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Stinky feet? Grab the odor-eaters, not the knife

To prevent fetid feet, wash them with anti-bacterial soap and always wear clean, absorbent socks.
To prevent fetid feet, wash them with anti-bacterial soap and always wear clean, absorbent socks.Getty Images

Nobody likes to be told their feet stink. In fact, an 18-year-old Washington woman recently stabbed a man for saying as much when she took off her shoes at a party. The man suffered a punctured lung but is expected to recover. The woman was charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. That's certainly an over-the-top response to being teased about your smelly feet. But why, exactly, do our tootsies sometimes smell worse than old potatoes? And is there anything we can do about it? According to Brooklyn podiatrist Dr. Howard Dinowitz, the feet contain a disproportionate amount of sweat glands -- about 250,000 -- and “when you have that many sweat glands, things are bound to happen.” Sweating alone doesn’t cause a bad smell, though. It’s the bacteria on our skin that eats the sweat -- bacteria that thrive in the warm, damp, dark environment found within our socks and shoes. Then there’s funk caused by fungus. “Funguses are known to breed heavily in shoes or materials that don’t breathe,” says Dinowitz. “Ultimately, it’s the fungal germ cells that really do smell. If you ever take a whiff of a bad fungus infection, it’s horrible.” Luckily, there are plenty of things we can do that don’t involve flying into a knife-wielding rage when someone complains about our reeking feet. To reduce bacteria, wash your feet with antibacterial soap and always wear clean, absorbent socks. Alternate shoes, too, allowing them to “air out” between wearings. To reduce the sweat, change your socks often, buy odor-eating shoe inserts and use antiperspirant on your feet. Antifungal powder sprinkled into your shoes can also help, says Dinowitz. One last thing -- if you're suffering from toxic sock syndrome, see a doctor, particularly if you’re sensitive about it. You may have a condition called bromhidrosis, or excessive body odor, which can be helped by washing with antibacterial creams or taking oral medications. Have you ever run into anyone with particularly smelly feet? Or do you have embarrassingly stinky feet? Now's your chance to confess. To read more Body Odd posts, click here. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook.