Help cure my foot smell!
January 9, 2012 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Cure my foot funk!

My feet stink. Bad. I *hate* going to people's homes where you have to take off your shoes because it's vile and embarrassing. It's weird - they look healthy, no fungus or peeling or flaky bits or anything. I keep my nails trimmed and frequently painted, although not always.

My shoes don't really smell, at least not after they've been off my feet for twenty minutes or so. But my feet will stink after taking my shoes off until I shower or wash them. This is generally true of any shoes I have owned, and within the last several years I can't think of any exceptions.

I wash my feet carefully every night when I get home from work and dry them thoroughly. I wear clean socks every day (two pairs sometimes - one in the morning and a second after I wash my feet until I go to bed, or I go barefoot then). I spray my feet with this every morning before putting on socks and shoes (sometimes it makes a difference and sometimes it doesn't - and I can't tell why that is, ie, it's not tied to the particular shoe or whatever). Sometimes I spray that in my shoes too. Sometimes I sleep in socks and sometimes I don't. My feet don't seem particularly sweaty, in terms of feeling damp or slick or anything like that.

The last straw came when I thought that my fresh sheets smelled like foot funk - and I finally determined that the mattress has taken on the odor of my feet. UGH. This, even though I'm careful to wash them before getting into bed!

Please recommend brands or specific shoes (or socks) that will help prevent this problem. (I'm a 30-year-old woman with a business casual job - heels, flats, whatever as long as they fit in that environment). I usually shop at DSW and I look for natural materials, but honestly it doesn't seem to make a difference.

Help me figure out if there's anything else I can do besides washing, drying, and using Odor-X on my feet and/or shoes to prevent or effectively mask the smell when I remove my shoes.

Help me figure out what to do about the mattress to get rid of smell! It's a pillowtop, so I can't flip it, and I really don't want to rotate it now.

Possibly related: I do tend to sweat through shirts, and have used Certain-Dri with great success for my pits. However, they don't stink unless I've been working out really hard; they just get wet. My feet are the opposite - they seem dry but will knock you out.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My husband has this issue a bit. He washes his feets when he comes home because I have a super sensitive nose!

They make travel size baby wipes. Carry those with you so you can wipe your feet and leave a nice scent on them when you go to homes that request you to take off your shoes. Baby wipes cure a lot of ills!

Other people will doubtless have better general advice. This is just for the immediate problem of what to do when you are unexpectedly required to remove your shoes and don't want to feel embarrassed.
posted by jbenben at 7:25 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you wearing socks with only natural fibers? I find this absolutely necessary for me to avoid sweaty feet. Bonus with wool is that it has antibacterial properties, cutting down on potential foot stank even more than say, cotton.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:26 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, what kind of socks are you wearing, cotton, or wool or another natural fibre? Acrylic/poly/blends make my feet stick of a putrid death, even after they are removed. Second, when doing your toenails, make sure you get the dead skin alongside and under your toenails scraped out, and use a nail brush. Use a pumice, too. Third -there is a "natural crystal" deodorant spray. This may work better than the Dr. Scholl's stuff. Or, you can always try aerosol deodorant, too.
posted by kellyblah at 7:28 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

For your mattress- what about an enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle (found at the pert store).
posted by sunshinesky at 7:30 PM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I know you say you have no visible fungus but you might want to see a doctor just in case there's some hidden bacterial or fungal issue that could be cleared up with medication - or even if there's something a doctor might be able to prescribe to help curtail the sweating.

In addition to the (excellent) baby wipes and natural-material sock tips, try washing your feet in dandruff shampoo. I don't know where I read that suggestion (maybe it was on AskMeFi) but I've taken to doing this and it really helps keep my feet smelling better and the skin on my feet smoother.

Make sure you exfoliate your feet using a salt scrub (I like Lush's Ocean Salt) or a Diamancel foot file (beware the Ped Eggs, they're too harsh for many people); dead skin can build up odor.

Seconding Nature's Miracle for your mattress - basically whatever can get pet smells out of furniture ought to get human foot smell out.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:34 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

The tannic acid, in green or black tea, is often good for this kind of thing. There are recipes galore for them, some as fancy as you'd ever want to get - but plain tea bags steeped in water works just fine. A little tea tree oil added is good too.
posted by peagood at 7:49 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

To address this and have success you'll need an all-encompassing approach. Feet, socks, shoes.

For starters, the stuff on feet, that can't be washed off, is bacterial and fungal, very similar to the stuff that starts many cheeses...yes the edible kind. And no, it's not visible to the naked eye.

Purchase all cotton socks. Designate one pair for night time use only. Each night before bed, lather up your feet with anti-fungal cream, cover with socks to keep from messing up your bed and to keep that creme in place. Repeat for weeks until you see/smell a difference.

Stick to your new all-cotton socks. Replace all of your shoes.

If you have to keep a pair or two for whatever reason, and this applies to the stinky area of your bed too, sunlight and fresh air are the best for killing the bacteria and smell. So if possible just put stuff in direct sunlight for a few days and you should definitely see/smell a difference.

(FTR, former jock, used to get various foot problems from the locker room/shower pretty frequently. Always resolvable!)

Good luck!
posted by snsranch at 7:51 PM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Be sure to rotate your shoes and let them air out completely between each wear, ideally for 48+ hours.
posted by argonauta at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2012

...there is a "natural crystal" deodorant spray.

I can't speak to the efficacy of the Crystal Foot Spray, but the Crystal rock deodorant has been absolutely miraculous for me. I bought it on a lark, and pit stank is now a thing of the past for me. I can actually go all weekend without a shower, working, hiking, camping, sweating, whatever, and not only do my pits not stink, my shirts don't even smell bad. At all. If I had a foot funk problem I'd definitely give that a try.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:08 PM on January 9, 2012

A lot of pedicure places swear by tea tree oil, there are a lot of tea tree oil wipes here.
posted by cyndigo at 8:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Seriously, try Clotrimazole 1% antifungal cream in a squeeze tube (toothpaste like tube). This is sold in different boxes for "Athlete's Foot" and for "Jock Itch" for men, and under other descriptions for various female conditions. And it's usually in dollar stores and the dollar store version is just fine. A name brand is Lotramin. Same stuff with different labels. Except Lotramin costs 10x more. If you're game, compare the stuff and get the cheapest version under whatever label it has.

Spread it all over your foot and particularly between your toes. Just put a sock on and shoe over it in the morning, and repeat again after work. Some fumes will work out into your shoe over the day and kill anything there, and won't hurt the shoe at all.

After a few days the problem likely will be gone, until next time--it happens.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:12 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding both the alum crystal deodorant and tea tree oil. I occasionally find that I'll get some foot funk when I have to wear heavy shoes for extended times. After trying the usual stuff, I sound that after washing and drying my feet, either the alum crystal or tea tree oil, rubbed mostly under and between my toes, keeps the funk from coming back, and can kill a developed funk within a day.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:15 PM on January 9, 2012

I found, not sound...
posted by 2N2222 at 8:17 PM on January 9, 2012

For the mattress, get some spray can foam carpet cleaner. Spray it on the mattress, let it settle in a bit, and vacuum it out just like the instructions say. Use a bit less than the instructions, which are written for carpets. Try this on a small section, 6x6 inches or so, before you attempt a larger section.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:23 PM on January 9, 2012

Try powdering your feet, especially in between your toes - Lush makes a foot powder specifically for this.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:28 PM on January 9, 2012

What worked for my husband stinky feet, which where so bad when we got married I made him wash his feet outside and leave his shoes out there every night when he came home or he stunk up our small apartment, was basically trying to avoid the bacteria that caused the smell they love warm moist environs so try and avoid those.

He got new shoes that breathed instead of the cheap ass sneakers made of vinyl, he actually found canvas shoes very good for this and saves leather for winter, though this might be harder in an office environ if you have to dress up.

Cotton socks that fit properly and wicked sweat away from his feet and let the air circulate a little.

Washing his feet with antibacterial soap, he started doing this twice a day like you but it's under control now so he just does it when he has his normal shower. He just used the cheap handwash from the supermarket.

Rotating his shoes, leaving at least 48 hours between wears this mean he has 2 pairs of his fav. shoes.

Airing his feet a lot when he wasn't wearing shoes.

This is what worked for him everyone is different but if your problem is fungal not bacterial everything else there works for that too and adding a fungal treatment to the regime is not that big a deal.

For the smell in your mattress I'd suggest Oxyclean or another enzyme cleaner or mixing up some tea tree oil and water giving it a good shake and spraying it on with a spray bottle. Tea tree oil will help kill the bacteria and hide the smell but might stain. Soaking your feet at night in a warm water bath with tea tree oil in might help with killing the bacteria too.

Basically think bacteria killing more than smell hiding for your feet, make your feet as hard for those stink causing bacteria to live on.
posted by wwax at 8:33 PM on January 9, 2012

I bet it's an infection, for which your doc will give you a topical antibiotic. Don't ask how I know. If I'm right, it will clear up in days. It's worth a trip to the doctor.
posted by PSB at 8:46 PM on January 9, 2012

I've had good luck with, no joke, freezing my shoes. A 24 hour deep-freeze usually keeps them reek-free for a few weeks. This only works if the source of the odor is bacterial, the cold apparently kills their particular strains.

And learn from my mistakes - remember to take them out if the freezer a few hours before you want to wear them.
posted by dirtron at 8:59 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was a student I had a similar problem. I learnt about it when I took my shoes off among friends one time. There was a stinky odor that I complained and accused others of until we tracked it down to my feet. I tried many things--including washing them several times a day--but what finally resolved it was some medicated foot spray from Boots (UK). I would imagine that something like this is similar.
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:29 PM on January 9, 2012

Go to a podiatrist! If you don't have insurance, call one and ask about cash pricing for an office visit, it really shouldn't be that much.

Also get yourself one of those $5 sandpapery foot files from any drugstore. Soak your feet for 10 minutes in pleasantly warm water (plus a splash of Epsom salts, if you want to try that) until soft and then just give them a gentle going-over with the file to take the outer layer of dried skin off. Don't go nuts, just do it gently twice a week. I do this at the end of my shower once or twice a week, but I freely admit it's pretty dangerous standing one-footed in the shower bent over filing.

For the mattress, you're using a decent quality mattress pad, yes? I'd put down a good layer of baking soda directly on the mattress over the foot area, put an old towel down over that, then put the pad and sheets on. Do this every night, vacuuming up the old soda and putting down new every morning (ideally in the morning so it's sitting fresh all day). See if a week of that will put a dent in it. Maybe use a towel you can change frequently between the fitted sheet and the mattress pad for a while, until you've identified and eradicated the cause.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:33 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't often have "woo, amazing product!" stories, but we found something for my husband's similar problem that has totally amazed me: Gehwol Med Foot Powder. It's fairly pricey, and though it was recommended by our pharmacist, we almost didn't buy it because I didn't think a powder would really do much, and it seemed way overpriced... but I'm so glad we tried it!

Now, of course, maybe the formulation just works really well for my husband's particular problem, but since he's been using this we've been able to totally bypass the usual routine: put shoes and socks outside after removing them because they're that potent, rush to wash feet in the tub, apply teatree oil or similar. All gone. And it doesn't even matter if he wears old/cheap socks, what sort of shoes, weather, how long he's been standing and working in the same socks/shoes... nothing. I don't know if it will work as a wonder product for you, too, but it has been for us. Good luck!
posted by taz at 9:45 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding taz, the Gehwohl line is amazing. Though we used the foot cream version for mr.likeso's er, situation. Seriously, it was bad. All gone!
posted by likeso at 2:08 AM on January 10, 2012

Gehwol, heh.
posted by likeso at 2:09 AM on January 10, 2012

There is a fungus (or bacteria) that causes scents when you sweat (even if it is very little.) That is the reason most of us use deodorants. Have you tried the deodorant you use for your underarm on your feet?

There is a home remedy of using loose leaf tea (steeped in hot water and cooled to your liking) to soak your feet. After a few days, it will have fixed the problem. You will have to do it regularly to prevent the smell from coming back.

I used Gold Bond powder in my shoes sometimes in the summer when I have shoes that are not natural material. I would suggest, like others, try to buy socks with a large percentage of natural fibers.

Best of luck!
posted by Yellow at 6:23 AM on January 10, 2012

Before dropping a wad of cash on commercial products I suggest trying a vinegar foot soak every couple days for a couple weeks. It feels all tingly and happy, and has eliminated excessive sweating (relative), fungus (me), and odor (relative + me). I mix roughly half and half, apple cider vinegar and water.
posted by mcbeth at 7:19 AM on January 10, 2012

My girlfeiend had a simular problem when she first moved to the area and was working an out and about all day sales job.

She changed her shoes to a natural type that breathes and not a closed-up man made material (they were also very cheap) and the problen has pretty much been gone ever since.
(small flare-ups when VERY active but hey, it happens and it was short lived)
posted by Blackie at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2012

Smartwool socks changed daily and leather shoes with a non foam footbed have done wonders for my extra-stinky feet.
posted by TheCoug at 3:46 PM on January 10, 2012

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