Bad habits can lead to smelly feet

Foul smelling feet are one of the last things anyone wants. But according to a new survey, many women are risking just that because of their shoe-related habits. For instance, the survey suggests nine out of 10 women wear the same shoes two days in a row – a habit that can turn your favourite designer heels into a hotbed of nasty niff-causing bacteria.

“There are more sweat glands per square inch on your feet than on any other part of the body, and your feet can produce as much as half an egg cup of sweat in a single day,” says podiatrist Michael O’Neill, a spokesperson for Odor-Eaters SlimSoles, the company that commissioned the survey.

“If you don’t allow footwear time to dry out properly,” warns O’Neill, “you are creating a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria responsible for unpleasant odours.”

Yet the survey also shows that two out of five women realise that wearing the same shoes without giving them time to dry out can increase the odds of leaving them with smelly feet. They also believe the most common things that cause foot odour include heat, poor hygiene and wearing tights.

Far fewer, however, realise that hormones may play a part in foot odour or that stress can increase your chances of your feet getting sweaty (and subsequently smelly).

Twenty-six pairs

So what else did the survey reveal about women and their shoes? Well for starters, the researchers discovered the average British woman owns no fewer than 26 pairs of shoes – which suggests there’s no excuse for not changing their shoes every day – and that almost seven out of 10 don’t mind whether their shoes are plastic or leather (shoes made from synthetic materials tend not to let your feet breathe, which can make them more sweaty and smelly). More than half of the women who took part in the survey also say they spend four hours or more on their feet every day, which can increase the risk of foot odour too.

The survey also suggests many women are concerned about foot odour, with 53 percent saying they worry about it and 57 percent saying they’ve had problems with it.

So how do they deal with it? Almost four out of 10 admit they use foot deodorants, the survey reveals, with 33 percent saying they go barefoot at home and 19 percent claiming they wear breathable cotton socks. However, 45 percent of women also admit they’ve thrown away shoes because they smelt so bad.

Foot appearance is more of a worry during warmer weather, with two out of three women saying they think about their feet more during spring and summer and four out of five claiming they’re concerned about bearing their toes in sandals or flip-flops (46 percent say they’re worried about hard skin, with 43 percent concerned about the condition of their toenails).

“Women are four times more likely to complain of foot problems than men, which is perhaps not surprising when you look at some of the pain-producing styles that are fashionable,” explains O’Neill.

Tackling foot odour

If you’re concerned about smelly feet, the good news is there are lots of things you can do.

“A lot of people I see are concerned about foot odour, and the reality is that a lot of things can increase the risk of sweaty, smelly feet,” adds O’Neill. “Common triggers include stress, standing for long hours and hormonal changes.

“Wearing shoes made from synthetic materials can also be a problem. So remember to change your shoes daily, especially when standing for long periods of time,” he advises. “Air your shoes where possible between uses, and avoid man-made uppers to discourage foot odour.”

There’s lots more information that may help you keep your feet smelling fragrant in our articles Five fresh foot rules and How to have healthy holiday feet. Or read how to tackle other common foot-related problems, including verrucas, blisters, corns, calluses and cracked heels in Love your feet.

Meanwhile, your local pharmacy stocks a range of products designed to help tackle foot odour, including foot deodorants and antibacterial odour-reducing insoles. Your local pharmacist can also advise you about what you need to help keep your feet free from hard skin and thickening toenails – not just during the summer but at any time of year.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.