Expert Q+A

My girlfriend practically passes out whenever I take off my shoes. Is there any way to fix this problem short of wearing my shoes to bed?

ANSWER:

The first thing you need to determine is whether the smell is emanating from your skin, or whether it’s from a chemical reaction occurring between your perspiration and the material in your shoes. Certain types of footwear -- like terry-cloth slippers, which absorb sweat and dead skin cells -- tend to be problematic. If you have this problem with only one pair of shoes or slippers, stop wearing them.

Let’s presume that you wear good foot gear (made of materials that “breathe” and/or are non-synthetic, such as leather) and bathe once a day. If the problem still persists, it may have to do with wearing sweat socks during athletic activity and not showering and changing those wet, sweaty socks afterward. Put on a clean pair of non-absorbent socks after you’ve cleaned up and you should be good to go. If your feet sweat a lot during the day, you may need to change your socks twice.

If these solutions don’t take care of the issue, there are several other strategies you can employ:

  • Use an antiperspirant. Try applying a regular underarm antiperspirant to your feet twice per day -- in the morning before you put on your socks and at night before you go to bed. This eliminates foot odor in half the cases where it has been a persistent issue. If over-the-counter is not strong enough, there are prescription versions you can try.
  • Try homeopathy. Some people find success by soaking their feet in tea-tree oil.
  • Botox it. Botox works by paralyzing the sweat glands. It’s effective but should be  a last resort: It requires at least 150 punctures to the sole of the foot and will last only about six months at a time. It’s also very expensive and not typically covered by insurance.

By and large, foot odor is preventable and treatable. I see very few cases of it in my practice, but when I do, one of these solutions usually does the trick.

About the Expert

Dr. John E. Mancuso

Dr. John E. Mancuso is a private-practice podiatrist and has been with Manhattan Podiatry Associates for nearly 30 years. He specializes in general podiatry, podiatric medicine, foot surgery and rehabilitation, laser surgery and sports medicine.

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