The Cause in Layman's Term
Let me get you straight to the point, the root cause of stinky feet is SWEAT. But, the process is not that straightforward. Foot sweat doesn't have much smell. Where does the smell come from then?
So the process goes like this...
Sweat provides a conducive environment to breed bacteria. When your feet sweat, bacteria will start to grow. These bacteria will try to decompose the sweat and thus producing a bad-smelling by-product which is the source of the smell.
Interestingly, our feet have around 250,000 sweat glands, the highest amount of sweat glands per inch than any other parts of our body. Therefore, our feet tend to sweat more compare to other parts. In addition, wearing covered shoes for a long period of time can trap these sweat and allow the bacteria to grow even more. That's why foot odor is usually more of a problem than body odor.
Other than sweat, things like dirt, moisture and dead skin cells on your feet also help the bacteria to breed and grow. More bacteria means more decomposition of sweat and therefore more smelly by-product.
To explain why some people tend to have more severe foot odor than others, this can be due to overactive sweat glands and genetics. Some people simply just perspire more than others. I'm one of them. Over the years, I know I perspire more than many of my friends. But I also have friends that perspire a lot more than me. This cannot blame anyone except your genes.
The flow chart below shows the whole process of how the smell comes from:
Why Sweat is Essential?
Since sweat is the main "culprit" for stinky feet, then why are there so many sweat glands on our feet?
There's a reason for this. Ironically, these sweat glands are there to keep our feet moist. They act as a thermostat to regulate the temperature of our body.
Why our body "allocates" more sweat glands to our feet is because...
People in the past did not have shoes. They walked on bare feet. When there's sun, the ground temperature is usually very high. Since their feet had to get in contact with the hot ground frequently, that's why there were more sweat glands on their feet to regulate the feet temperature.
(This is just a rumor. There's no real evidence explaining why there are more sweat glands on our feet.)
Who Are More Prone To Stinky Feet?
Stinky feet can literally happen to anyone. But the following list of people are more prone to it because they have the tendency to sweat more:
- Pregnant woman
- People with Heart Disease
- People with Diabetes
- People suffering from Stress
These people tend to sweat more due to hormonal changes and body conditions.
Other Possible Causes of Stinky Feet
The other two causes of stinky feet are:
When you have the problem of stinky feet, make sure you check your feet properly whether there are cut and wound on the skin or in between your toes, or if there's any increased redness or swelling on your feet. This is to check if you are suffering from any of the above infection. These infection of the skin or soft tissue can actually produce terrible odor.