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

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