Steps for solving the problem of smelly feet
Parents have been asking me what to do about the fact that their child’s feet smell. Let me see if I can get a foot up on this topic and provide some information on smelly feet.
What causes smelly feet?
Blame bacteria that love damp places like the inside of sweaty shoes or sneakers. In that environment, bacteria grow, and as they grow they release their own waste products, including sulfur compounds that in about 10-15% of us really smell bad.
How to combat bacteria
If your child or you have a foot odor problem, you can reduce the amount of bacteria on your feet or the amount of sweat that collects on your feet. To reduce the amount of bacteria, try these steps:
¯ First, bathe the feet in lukewarm water for several minutes each day using a mild antibacterial soap, and dry the feet when done.
¯ Wearing clean socks each day are also critical — cotton and some wools will absorb sweat and make the feet breathe more easily and prevent bacteria from growing.
¯ Make sure your child has a fresh, clean pair to wear daily or a second pair if the socks get too damp from too much sweat being absorbed by them.
Tips for reducing sweat
¯ Avoid tight-fitting shoes, which can increase the amount of heat, sweat and moisture in the feet.
¯ It’s a good idea to change shoes every day to dry them out before wearing them again.
¯ Avoid shoes made of plastic, which do not allow the feet to breathe and can increase sweat production and make feet smell worse.
¯ An over-the-counter odor-fighting antiperspirant powder or spray for the foot, or even anti-odor insoles or inserts can be purchased over the counter that may help, too.
¯ Finally, the best way to not be embarrassed by this problem is to have your child keep their shoes on when in social situations such as at school or riding in a car, and then have them go barefoot at home so as to allow their feet to dry out.
Hopefully tips like these will put you in the nose — I mean in the know — when it comes to knowing more about what to do if your child’s feet smell.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.