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Why did my Feet Suddenly Become Smelly? IS IT NORMAL?

January 26, 2022 | Farah Jassawalla

When you come back after a long run or from a hard day at work, taking off your shoes gives immediate relief. But what if you smell a bad odor from your feet or a close person points at it? That can ruin your mood in seconds. Smelly feet or foot odor is more common than you can imagine. The medical term for this condition is known as bromodosis.

Many people are disturbed by this condition because it affects the health of their feet and can also become a cause of social embarrassment. It is important to understand that smelly foot is common and can be managed with some lifestyle modifications. In some cases, medical help may be required, so it is beneficial to discuss it with your doctor

What Causes Smelly Feet?

There are many sweat glands in your body that produce sweat as a normal mechanism to regulate body heat. When you perform a strenuous physical activity like jogging, running, etc., or keep your shoes on for long hours, the sweat glands in your feet produce sweat to cool down the skin’s temperature. Sweat itself is odorless, but it can provide a habitat for many bacteria on your skin and surrounding environment. 

The bacteria release products that have a stinky odor. The longer your feet are covered, the more they stink. Physical activity also contributes to excessive sweating and increases the risk of smelly feet. Since most athletes or sportspeople wear padded shoes for many hours, it is very common that they may have bromodosis. Apart from professional athletes, it can happen to anyone at any age.

Is it a Medical Concern?

As described above, most of the cases of smelly feet occur due to wearing shoes or socks for long hours or doing a heavy physical activity that makes you sweat. But some people may experience excessive sweating from their feet despite the absence of any of the factors mentioned above. That may occur due to a condition known as hyperhidrosis. Focal hyperhidrosis can result in excessive sweating from your feet, although some other parts of your body may also be involved. 

A fungal infection of the skin on your feet may be another underlying cause. An undiagnosed fungal infection may cause smelly feet. Fungal infections involve similar factors that lead to foot odor, so in most cases, bromodosis occurs prior to a fungal infection.

Diabetes is another factor that needs to be kept in mind if you have smelly feet. The odor from your feet is not a sign of diabetes, but it may be a sign of neuropathic issues in your feet that occur as a complication of diabetes. Diabetic patients should consult with their doctor if their feet smell consistently despite hygiene maintenance. 

How to Treat and Prevent Smelly Feet?

If your feet sweat a lot or give off too much odor, it is better to get a doctor’s opinion regarding it. Your doctor will guide you about proper methods to maintain the hygiene of your feet and avoid this problem in the future. It is suggested to wash your feet with antibacterial soap at least once a day. This cleans dirt and debris off your feet and also reduces the chance of infections. Gently scrub the layer of dead skin cells after washing them. Trim your toenails because long toenails can also become a niche for bacteria. 

Topical antifungals may be prescribed in some cases as a treatment for a pre-existing infection or as a preventive measure. Keep your feet dry at most times. If you have washed them, dry them immediately afterward with a towel. Change your socks and shoes regularly and avoid wearing the same pair for a long time.

Socks made out of natural materials such as cotton or wool are preferred over synthetic materials because they allow more perspiration. This is suggested for shoe material as well. Shoes made out of natural material such as leather is preferred. It is better to keep your feet free most of the time and avoid wearing socks or shoes unless you have to. Open footwear is recommended as it allows ventilation and prevents sweat accumulation. You can also use antiperspirants or foot powder to reduce bad odor. 

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