It’s not unusual for your feet to develop an unpleasant odor after walking for extended periods of time. But why does this happen? The main culprits behind smelly feet after walking are sweat, bacteria, and fungal infections.
When your feet sweat, that sweat creates the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to multiply quickly. The dark, warm, and moist conditions inside your shoes when you walk provide ideal conditions for these microbes to thrive.
As bacteria rapidly multiply, they begin breaking down the sweat into acids, producing the telltale foul smell. Fungi also release smelly byproducts. So the longer you walk and sweat without changing your socks or shoes, the more these microbes can grow and make your feet stink.
There are a few key reasons why sweaty, smelly feet tend to develop specifically after lengthy walks:
Friction and Heat Build-Up
The constant friction of your feet rubbing against the inside of your shoes generates more heat, sweating, and moisture. Tight-fitting and non-breathable shoes that cause excessive friction and heat turn your shoes into the perfect fungal and bacterial breeding ground.
More Sweat Production
Long walks inevitably involve more sweat production than ordinary daily activity or short walks. The average person can sweat around half a pint from their feet daily. When you walk extensively, the amount of sweat your feet release increases. More sweat equals more food for microbes to feed on.
Trapped Moisture and Heat
Even after you finish walking, your warm feet trapped inside enclosed shoes are still sweating and providing ideal conditions for bacteria and fungi to flourish before those microbes die off. This allows them to break down sweat residues from your long walk into smelly substances that then permeate your shoes and socks.
Dead Skin Cell Build-up
When you walk for miles at a time, more dead skin cells can slough off your feet inside your shoes and socks. Bacteria and fungi use proteins from these dead skin cells as nutrients, releasing malodorous metabolic waste byproducts.
In particular, a type of bacteria called Bacillus thrive on dead skin cells and are a major contributor to the unpleasant smell from walker’s feet. A fungus called dermatophyte also consumes keratin protein from dead skin, which can make feet more smelly.
How To Keep Your Feet From Smelling After Long Walks
Now that you know why your feet are prone to developing an odor after logging serious mileage on them, here are some useful methods you can employ to combat stinky feet:
- Wear moisture-wicking socks – These pull sweat away from your feet to keep them drier. Change into a fresh pair after long walks.
- Use antibacterial foot powder – Sprinkle it inside your shoes and socks to help neutralize odor and kill bacteria.
- Apply antiperspirant spray – Applying an over-the-counter product containing aluminum chloride can reduce sweat.
- Let your shoes completely dry out after walking before wearing them again. Alternate pairs between wears.
- Use UV shoe sanitizers – These handy devices kill bacteria and fungi that cause smells with UV-C light.
- Soak feet in black, white tea, or sage tea bath – The tannins in these teas help combat fungus and bacteria responsible for foot odor.
- Practice good foot hygiene – Wash feet daily, dry carefully between the toes, exfoliate dead skin cells, and trim nails.
- See a podiatrist – If excessive foot sweating and odor persists despite prevention efforts, you may need prescription-strength treatments.
The bacteria, fungi, and excess sweat that accompany walking long distances inevitably cause some foot odor, even for the most fastidiously clean people. But diligently employing these smelly feet remedies can help you enjoy your walks odor-free. Your nose will thank you!