Why do my feet stink?

Last updated on September 29, 2020


Because I am a teenager going through puberty, could the combination of socks and shoes that I wear be bad for my foot odor? I wear two pairs of socks at a time on my feet and athletic shoes. I was wearing this exact combination to my friend’s house one day. When I put my feet on top of his lap when we were resting on the couch, he said my feet stink. He said “Eww! Dude! Your feet stink!” Can you tell me if what I’m wearing is affecting my foot smell?



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 your foot odors. Typically dusting your shoes once a week or so will keep the smells down.

Wearing two pairs of socks is unnecessary unless you just want the extra padding. But at the end of the day, those socks have to come off and go into the wash. Spending time without anything on your feet gives your skin and shoes time to dry out, making for a less desirable environment for bacteria, so don’t wear anything on your feet at night and take off your shoes as often as possible. Also, after bathing, wait before putting anything on your feet, if you can, so your feet can dry out. And don’t put the socks you just took off back on your feet after a shower! You’ll just reintroduce the bacteria you just spent time getting rid of.

For the same reason, you change your underwear after you shower. And again, you delay getting dressed as long as you can so your skin has time to dry before it gets covered. At night wear something completely different than you wear during the day, such as a light pair of pajama shorts without underwear. This lets more air get to the regions that are normally covered and interrupt the bacteria growth.