The reason for smelly feet is that feet naturally sweat, and bacteria work on the sweat to produce smelly fatty acids. As well, fungi that cause ‘athlete’s foot’ like to grow in warm, moist areas (such as between the toes) and this can add to the cheesy smell.
What you can do about smelly feet:

  • Because the smell is caused by bacteria in the sweat, look at all the advice in our section on sweaty feet.
  • Check between your toes. If the skin between the toes looks red and soggy you probably have the fungal infection athlete’s foot. Buy an antifungal foot spray, which is more effective than antifungal foot powders. Keep using the spray for 10 days after the symptoms have gone. If the problem persists, see your doctor.
  • Check your socks. Make sure they are not too tight and change them every day. Socks that are 60–70% wool combined with 40–30% manmade fibre are best. All-cotton socks can be problematic because they do not hold as much moisture without becoming sodden, and all-wool socks become clammy.
  • Consider your shoes. Avoid wearing trainers for long periods; trainers are insulating and synthetic – ideal conditions for cheesy feet. Buy some washable insoles for your shoes and wash them every day. Every couple of weeks, use the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of your shoes to remove dried old sweat. You can also wipe the inside of your shoes with surgical spirit, which you can buy from a pharmacy. If possible, avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row; allow them to dry out properly.
  • Consider a foot deodorant, which you can buy from pharmacies. Some contain an antibacterial chemical to discourage the bacteria that cause the smell.


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Fiona Elliott
Last updated: January 2021

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