Noticeably unpleasant foot odor is an unfortunate reality for thousands of people. While it’s natural for your feet to stink after hitting the gym or going for a long hike, in most cases a quick shower or foot bath will fix the problem, leaving your feet as good as new. For some people, though, foot odor persists no matter how much they scrub their feet and wash their socks.
If you’re experiencing foot odor that seems like it won’t go away no matter what you do, it’s natural to despair that your feet will stink forever. But there are actually a wide variety of natural treatments that can help get rid of your foot odor and keep it away forever. One of the most common types of remedies used by sufferers of stinky feet is essential oils. These oils are distilled from common plants and herbs and can help to refresh your feet and keep the causes of foot odor away. In this guide, we’ll discover the wonders of essential oils as a foot odor remedy and also explore other effective natural treatments that can help to keep your feet fresh and odor-free.
What Is Foot Odor?
Foot odor is a common condition in which your feet let off a powerful odor as soon as you remove them from your shoes. This condition can be embarrassing and can lead to social anxiety. Many sufferers of foot odor elect to keep their shoes on at all times in order to hide their foot odor, but this well-intentioned effort only exacerbates the condition.
While some degree of foot odor is a natural and expected consequence of wearing shoes, if your feet can be smelled from across the room then you probably have an issue with foot odor that needs immediate attention. Contrary to popular belief, foot odor isn’t always caused by bad hygiene and sometimes even the cleanest and most fastidious people can develop foot odor. If you find yourself plagued with stinky feet that won’t go away, it’s important to understand the causes of foot odor in order to effectively combat this condition.
Causes of Foot Odor
According to the National Health Services (NHS), smelly feet are caused by perspiration that collects in your socks or shoes. This wet, humid environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which emit a powerful odor after they’ve had some time to get brewing. Some of us have no choice but to be on our feet all day, but sustained time spent standing can lead to increased foot perspiration and therefore increased foot odor.
Your feet also sweat more when you’re under stress, so keeping a cool head can actually help you have fresher feet. Foot odor is also sometimes fueled by a condition called hyperhidrosis, which causes you to sweat more than the normal amount. The dark and damp conditions caused by closed-toe shoes can also lead to more serious conditions like athletes foot, which is a fungal infection that can lead severe irritation and broken skin.
In general, foot odor is caused by spending a lot of time in closed toed shoes and then putting your shoes on again before they’ve had proper time to air out and fully dry. One way to combat foot odor is to try to control the amount which you sweat in your shoes and to make sure that your shoes dry completely after your feet have sweated into them. But if these simple behavioral changes don’t seem to do the trick, there are a variety of ways that you can use essential oils to help combat chronic foot odor.
How to Treat Foot Odor with Essential Oils
According to The Miracle of Essential Oils, an essential oil provider and blog, there are three common ways that people prepare essential oils to treat foot odor. While you could always take the straightforward approach and simply apply essential oils directly to your feet, these three options represent slightly more sophisticated methods for applying essential oils that may end up being more effective in the long run.
1. Baking Soda Foot Powder
Baking soda is an excellent carrier for essential oils. One method for removing odor from both your shoes and your feet involves acquiring a cheese shaker (think: parmesan cheese dispensers at pizza restaurants) and filling it with baking soda. Then, add about ten drops of each of the essential oils that you want to use to the baking soda. Mix the essential oils into the baking soda thoroughly and then shake the mixture into your shoes. You can also shake the essential oil-infused baking soda directly onto your feet to help them dry out and absorb the deodorizing power of essential oils. Before you step out the door in the morning, make sure to shake all of the baking soda out of your shoes.
2. Foot Soaks
Soaking your feet is one of the best ways to improve your overall foot health and beat foot odor once and for all. If you have a foot bath, all the better, but this method can also be used in a traditional bathtub. Simply fill the bath with enough water to cover your feet and add around ten drops of each of your favorite essential oils to the water. You can also add other home remedies like apple cider vinegar and Epsom salt which we’ll discuss later. In a full-size bath, you may want to add more than ten drops of each essential oil. Mix up the water thoroughly and sink your feet beneath the waves. Keep your feet submerged for about 15 minutes and repeat this process 3 times a week until your foot odor has gone away.
3. Shoe Spray
If you don’t like the idea of shaking powder into your shoes, you can also concoct a simple and effective shoe spray. In order to pursue this option, you’ll need to equip yourself with a glass spray bottle and some rubbing alcohol along with the essential oils that you want to use. Having a funnel on hand for the alcohol transfer is also recommended.
Open the top of your spray bottle and transfer the rubbing alcohol into the bottle. Higher-percentage rubbing alcohol is better, but even vodka will do fine. Then, add 10 drops each of your favorite essential oils and screw the top of the spray bottle back into place. Shake the bottle thoroughly and spray the mixture into the inside of your shoes. Alcohol evaporates quickly while also killing the bacteria on the inside of your shoes. You can even apply the spray directly to your feet, though isopropyl alcohol can be toxic in large quantities.
When it comes to finding ways to treat your feet with essential oils, don’t be afraid to get creative. There’s no right or wrong way to apply essential oils to your feet just so long as the oils have the proper amount of time to absorb and do their vital work.
Top Essential Oils for Treating Foot Odor
There are a few essential oils that truly stand out when it comes to combating foot odor. All of these oils have unique attributes that each provide a powerful boost when you’re trying to solve the problem of foot odor once and for all. Each of these oils can be used on their own or combined together for a truly comprehensive approach to foot odor elimination.
1. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil has been shown to have antimicrobial and antibacterial attributes. In addition to these benefits, the menthol contained in peppermint oil is also soothing to sore or unhealthy feet. Peppermint oil has a potent aromatherapeutic effect, meaning that applying peppermint oil to your feet or shoes won’t only cancel out your foot odor, but will also spread a soothing and pleasant aroma throughout the room.
Due to its antimicrobial qualities, peppermint oil applied directly to your shoes will immediately start killing off the shoe-infesting bacteria that cause foot odor. Peppermint oil applied directly to the feet will not only soothe your feet and reduce the inflammation associated with conditions like athletes foot, but will also exterminate any bacteria hidden away in the nooks and crannies of your feet and toes.
Care should be taken when applying peppermint oil directly to your feet. Studies have shown that, in high doses, peppermint oil can be toxic. Essential oils are always meant to be used sparingly, and this rule certainly applies to peppermint oil as well. When applying this oil to your feet, make sure to only use 2-3 drops and spread them out evenly. When adding peppermint oil to mixtures, use about 10 drops.
2. Eucalyptus Oil
Originally native to Australia, the eucalyptus tree has spread across the world and is now common in a variety of countries. Eucalyptus oil has been marketed for decades as an antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic, and anesthetic substance. Recent studies have corroborated the claims made about the health benefits of topically applied eucalyptus oil.
In one study, the effects on Eucalyptus oil on two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), were carefully observed. It was found that eucalyptus oil killed off these types of bacteria with ease, implying that this essential oil may be effective against other types of bacteria as well.
Eucalyptus oil is an effective treatment for foot odor an athlete’s foot on its own and can also be combined with other oils in order to cover all your bases. This oil is commonly sprayed on the inside of shoes and applied directly to the affected skin. Just made sure to never orally ingest eucalyptus oil since the Poison Control Center has found that eating eucalyptus oil is toxic and can cause seizures.
3. Lavender Oil
Soothing and sweet, the aroma of lavender oil is pleasant enough to put you in a mild trance. But lavender oil isn’t just a sweet smell; one study found that lavender oil has potent antibacterial and even antiviral effects. Lavender oil is a confirmed favorite among essential oil lovers, and those that suffer from foot odor will be happy to hear that this pleasant oil can also kill the bacteria associated with foot odor.
Lavender oil is also known as one of the milder essential oils. It’s generally safe to apply lavender oil directly to the skin, but this essential oil can be drying in large amounts. Even better; add about ten drops of lavender oil to a foot bath and soak in the relaxing fragrance and antibacterial potency.
4. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil has been scientifically demonstrated to be incredibly effective against various forms of bacteria. To make things even better, lemon oil also has a pleasant and distinctive scent that is invigorating and refreshing. Add lemon oil to the essential oil concoction that you’re working on to enjoy the unique benefits of this often-overlooked essential oil or use it on its own to stem the tide of stinky bacteria and impart a pleasant smell on your shoes and feet.
Lemon oil is generally considered safe for topical use though it shouldn’t be ingested orally. If you’re planning to apply lemon oil topically, stick to a single drop applied to a small area of the skin at first to make sure that you have a positive reaction.
5. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been found to be a powerfully effective antimicrobial substance. Used for thousands of years by the Aborigines of Australia, this oil is derived from the iconic tea tree which dots Austalia’s coasts and forests. The trees themselves give off a potent and distinctive odor and the oil derived melaleuca alternifolia smells strong enough to knock you off your feet if you aren’t careful.
Since foot odor is mainly caused by bacteria that infest your shoes and sticks on your feet, the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil make this substance an obvious pick when it comes to foot odor remedies. Tea tree oil has also been shown to have incredible antifungal properties, making it an effective treatment for athletes foot as well. In essence, no matter what the underlying reason for your foot odor may be, tea tree oil is capable of mitigating the symptoms of smelly feet and may keep foot odor away permanently.
The one downside of tea tree oil is that it can dry out your skin if you’re not careful. Tea tree oil is a relatively abrasive substance that should definitely be used sparingly if applied directly to your skin. It’s usually best to dilute tea tree oil with water before applying it to your feet.
Other Natural Remedies for Treating Foot Odor
Beyond essential oils, there are plenty of other ways to combat the bacterial and fungal conditions that cause foot odor. All of the following natural remedies can be combined with any of the essential oils that we’ve discussed to add even more power to your odor-fighting punch.
1. Epsom Salt
Dr. Rowland from the Cleveland Clinic recommends using Epsom salt to beat the foot odor blues. Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, has a variety of other beneficial attributes that make it a no-brainer if you’re looking for additional ways to improve your foot health.
To give your feet an Epsom salt bath, Dr. Rowland recommends that you fill a large bowl or tub with warm water and then let half a cup of Epsom salt dissolve into the water. Place your feet under the waves for about 15 minutes for maximum effect. Epsom salt soothes skin and muscles, reducing pain and inflammation and also removes excess moisture from your feet, making it harder for bacteria to grow.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Another common remedy that Dr. Rowland recommends is an apple cider vinegar soak. Apple cider vinegar is a known astringent that helps with skin health and also alters the pH of your skin, making it a less inviting place for bacteria to set up camp.
Add one part apple cider vinegar to two parts water and soak your feet for about 20 minutes. Apple cider vinegar can also be combined with essential oils, but make sure that you don’t use this natural substance if you have any broken skin on your feet since apple cider vinegar can sting when applied to cuts and scrapes.
Dealing with foot odor can be a very discouraging experience. No matter what you do, every time you put on your shoes it seems like the problem gets worse. But with the right medley of essential oils and other treatments, foot odor loses its power to get you down. Using essential oils to treat foot odor is safe, easy, and cost-effective. One of the best parts of using this natural treatment is that essential oils just plain smell good. Applying these pleasant remedies to your feet and shoes will never be a chore since they give off such a pleasant aroma. If you have chronic foot odor, essential oils might be the cure you’re looking for.