Eliminate Stinky Runner’s Feet – What Causes Foot Odor and How Can I Treat It?

Everyone experiences foot odor at one time or another. Especially if you’re a runner. Whether you’re an experienced runner, new to running, or just like to run for fun, you’re bound to struggle with foot odor. In the article, we will explore what causes foot odor, foot odor symptoms, and how to treat it.

The Cause of Foot Odor in Runners

Foot odor can be very embarrassing. If you’re experiencing smelly feet, you’re not alone. Foot odor is a common problem for both adults and children. It is caused by sweaty feet, bacteria, and fungus. Fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. This smelly fungus is most commonly known as athlete’s foot.

foot odor in runners

People who wear poorly ventilated shoes, synthetic or non-leather boots, or non-wicking socks made of polyester or nylon may be more likely to have persistent foot odor. Some people tend to sweat more than others or have a genetic predisposition to excessive sweating. Women and teens tend to be more susceptible to foot odor. This is a result of changing hormones. Unfortunately, with this predisposition, you can experience foot odor year-round.

Related Article: Running on the Edge: Understanding and Treating Tendinopathies of the Foot and Ankle

Some factors that may cause foot odor include poor hygiene, wearing the same pair of shoes every day and not replacing them frequently enough, and different diseases. Also, large amounts of stress and being on your feet for an extended period of time can contribute to foot odor.

Related Article: Why You Need to Rotate Your Shoes

Symptoms of Foot Odor in Runners

Foot odor is a common problem. It is especially a problem for those who sweat excessively and wear shoes all day long. There are several foot odor symptoms. This includes sweating, skin conditions, hyperhidrosis, and diabetes. Make sure to reach out for help if you are unsure of the cause.

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    Our feet have about 250,000 sweat glands. Sweat and bacteria combine and give rise to foot odor. When the feet are trapped in closed shoes and socks the whole day, bromodosis (smelly feet) gets worse.

    Skin Conditions

    Certain medical conditions, like athlete’s foot, may cause smelly feet. Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that can cause feet to smell sour or similar to a funky cheese. The fungus can create a smelly odor especially if the infection is concentrated between your toes.


    Hyperhidrosis occurs when your sweat glands are overactive, making you sweat heavily even when you aren’t overheating or exercising. This can happen to your whole body, or you might just sweat excessively in one area like your feet.


    People with diabetes could develop a foot ulcer and may not be aware of it. If the ulcer festers, it could cause smelly feet.

    How Can Runners Treat Foot Odor

    If you’re experiencing foot odor, there are several things you can try at home to reduce foot odor before consulting your doctor. However, if your foot odor is disrupting your daily activities or you suddenly begin sweating more than usual, you should talk to your doctor.

    You can try to eliminate foot odor at home by soaking your feet, practicing good hygiene, keeping your feet dry, properly taking care of your footwear, and using foot deodorant sprays and powders.

    Soak Your Feet

    First, soaking your feet is one way to treat noticeable foot odor. This will essentially give your feet a good deep clean. To do this, start by mixing half a cup of Epsom salt in warm water. If you don’t have Epsom salt, you can mix two parts of warm water with one part of white or apple cider vinegar instead.

    My Favorite Foot Soaking Products

    Next, let your feet soak for up to twenty minutes once a week. Epsom salt helps to remove moisture from your skin, so bacteria are less likely to hang around. Vinegar also helps to remove bacteria from your feet. You shouldn’t soak your feet if you have any open wounds or sores.

    Practice Good Foot Hygiene as a Runner

    If you experience foot odor, be sure to wash and scrub your feet every day. You can wash them in the shower or bathe them in a tub of warm water. Always make sure your feet are totally dry, even between your toes.

    Also, keep your toenails clean and trimmed, and file off any dead skin on your feet. This can also help to reduce places where bacteria like to live on your feet.

    Keep Your Feet Dry

    Because bacteria grow in moist areas, keeping your feet dry will reduce foot odor. When you’re at home, give your feet some fresh air by taking off your shoes and socks. Wearing sandals can cut back on foot odor. When you do wear closed-toed shoes, be sure they fit your feet properly. Tight shoes will only contribute to the problem.

    Lastly, if your socks typically get sweaty during the day, carry an extra pair or two with you so that you can change them when your feet start to smell.

    Getting the Smell Out of Your Running Shoes

    To get the odor out of your shoes, give your shoes plenty of time to dry between wears. You can also wash your shoes in the washing machine. Just make sure your shoes are completely dry before wearing them. Use a vinegar mixture or essential oil to treat your shoes for odor.

    Final Thoughts on Stinky Feet in Runners

    Perhaps these simple foot care tips do not work. It is time to see a podiatrist. They will be able to check if you have any underlying skin conditions or health issues that are causing smelly feet. They will also be able to prescribe strong anti-fungal sprays that can help you manage this condition.

    Finally, foot odor doesn’t have to go untreated. There are many home remedies to try. Be sure to take care of your feet on a regular basis. Have good foot hygiene and footwear to avoid nasty foot odor.

    Thank you to the team at Fasi (Foot and Ankle Specialists of Illinois) for contributing this information! If you live in the Algonquin, Huntley, and surrounding areas in Illinois stop by and see either Dr. Hyderi or Dr. Grey for your podiatry needs!


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    All information should be used as a tool for more knowledge on the subject topic, to use as references for later articles where applicable, or just to keep it in mind during future exercise routines or activities.

    This article is not meant to give medical advice or to replace professional health care. Should any ailment occur please contact your doctor or physical therapist immediately to keep yourself safe and prevent further damage.

    The author is not liable for any personal or commercial damage directly or indirectly related to the content hereof. You are responsible for adhering to local laws and regulations regarding health & safety, including proper use of equipment or safety gear, and compliance with governing healthcare associations, and state, and federal regulations.

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