Sweaty Feet

Sweaty feet affect everybody at some time of their lives. The complaint can be seasonal -worse in the warmer months – but can be present at any time of year. The medical term is hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat production) and if there is an accompanying bad odour, it is called bromidrosis.

There are many causes. The most common is poor foot hygiene associated with footwear with a high synthetic material content. Socks, stockings or tights made of nylon also cause the feet to sweat excessively. In teenage years glandular changes are a frequent cause amongst males and is made worse by poor hygiene and footwear. Occasionally, there is a systemic problem which shows in increased sweating of the hands and other body parts. Whenever we exercise, we develop sweaty feet, which is is quite normal, but it does lead to the smelly foot and shoe syndrome.

An excessively sweaty foot is susceptable to the development of fungal infections and because it is important to differentiate between sweating and fungal infections, I’ll write in detail about fungal infections in the future.

Treating sweaty feet needs patience and perserverence. Daily washing with soap and water is essential. Then dry feet thoroughly. Try to avoid wearing shoes with synthetic uppers and soles. Make sure your socks contain high percentages of cotton or wool. Read the labels to see what the socks are made of. Try using an anti-perspirant under the arches of your feet. There are some products advertised specifically for this application. Podiatrists usually recommend ‘Spiritus Pedibus’ also called Foot Spirit. It contains 3% Salicylic Acid in Ethyl Alcohol. Occasionally a weak solution of Formalin can be prescribed. Obviously any opportunity to have your feet bare in fresh air will help. So wear sandals whenever possible. However, beware of plastic and synthetics, go for leather if you can. If the condition is really severe, a change of socks may be necessary during the day.

There is a surgical procedure called a sympathetomy – which must be performed by a specialist surgeon – for very severe sweating of the hands and feet.

Smelly feet are usually caused by the bacteria which live on our feet normally, not being washed off thoroughly. They can of course be caused by the materials themselves, especially some rubbers. Washing and drying is a good start followed by any of the above treatments. Naturally if you favourite trainers make your feet smell, but your normal shoes don’t, you have a hard choice to make!

Powder is often used for sweaty feet, but be careful since it tends to solidify between the toes.

Sweaty feet are a common complaint and they can be embarassing. However, treatment is often very simple, starting with an intensive foot hygiene routine.


Andrew has taught at the University as well as providing podiatry services in South Africa since 1977. Twice chair of the Podiatry Association of South Africa and a commentator on care of your feet on both radio and television he now works in private practice in Cape Town and Hout Bay.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Charmain de Kock - January 21, 2009 Reply

Good day.

Could you please mail me more info on why it is important to wear socks with you safety shoes.


Craig - March 1, 2010 Reply

Had this problem of smelly feet and shoes and sweating feet
Bought a pair of fresh feet shoe insoles and it works like a charm in 2 days even the shoes dont smell
Keeps the feet dry too a bargain at R69

    Andrew - May 9, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Craig,
    Where can people buy these insoles?


Craig - May 10, 2010 Reply

Richard 0824171880
e-mail freshfeet@yebo.co.za

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