be useful as a preventative agent only. To help you keep the bacteria on your feet at bay.

However, other studies, also referred to on WebMD show tea tree oil does help cure Athlete’s foot. It also reduces allergic skin reactions and helps cure toenail infections.

Thyme Oil

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal and ornamental uses. Thyme’s uses date back to the time of the ancient Egyptians.

Thyme oil contains 24-50% thymol, which is the component which gives thyme its flavor and odor. Thymol has very strong anti-bacterial/antifungal properties (“Thyme,” 2014). In therapy for smelly feet, thyme oil can help retard the growth of odor-causing bacteria, and its pleasant fragrance can also help mask foul foot-odors that are present.

Sage Oil

Sage (S. officinalis) extract and tea are a folk medicine that has been traditionally used to treat excessive sweating.

Clinical trials provide evidence for some of its proclaimed medicinal properties. Whether or not essential sage oil is a potent remedy for smelly feet remains to be seen. Based on the available data it is somewhat promising.

In Summary

Certain essential oils may help combat foot odors in two ways.

  • First, they tend to have anti-microbial and/or anti-fungal properties, so they act against the microbes which can cause smelly feet.
  • Secondly, they tend to have a very pleasant natural aroma, which can help mask any foot odors that are present. These oils are a holistic and natural way to combat foot odor, without having to resort to using drugs or other non-natural topical treatments. Masking foot odor however is not a real cure.

So do essential oils cure sweaty smelly feet?

How potent these botanical remedies are is not clear though. Tea tree oil shows to help cure other foot conditions. A blend of essential botanical oils and other compounds demonstrated to inhibit bacterial growth on feet while wearing shoes and socks.

However, real convincing clinical evidence does not exist. If you have a serious foot sweating and odor problem giving this treatment a try would probably not hurt. Some things may work for some people so why not give it a shot. If I did, I would go for tea tree essential oil or perhaps sage.

Do keep in mind that, based on what’s proven by science, other, more valid remedies are most likely better able to help you out.


Image by ilovememphis.