Q & A Library
Natural Cure for Smelly Feet?
My niece, age 12, has really, really smelly feet. Nothing we have tried has worked. Is there something she can do or take to overcome this embarrassing situation?
Answer (Published 6/14/2011)
Originally published 2/26/2010
Between 10 and 15 percent of the population shares your niece’s problem. Normally, feet smell because they sweat inside shoes; bacteria then break down the sweat, producing compounds responsible for the offensive odor. There are more than a quarter of a million sweat glands in your two feet, more than in any other part of the body, including the underarms. These glands release about a gallon of moisture per week. If you’re barefoot, all this sweat just evaporates, but the buildup of sweat when feet are confined in shoes creates a dark, warm and moist environment perfectly suited for bacteria. In the unlucky 10 to 15 percent whose feet really smell bad all the time, sweat production is excessive, and there is overgrowth of Micrococcus sedentarius, bacteria that in addition to the usual stinky acids also produce volatile sulfur compounds with an even worse odor.
Here are some suggestions that may help reduce sweating and the resulting foot odor:
If those measures don’t help, see your physician or a podiatrist, who may prescribe a 20 percent solution of aluminum chloride hexahydrate to control excess sweating. You apply it to your feet at night. In addition, treatment with a device that passes a small electrical current through the skin can reduce sweating for several weeks, and Botox injections can also help by interfering with the activity of sweat glands.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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