“Phooey! Why do my feet smell like vinegar?!”
Vinegar’s pretty great, right? Whether you use vinegar to make mouth-watering salad dressings, clean your bathroom, or even get rid of pesky weeds, there’s no question that this acidic solution deserves a spot in your pantry. What it doesn’t deserve, though, is a spot on your feet.
We can agree that the smell of vinegar is great on a potato chip, but not so much on your body. What are you supposed to do when you’ve got a sour odor spreading from the footwear you took off, your socks, or even your bare feet? What causes your feet to smell like vinegar?
Worry not, we’re bringing you everything you need to know about your funky feet down below!
What causes smelly feet?
Before we tackle the type of smell emitting from your feet, we do need to explain what causes smelly feet in general. Smelly feet happen due to a combination of sweat and bacteria collecting on the skin. So, everything starts with sweat.
When you’re sweating, you create a wet environment that’s perfect for bacteria and fungi to grow. Most people think that sweat smells bad, but that’s not the case.
When bacteria and fungi grow, they’re known to release chemicals that smell bad – in layman’s terms, they pretty much fart! Because your feet possess thousands of sweat glands, they’re more likely to develop a bad odor than any other part of your body.
But even though everyone’s familiar with smelly feet, we get embarrassed when we take our footwear off and notice a cheesy, vinegary odor coming off of them. “Why do my feet smell like vinegar,” you wonder as you put your boots back on and hope none of your friends notice.
Why do my feet smell like vinegar?
Smelly feet are normal, for the most part.
Everybody sweats – and the more you sweat, the smellier your feet become. If you never thought your sweaty feet were something to be concerned about, now you know that this odor is a byproduct of the bacteria consuming your sweat.
Foot sweat is one thing, but foot odor affects the quality of your life and you’re freaking out over the thought that there might be something wrong with you.
More times than not, “vinegary” feet are a result of bacteria breaking down your sweat and producing acid similar to acetic acid (a.k.a. vinegar). Moreover, the smell of your feet can change depending on a myriad of circumstances.
We’ve rounded up a few of the most common circumstances that might explain why your feet smell like vinegar.
1. Because you’re often walking, running, or working out
Turns out that the more you move your body, the more you sweat! Now, you might notice your feet getting more sweaty and smelly than before when you start walking, running, or working out regularly. Not to mention that you might notice you’re sweating more even when you’re resting. Why’s that?
When your body temperature starts rising because you’re moving your body, sipping coffee on a hot summer day, or experiencing hormone shifts, sweat makes sure to keep your body temperature at a comfortable level.
Sweating releases that heat and keeps you cooler for longer. But sweating also supports bacteria and fungi growth, which might be why your sweat smells like vinegar.
2. Because you’re suffering from hyperhidrosis
The question of smelly feet oftentimes is accompanied by “Why do I sweat so much?” as you start to question whether the amount of sweat your body produces is considered normal.
If you’re dealing with these doubts, don’t shy away from consulting with your doctor.
A condition known as hyperhidrosis might be what’s causing your feet to sweat and smell like vinegar. Hyperhidrosis refers to a common condition (much more common than you might think) that causes a person to sweat excessively, either throughout the entire body or certain parts of the body.
Armpits, palms, and feet are the most commonly affected areas.
3. Because you’re dealing with a medical condition in which excessive sweating is a symptom
Where do we even start? You’d be surprised at the number of medical conditions that can come with sweating as a common symptom.
You may be sweating more or your sweat doesn’t smell the same way it used to when you develop conditions such as diabetes, a thyroid condition, nervous system disorders, infections, low blood sugar, and menopause hot flashes.
Because these conditions are treatable, you’re better off contacting your doctor the moment you notice something’s off with your sweat.
4. Because you don’t take care of your feet correctly
We’re aware that not everyone’s got the time for pedicures and pamper sessions – that’s not what we’re talking about. Washing your feet daily, applying over-the-counter foot powders, and taking care of your toenails can make a world of difference. And there’s another thing you’re probably forgetting about.
Wearing tight socks, socks made of synthetic materials, and socks that are too thick for the current weather can destroy your feet. Wrong socks cause sweating. Sweating causes bacteria and fungi growth. Bacteria and fungi create cheesy, vinegary odors that make you want to never take your footwear off.
What can I do to get rid of the vinegar smell on my feet?
1. Wash your feet daily
We know, we know – you already shower daily, do your hygiene, and take care of your body. What more does your body want from you? Welp, there’s a chance that you’re not washing your feet properly when you’re showering.
More times than not, we’re too tired to scrub our feet, wash between our toes, and make sure to get to every curve and crevice. When you’re trying to figure out why your feet smell like vinegar you might need to do all that and more.
When you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you – there’s no question about that.
2. Apply over-the-counter foot powders
Washing your feet should be enough, to be honest with you.
But if the vinegary scent persists, you might need to bring out the big guns. Before you give up on your feet entirely, kick your hygiene up a notch with foot powders created to prevent the very foot odors you’re so desperately trying to get rid of.
Apply them to freshly washed and thoroughly dried feet and you’re good to go. At the end of the day, foot powders are meant to absorb sweat and keep your feet dry for hours and hours to come.
3. Clean your footwear regularly
Sweaty, smelly feet can cause equally smelly footwear – especially when you insist on wearing your favorite pair of Converse sneakers or Blundstone boots no matter the weather.
While swapping your footwear regularly can solve the situation (more on that down below), cleaning your footwear regularly can do the same.
Whether you clean your footwear with warm water and some soap, air it out, or disinfect it with disinfectant spray, you’re guaranteed to notice a change. When you store your footwear the right way, you can get away with cleaning it with wipes and spraying it with a disinfectant spray.
4. Swap your footwear regularly
What do we mean by swapping your footwear regularly? When you’re wearing something over and over again, it’s bound to get sweaty and smelly. Wearing your Converses one day and your Blundstones the other, for example, might give them enough time to air out before you wear them again.
Other than that, bringing an extra pair of socks can save your sweaty feet, too. On the chance that your feet get swampy, change your socks and you’re good to go. With that hack, your feet won’t get sweaty enough to develop the sour odor that makes your stomach turn.
5. Try moisture-wicking socks
Moisture-wicking socks are a thing and here’s why you should get your hands (or should we say feet?) on a pair or two. Synthetic fabrics are a red flag when you’re suffering from hyperhidrosis or swampy feet. Cotton socks and socks made with organic fabrics are great at keeping your feet comfy and dry.
Moisture-wicking socks, however, are better at keeping your feet comfy and dry. They’re designed to keep sweat at bay and to dry quickly even when they do get sweaty. Needless to say, you can wear socks with Converse, too.
6. Fight vinegar with vinegar
Fire with fire, right?
We couldn’t pass on the opportunity to rave about the fact that vinegar, ironically enough, fights off bacteria. When you’re done following our step-by-step guide on how to get rid of the sour odor and you still smell something funky, try rubbing vinegar on your feet.
Combine warm water and vinegar and get ready to soak your feet in the mixture for ten to twenty minutes. When you’re done soaking, pat your feet dry, apply a generous amount of lotion to restore some of that moisture, and see what happens. Good luck!