Why Do Feet Smell?
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Why Do Feet Smell?

A bite-size answer to the question why do feet smell?

After another long and tiring session in the garden yesterday, I slipped off my Wellington Boots and headed straight to the couch for a much needed sit down. My little boy – who was watching television in the same room - temporarily turned his gaze towards me and asked (with a curled up nose), “Daddy, why do your feet smell?” Not the most flattering of questions I thought, but a fair one nonetheless! So what’s the answer? Why do feet smell?

Sweat – and lots of it

Our feet work incredibly hard – just think how many times you stand up, how far you walk or run and how much exercise you do each day. Indeed, most of us subject our feet to pretty much constant pressure throughout our waking hours. It might not be that surprising then – particularly when we know that each foot has a quarter of a million glands - that they can produce up to a pint (0.57 litres) of sweat in a single day. Without this moisture, our skin would quickly become dry and start to crack and make mobility rather painful for us.

But it isn’t the sweat that makes the stink; after all, it is just salt and water. So what does make our feet smell then?

Bacteria – our natural little critters

It is actually the bacteria that live on our skin that produces the odour. Although that doesn’t sound very nice, it is perfectly natural. These bacteria love dark, damp places like socks and shoes and they gorge on the sweat and dead skin cells. The waste they excrete after feasting – in the form of organic acids – is what smells bad. And the more they eat the worse the smell.

For some, feet can be really smelly. Extra sweaty socks and shoes can become a haven for bacteria known as Micrococcus which, in addition to organic acid waste, also excrete horrible smelling sulphur compounds. And many of us know from our schooldays how bad sulphur based things can smell.

Of course, most of us can keep smelly feet in check by regularly cleaning ourselves and changing our socks each morning or after a bout of exercise. If we don’t, the bacteria will continue to multiply...

So there we go. If, like I, you are asked by your inquisitive child why your feet smell, you can now explain!

Sources: How It Works magazine, Kidshealth

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Comments (23)

Good explanation to this common problem.

This was a creative way to present the information.

Good article.

Sweat and bacteria... nasty little critters. Definitely needs a vote up and I promise to come back tomorrow and do it when I get some more!!! (This 5 vote thing is nowhere near enough).

Ranked #24 in Biology

Another valuable information of a perennial issue often ignored but usually smelled. Thanks, Steve.

Excellent discussion on this Steve, thanks :)

Your first article I see :)) Wish you good luck on Factoidz !

Ranked #26 in Biology

Amazing facts. I never knew that there were 250,000 sweat glands in our feet or that they produced over one-half liter of sweat in a day.

Very interesting and well written article. Thanks for the share.

Too cute and quite informative. Thanks for your welcome and back at'cha.

Thanks for your info. But, I think it is normally caused by sweating, unmanaged personal hygience and infections.

interesting information.thanks for sharing

Ranked #11 in Biology

Thank you very much everybody fo taking the time to comment on my why do feet smell article. @ CHAN LEE PENG, just to clarify, sweat itself does not really smell when it is first excreted, only when mixed with bacteria. Thanks again, S

Great article Steve. I always thought it was just to do with sweat and the type of material of the socks or shoes that are worn (cotton / synthetic etc) - cotton allowing the feet to ''breathe'' more etc. Our poor feet - they really do get neglected, yet they work so hard for us.

And here I always thought stinky feet were due to wearing colored socks! Dah!!!! This is an excellent article, chocked full of interesting facts and amazingly easy to understand. I must say...I have much more respect for my feet than I did before reading your article. Cheers!

timely article when the hot summer is coming! nice tips too.

Hey, my feet don't smell! Unless I don't wash 'em. ;)

Great share, thanks for sharing about this.

i love the title of this article :) and the contents lived up to it. i think letting your feet breathe is the most important aspect - so natural material for your feet is vital, like cotton/leather/hemp. you're feet are less likely to sweat - oh and cotton socks too. great read man :)

LOL! 0.57L, thats kind of disgusting!! I don't even want to think about that! I agree with Brian re natural products where possible. You are a fount of knowledge :D

A great and educative read for men of all profession. Voted up!

Good article and explanations. Voted up.

Interesting subject for an article; good info - you got my vote!