A Guide to Your Disgusting Feet

Justin Posey/Death to Stock

Feet: they stink! And then they go and make your socks stink, and your shoes stink. If that weren't bad enough, they love to develop fungus, toe jam, and all manner of other nasty stuff. Here's a complete guide to why they get gross, and what to do about it. 

Why (why-eeeee?) are feet so gross?

Foot odor is primarily caused by two factors, sweat and the molting of dead skin. Fun fact! A pair of human feet have 250,000 sweat glands. That's a lot of sweat. And while the perspiration itself is odorless, it will become trapped in socks and shoes and other types of foot encasements, mingling with the bacteria naturally found on your feet, and voila! Foot stank.

In addition to sweat, dead skin buildup will lead to foot odor -- especially when it comes to shoes you wear without socks. That's because dead skin will adhere to the insole of your shoe and do what dead stuff does. It will rot. Oh no! Now you're paying attention! Yes, it's very gross to think about but it leads nicely into a discussion of the best thing you can do to avoid having malodorous piggies.

Dealing with your feet

The best thing you can do for your feet is to pay a bit more attention to them when performing your daily ablutions. So: use a washcloth and a good deodorizing soap to scrub your hooves, paying particular attention to the space in between your toes. Post-washing, dry your feet thoroughly, again giving the space in between your toes some extra love.

For some people, however, a bit more is required. A light dusting of foot powder, like Gold Bond, can help to control sweat. If your foot smell situation is truly dire, you may need to use a dedicated foot deodorant, like Lavilin Foot Deodorant Cream.

Athlete's foot, which is a fungal infection that can be easily treated with over-the-counter topical antifungal creams, powders, or spray powders, might also be at the root of your tootsie odor problems. If you suspect that you have athlete's foot, which is characterized by itching and peeling skin, usually between the toes, head straight for your local pharmacy to grab a bottle of Tinactin or a tube of Lamisil. If the symptoms persist, book an appointment with your doctor and ask for a prescription-grade athlete's foot treatment.

Flickr/Melissa B.

You really (really!) should wear socks

Now that your feet are clean, dry, and deodorized, you're mostly there -- but there's still the matter of smart footwear choices. When it comes to socks and foot odors, there are two things to bear in mind.

The first is to wear them. Donning a fresh pair of socks every day will go a long, long way in keeping your foot stench at bay. The second is to opt for socks made of natural fibers, like cotton or wool, avoiding synthetics and blends that don't breathe as well and can trap sweat.

Lastly, if you notice that your socks are retaining a foot-y smell even after laundering, try a sports detergent or use a half cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle of the wash to deodorize them.

De-funk your shoes...

Of course, none of this -- not the clean feet, not the powders, not the perfect cotton socks, none of it -- means a thing if you're slipping your dogs into foul-smelling shoes. This is where odor-eliminating sprays, like Dr. Scholl's Odor-X Odor Fighting Spray Powder, come in. Give your favorite loafers, boots, or tennis shoes a good blast with one of these products and you should be good to go.

If you're interested in supporting old media while also correcting your shoe smell problems, sticking a piece of wadded up newspaper inside will also work to absorb those unpleasant fragrances caused by your feet. It sounds too simple to work, and yet! It does.

... and then keep them that way

You've done all this hard work, and it would be a shame to let it all go to waste. Which is why, if you're a person who regularly does battle with embarrassing foot odor, you should invest in a set of sneaker balls. Just pop a ball into each shoe when you take them off in the evening and let them do their work overnight while you sleep. What could be easier?!?

There's one final tip to leave you with, and it is this: if possible, don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Allowing your footwear to lie fallow for 24 hours after wear will go a long, long way in preventing a horrible smell from developing within.

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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Her shower is exceedingly clean. Follow her on Twitter: @joliekerr.