Foot odor is so commonly experienced – and by such a diverse group of people – that there have arisen around it a series of myths about what precisely causes it, what makes it more severe in some people compared to others, and what remedies are actually effective at combatting it or preventing it. It may come as a surprise, but many people are actually quite ignorant regarding the cause of foot odor, attributing it solely to sweat and thereby believing that the sweatier you are, the worse your feet will smell. 

But here we have our first misconception: sweat itself is actually odorless. Foot odor comes from a combination of factors of which sweat is only one. Many very sweaty people are actually perfectly successful at keeping foot odor at bay.

And there are plenty of misconceptions where that came from, the reason being that the biology and mechanism of foot odor and foul-smelling shoes is actually quite a bit more complicated than many people think. Luckily though, the development of shoe deodorizing sprays has made quite a few strides since this perennial problem has been here to bother us. And with new advanced shoe odor eliminators, such as ShoeFresh spray, it is possible to keep shoes smelling fresh for three months after just a single use. 

But what are the most common myths and misconceptions regarding the origin and prevention of foot odor? Well, let us return to the most common:

Myth: Sweat Causes Smelly Feet 

A mentioned above, sweat does not by itself cause foot odor. It isn’t even any part of that pungent aroma that we know and hate; in fact, sweat merely supplies moisture. What you actually smell is something else entirely. Specifically, foot odor comes primarily from the bacteria that can thrive in moist conditions with poor ventilation. Your feet inside a pair of shoes constitute precisely that, and it is this that causes the smell. The presence of dead skin on the feet can also provide fuel for the growth of bacteria, and this can also make a part of that foul olfactory cocktail. 

Myth: Men’s Feet Smell Worse Than Woman’s

This is a complex one because many will swear that, in their experience, foot odor has far more often been found to be emanating from the musty trainers of a man than any female footwear. But there is actually no biological difference to suggest that a man’s feet would smell worse than a woman’s. In fact, there is even some slight evidence to suggest it goes the other way, with women actually having more sweat glands in their feet than men. And as sweat is the only part of the foot odor process that is down to biology, any greater prevalence of foot odor among men must be entirely down to lifestyle and foot care habits. 

Myth: Baby Powder Stops Sweaty Feet

Baby powder is usually composed of a fragrance mixed with talcum powder. Being a very fine powder, it can only absorb a limited amount of moisture and, being designed for baby’s skin, it is only a very mild astringent (an agent that constricts the skin and closes the pores). However, desiccants (moisture absorbing agents) and astringents can certainly help with foot odor, but you can do better than baby powder. Try an apple cider vinegar soak to tighten up your skin and reduce sweating. 

You would not think that something as common as foot odor could be so little understood, but it is. Luckily, it is never difficult to deal with once you understand what’s going on.