Sweaty feet or smelly feet: causes, treatment & tips

Feet that sweat excessively usually emit a very irritating odor that is often compared to stinking cheese, ammonia or vinegar. For that reason, sweaty feet are also called stinky feet. Sweaty feet can also cause additional symptoms such as a burning sensation or wrinkled skin. One of the most important tips against smelly and sweaty feet is to avoid certain types of socks and shoes, as well as good daily hygiene. Special insoles, a sweaty foot spray and a deodorizer can also be effective against smelly feet. What are the causes of sweaty feet and what tips and remedies can be useful against this annoying phenomenon?

Sweaty, smelly feet

The condition ‘sweaty feet’ refers to feet that sweat excessively and spread an unpleasant odor . The odor of these sweaty feet is often described as pungent and unpleasant, with comparisons being made to smelly cheese, vinegar or ammonia. Because of that bad odor or stench, excessively sweaty feet can be very embarrassing in social situations. People also talk about ‘stinky feet’ . Sweaty feet that are not sufficiently cared for can lead to athlete’s foot in the long term.

Symptoms of sweaty feet

In addition to the stinky, irritating odor, other symptoms can also occur with sweaty feet. Because the feet are constantly moist, the skin can become pale and wrinkled . Some people who suffer from sweaty feet complain of a burning, stinging feeling in the feet, while there may also be a cold, sick feeling. This is because the body gets rid of excess heat through perspiration.

Causes of stinky feet

Moisture and heat

The symptoms of sweaty feet arise as a result of three causes. First of all, there is excessive perspiration on the feet. This phenomenon can occur in people who sweat quite a lot in general , but some people in particular suffer from excessive moisture production in the feet. Secondly, the heat on the feet must have risen to high temperatures, especially thirty to forty degrees.


Furthermore, the skin of the feet forms a breeding ground for bacteria, more specifically the so-called ‘Brevibacteria’. These bacteria digest dead skin cells and this process releases a pungent aroma that is characteristic of sweaty feet. By the way, it is the same ‘Brevibacteria’ that gives certain stinky cheeses their specific aroma. The comparison of stinky feet with smelly cheese (‘toe cheese’) is certainly not out of the blue.

Additional factors

In addition to these three essential causes of sweaty feet, additional factors may play a role. In some situations, the body will generally sweat more than usual, such as stress, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. You will also sweat more during heavy physical exertion and there is a greater chance of sweaty feet. Finally, it goes without saying that poor hygiene facilitates the accumulation of bacteria and can therefore cause the feet to sweat excessively.

Stinky feet treatment and tips


When treating sweaty feet, it is important to avoid the first two causes of moisture and heat. Shoes that are very warm are therefore not recommended. Preferably choose air-permeable shoes, or sandals or slippers in the summer. In this case you avoid an accumulation of heat in the footwear and reduce the risk of excessive perspiration. The idea is to let your feet ‘breathe’ and remove excess heat.


Natural materials are better than plastic for both shoes and socks. For example, cotton or wool socks are better than socks that largely consist of plastic material. So do not choose polyester, acrylic or nylon socks because they increase the risk of sweaty feet. It is also recommended to change socks daily.

Wash feet

Washing your feet every day with soap is a good way to kill bacteria and prevent the formation of bad odors. When washing your feet, you can pay particular attention to the soles and toes. With a foot bath you can use a special antibacterial soap or a product that prevents athlete’s foot . An absolute must is to dry your feet very thoroughly so that no moisture remains. The space between the toes in particular is often forgotten.

Remedies against sweaty feet


An effective remedy against sweaty feet is an adapted insole. Some insoles absorb the moisture and heat in the shoe more effectively so that the foot has the opportunity to ‘breathe’ more in the shoe. This prevents an accumulation of heat and moisture. An example of such an insole is ‘Shoefresh-The solution against sweaty feet’ . You can optionally use additional talcum powder to keep the feet dry.

Sweaty foot spray

There are special sprays on the market that can be very effective against sweaty feet. Applying a spray or deodorizer to the inside of the shoes can be a good remedy for smelly feet. You can do this after you take off your shoes so that they are fresh when you put them back on.
Some examples of these sweaty foot sprays and deodorizers:

  • Ginkel’s sweaty foot spray
  • EcoFeet deodorizer
  • Dipsy shoe deodorizer

Foot cream

You can also apply an antiperspirant cream or ointment to your feet to better protect them against excessive sweating. Some ointments, gels and creams can ensure ‘healthy feet’ , which greatly reduces the risk of sweaty feet, athlete’s foot and other foot problems. A foot peel can also help to clean the skin and get rid of bacteria.
Some examples of ointments and other effective remedies against sweaty feet:

  • Weleda Football Balm
  • Elastoplast Silver Active Foot Spray (antiperspirant)
  • Gehwol Soft & Care Nourishing Foot Peeling

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