Why do my cousin’s feet stink?

Last updated on September 29, 2020


I have some questions. I know they sound weird but please answer them. Last night, my cousin came to my house to visit me. He was playing basketball, singing, and dancing for fun all day long in some black basketball shoes. He was also wearing white socks with dark grey heels and toes. He sat down on the couch with me, took off his shoes, and put his feet on my lap.

My first question is: His feet were on my lap and I was sitting up. Nevertheless, why was I still able to catch a smell of his feet in the air when I was not purposely smelling them? He put his feet on my lap and almost immediately I caught this pungent, fatty smell. I picked up his feet, smelled it, and figured that it was truly the smell of his feet that I was able to smell in the air. That smell was so strong it gave me a headache!

My second question is: His socks’ bottoms were white. Why was it that after taking his shoes off, the bottoms of his socked feet were almost completely black except for an area at the arch? Why was the top of his socked feet was mostly white with a black tinge and few black marks in a few areas? Was it because of his shoes being black?

My third question is: When I picked up his feet and smelled it, why were the stinkiest area at the grey toe area and the grey heel area of his socked feet? The white parts of his socks smelled like spoiled milk but the grey areas were awful! The white sock’s grey toe area and grey heal area smelled like milk that has been spoiled for an even longer amount of time!

My fourth question is: His feet are size 15, so does that make them smell more? Do bigger feet smell more than smaller feet? I’m only size 12 and his feet smell far worse than mine.

Thanks and please answer those questions!


Let’s start with the basics of what causes body odors of all kinds. When you go through puberty, you sweat more than you did in the past because growth takes a lot of energy and energy generates heat. This is why you can dress lighter than your parents and feel perfectly comfortable while they are freezing. Your hormones also increase your capacity for producing sweat, so that you can cool off quicker, but at times the body goes overboard, producing too much sweat for the current situation.

Your increased hormones also increase your oil gland capacity. Your oil glands are what keep your skin flexible and since your skin is growing, you need additional oil. But like the sweat glands, the body at times goes overboard with the oil production.

But this environment of warmth, moisture, and oils are a wonderland for bacteria. There are all sorts of bacteria in the air and on various surfaces. When they land on your skin it is a tropical paradise for them — warmth, humidity, and free food (oils and dead skin cells)! — what more can a bacteria ask for? The bacteria gorge themselves and begin to multiply. The byproducts of their feasting are acid material that smells awful. Hence, body odor.

Your armpits, groin region, and feet are prime areas for smells. The armpits and groin produce the most moisture, but they don’t get vented well — you can’t keep your arms up all day and we keep our privates private and covered. The feet get covered by shoes and those trap moisture as well.

Most of your body you keep washed. That cuts down on the food available to the bacteria because you are washing away any oils and dead skin cells. Soap kills bacteria and you end up washing a good portion of them away. Clothing, especially your underwear and socks, should be changed every day so that they too can be washed to remove the bacteria and oils that accumulate. But we don’t have a good way to wash shoes on a daily basis. In fact, that is one reason we wear socks. Most of the oils get trapped in the socks, which can then be tossed in the wash at the end of the day. However, some will be left behind your shoes.

A simple way to handle this is to put a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in each shoe and knock it around to dust the inside of your shoe. Baking soda is an alkaline which neutralizes acids, such as the acids that are causing foot odors. Typically dusting your shoes once a week or so will keep the smells down.

I assume your cousin’s socks are made from two different materials. They would hold moisture differently and breed different types of bacteria. The size of a person’s feet does not cause more or fewer odors. The biggest cause is not letting the feet and shoes adequately dry out, not washing the feet well, especially between the toes, and not cleaning under the toenails.

The most logical cause for the dark color is the dirt and dust he played in has settled to the bottom of his shoes. If it was coming from the fabric, I would expect the tops to be colored as well as the bottoms. If he has not been getting his shoes aired out and dry consistently, there is also the possibility that mildew has begun to grow on the inside lining of the soles. If that is the case, spraying the shoes with Lysol would help.


Okay, that is helpful, but why is it that I can sense the smell from the air without directly smelling his feet? How can the stains come from the fabric? Yes, his tops are tinged with black and his bottoms are completely covered in black. Even the heels are tinged and colored with black because he wears low cut socks. And, he is not a teenager. He is in his 20s.

Also, I have another question. Before I shower, I take off my trousers and socks and realize that my legs have an Axe Body Spray smell when I didn’t apply any Axe. How does that come about?


Odors drift along through the air. That is why you can guess what your mother is cooking before you get to the kitchen.

I didn’t say the stains come from the fabric. I said that the stains could be due to dirt and dust or it could be due to mildew in the soles of the shoes. I guess it is also possible that sweat is causing the dye in the shoes to run and the socks are collecting it.

Even if he is not a teenager, everything I said still applies.

I assume your cousin using the Axe brand of cologne. He may be spraying his feet thinking to cut down on the odors, but masking the odors don’t deal with the source. Colognes are designed to linger.