Are your feet the number one culprit behind air pollution in the backcountry? What makes feet stink in the first place?
Stinky feet are said to be much worse than unwashed skunks. They might also be the cause of nasty comments coming from your tent mates.
After all, who wants to sleep next to someone with stinky feet?
What Cause Smelly Feet?
In the medical field, this condition is called Bromhidrosis, and for those who are suffering from it, they have probably gotten use to jokes about road kill in their boots and sewer feet. And when bedtime is approaching, you surely feel dread creeping in that you can’t but wonder how you got feet that rank when you are a well groomed and healthy person.
Well, don’t worry because you are definitely not alone. Around 38 million adult individuals in the US alone are anxious about that annoying stench coming out from their footwear. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to go hiking by yourself. According to foot experts, there are numerous ways to determine the true culprit behind this smell, but what is important is to prevent this situation from turning into a possibly risky and serious skin conditions.
Experts say that foot odor can be considered as quite normal. The smell often comes from decomposition of bacteria, and doesn’t cause any problems aside from social ones.
The breakdown of bacteria is being nurtured by excessive moisture sweat that the feet release. A human being has sweat glands of around 250,000 in each foot ore than other parts of your body, making it a miracle that the shoes you wear are not getting filled with sweat after your long hike. On the average non hiking day, every foot pours out just enough fluid for filling your average coffee cup. This sweat then combines with the microscopic forms of life that reside inside your boots, which then results to stinky feet.
Even though some people have it in their genes to suffer from Bromhidrosis, this gets worse if your footwear is made of plastic or too tight, as these two can intensify sweating due to limited breathability. However, feet confined inside any type of boots when you go on an intensive hike in the wilderness are the major habitat for growth of bacteria.
How to Get Rid of Smelly Feet?
The great news is that most foot odor could be easily eliminated through making sure that your feet are dry and clean. Below are some tips you can try:
- Clean your feet every day even if you are in the wilderness using soapy and warm water. After that, dry both feet thoroughly. Never forget those spaces between the toes as these areas can harbor a thousand more bacteria compared to other parts of your body.
- Use synthetic liner socks that are made from materials such as polypropylene which can wick the moisture from the skin and to thicker outer socks. There are some feet that can transform your synthetic socks to a stink factory. In case this is your problem, you might want to wear a pair of clean and fresh linens daily or you can wash then dry them every day.
- You can take a mid-hike break every day so that you can dry and clean your feet then put on a new pair of clean socks.
How to Prevent Sweaty Feet?
There are a lot of over the counter items you can purchase today that can help improve your camp’s atmosphere. If you are a walking sweat machine, you can apply some antiperspirant before wearing your socks.
There are deodorant sprays available in the market that can work really well. If you want to shake instead of spray, there are also foot powders you can buy from drugstores which can absorb excess moisture and help nip the bacterial bud behind your foot odor.
For additional cushioning underfoot and odor control, there are also insoles which have been treated with antimicrobial agent which can inhibit stench.
While it can be a bit impractical while you are on the trail, you can also prepare your very own odor killing concoction through adding 10 drops of lemon oil to two ounces of water. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Use this brew for washing your feet thoroughly.
It has also been proven effective to soak your feet in tea because tea’s tannic acid content is an excellent odor eliminator. Just boil several bags of tea in a pint of water for around 15 minutes. Add this brew to two quarts of cool water. You can soak your feet here for 30 minutes. Vinegar is also great ingredient where you can soak your feet to keep away the stink since its acidic qualities can kill bacteria.
When your feet continue to stink in spite of all your efforts to curb the stench, or if they feel itchy, there’s a chance that you are facing a more serious issue. Persistent smell is often the result of a fungal growth like athlete’s foot that can cause an infection when left untreated.
What Is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot fungus can thrive on sweaty and hot skin, and nothing can make your skin become sweatier and hotter than inside your hiking boots. The locker room’s floor is among the most common places for acquiring such a very contagious fungus, but you can also pick this up from the soil outside the tent.
How to Treat Athlete’s Foot?
If you have athlete’s foot, there are a few recommended ways on how to address it before it turns worse:
- Start with the treatment as soon as the initial symptoms and signs appear.
- Keep your feet as dry and clean as possible. This is the most ideal treatment option if you are on the trail.
- Apply over the counter lotion, spray, or cream two times a day.
- Expose your feet briefly to direct sunlight daily to curtail growth of fungi.
Knowing what makes feet stink is as equally important as knowing the right treatment for it.
Spare yourself from the stinky feet jokes and have a happier hiking experience.