Ew! Beauty: How To Avoid Stinky Boot Feet

Battle one of fall’s biggest offenders

Let’s face it: Along with fall's chill (which means piling on the layers and drying, dulling skin) comes a ton of gross beauty problems. From smelly feet to chapped lips, there’s a lot that can hold you back from living the confident fireside, pumpkin spice latte-sipping lifestyle you were meant to lead. But don’t worry—we’re talking to experts about how to fix them. Welcome to Ew! Beauty.

If there’s one thing that fall means to us, it’s going on a hunt for that perfect everyday fall boot. However, to some of us, wearing your brand-new go-tos every day means something else—super-smelly feet. 

Many of us have been here: You arrive at your friend’s fall gathering, a living room wine and cheese party perhaps, only to find out (to your horror) that their apartment is a “shoe-free” zone. After running from wine shop to grocery store to wherever else, you can’t help but fear that your feet probably smell rank. 

So, how does one avoid stinky boot feet and learn to live without fear of taking off their shoes in public? We talked to the experts, Dr. Suzanne Levine of Institute Beaute, and Dr. Mark Landsmen of Manhattan Podiatry Associates, to get to the bottom of this dilemma. 

First things first, what actually causes smelly feet is a condition called bromhidrosis, otherwise known as “smelly feet syndrome,” which, in plain terms, is an excessive sweating condition. Dr. Levine explains that when bacteria growing in your shoes interacts with your foot sweat, it causes odor. What can make the odor worse is our diet—when we consume foods like onions, peppers, and garlic, they can actually excrete their strong odors through the sweat glands in your feet. “To make matters worse, spicy foods often cause you to sweat more, exacerbating the problem,” says Dr. Levine.

But hey, we all love to eat (I mean, who doesn’t love garlic?)—so what does one do to prevent and stop bromhidrosis in its tracks? Click through the gallery below to read expert tips. 

Alternate your shoes, as well as your socks

While your new Chelsea boots may be your fall go-to, try to swap them out for another pair every other day. “I recommend that you refrain from wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row,” says Dr. Levine. “This will give you a chance to aerate them, preventing odors from building up.” Dr. Landsmen also stresses going for shoes that are made with all-natural materials, which will allow your feet to breathe a little more, thus preventing any excessive, smelly sweat.

But it’s not just about the shoes; your socks can also have a drastic effect on your foot odor. “Excessive perspiration can be worsened by thick socks and close-toed shoes,” says Dr. Levine. “Since the bacteria that act on sweat thrive in the dark and the damp, they can exacerbate the odor problem. To prevent this, I recommend alternating wearing light-colored socks made of all-natural fibers, and remember to change them often.” If you know your feet tend to be on the smellier side, carry an alternative pair of socks in your bag in case of emergencies—you never know when they may come in handy.

Prescription-strength antiperspirants can help

Dr. Levine explains that when it comes to stopping smelly feet, you likely don’t have to look any further than your bathroom cabinet. “Deodorants contain antibacterial agents that kill odor-causing bacteria, while antiperspirants control and halt sweating and the resulting smell,” she says. And, of course, prescription-strength products will only work better than what you already have laying around, so ask your doctor about what options you have available.

However, in extreme cases, you may have to take additional steps. “While prescription-strength antiperspirants and powders usually work, in some extreme situations, we’ll use Botox injections or oral medications to treat hyperhidrosis [excessive sweating],” says Dr. Landsmen. Botox? For your feet? Who knew?!

Pamper yourself with a foot soak

Foot soaks tend to be a great homeopathic remedy to smelly feet—and we can’t deny that few things are more relaxing. Dr. Levine recommends soaking your feet in a mixture of Epsom salt and half a cup of lukewarm water once a day for five to ten minutes. The Epsom salts will combat both the sweat and the smell, and who could hate on a little bit of required pampering once a day? It’s pretty much a win-win.

Don't underestimate the power of herbs

In addition to Epsom salt, there are a lot more natural ingredients to help prevent excessive foot sweating and odor. Dr. Levine also recommends soaking your feet with sage, which causes blood vessels to contract and reduce sweating and has antibacterial properties.

Chlorophyll is another herb recommended by Dr. Levine that can act as an internal deodorant to neutralize odors before they’re excreted. Chlorophyll can be taken internally (whether in a pill form or as a drop in a beverage) or in the form of leafy green vegetables.

Dr. Landsmen recommends using tannic acid, which is a plant polyphenol, as an astringent, as it has anti-bacterial properties.

Have a purse-size deodorant or baby powder handy

Stay prepared! While you should always have an extra pair of socks handy in case your feet need a little refresher, it never hurts to carry around a discrete, purse-sized deodorant, antiperspirant stick, or powder as well. This way, you can reapply when needed. “Don’t underestimate the power or talcum and baby powder,” says Dr. Levine. “Sprinkle some on your feet and in your shoes to absorb the excess moisture and prevent odor.”