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Causes of Really Bad Foot Odor

author image Charis Grey
For 15 years, Charis Grey's award-winning work has appeared in film, television, newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. She has worked as a story editor on the CBS drama "Flashpoint" and her work appears bimonthly in "The Driver Magazine." She has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a doctorate in chiropractic medicine from Palmer College.
Causes of Really Bad Foot Odor
Clean, dry feet are less likely to stink.

In most cases, foot odor is the result of a relatively benign condition that can easily be remedied. However, sometimes a doctor must intervene in order to properly diagnose the cause of a persistent odor. Once the doctor has identified the source, he can advise the patient on the proper course of action to eradicate the problem.

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Micrococcus sedentarius bacteria in a person's sneakers causes foot odor.
Micrococcus sedentarius bacteria in a person's sneakers causes foot odor.

KidsHealth blames bacteria for the reek from a person's feet after he has removed his shoes. Apparently, 10 to 15 percent of people endure a particularly nasty form of foot odor due to the presence of micrococcus sedentarius bacteria in their sneakers. This bacteria eats dead skin cells and is attracted to the damp environment of sweaty footwear.

These bacteria produce organic acids and sulfur compounds that smell like rotten eggs. Micrococcus sedentarius that cause smelly feet are a nuisance rather than a health threat. Proper hygiene is key in eradicating the bacteria. Daily foot washing, frequent sock changes and alternating between wearing different pairs of shoes can all help minimize the growth of bacteria on feet.

Fungal Infections

One of the most common sources of foot odor is fungal growth, and as if the stink was not bad enough, fungi can also cause skin on soles to become scaly or cause peeling between the toes. This condition is called athlete's foot or tinea pedis. Athlete's foot spreads from person to person in damp environments such as locker rooms, where the fungi breed and come in contact with bare skin.

Broken skin due to blisters can increase vulnerability to fungal infestation, according to "Fitness Magazine." Fungal infection can be treated with over-the-counter powders.


Excessive sweat can cause a person to isolate herself due to embarrassment.
Excessive sweat can cause a person to isolate herself due to embarrassment.

When sweat glands work overtime, stinky situations can ensue. explains that eccrine glands are sweat glands that exist on most of the surface of the body. The autonomic nervous system responds to increases in body temperature by stimulating the secretion of sweat onto the skin’s surface, thus cooling the body through evaporation.

Some people experience exaggerated sweat responses in their armpits, hands or feet, a condition known as focal hyperhidrosis. Body odor of the feet and armpits can result from hyperhidrosis.

For some people, hyperhidrosis can inspire such extreme feelings of embarrassment that they isolate themselves, thus their social and emotional lives suffer. In certain cases, doctors will recommend medications to address the symptoms.

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