All feet stink

What do acids have to do with foot odor?

When summer temperatures rise and it gets hotter and hotter, there are things that can make summer a torment. A long day at school and then sports, as soon as the shoes are taken off, a suffocating smell spreads throughout the room. Why is that?

What causes foot odor?

Sweat itself does not smell and consists mainly of water. The unpleasant smell only arises when bacteria on the skin add to the sweat. The bacteria break down long-chain fatty acids in the skin's fat and produce, among other things, butyric acid - this is known to have a penetrating and pungent smell. Closed shoes prevent sweat from evaporating and create a real sweat chamber - ideal conditions for bacteria and thus foot odor.

Small overview of the foul-smelling fatty acids

  • Imagine an Emmentaler cheese, the smell of the fatty acid propionic acid, or formally called propanoic acid. It contains only three carbon atoms. It forms during the biological degradation of plant or animal materials, for example in cheese production.
  • The fatty acid with four carbon atoms is called butyric acid or butanoic acid. Butyric acid is formed, for example, when butter goes rancid, hence its name. She smells disgusting of vomit and cheese feet.
  • Another stinking fatty acid is valeric acid or pentanoic acid, which has 5 carbon atoms.
  • And finally, caproic acid or hexanoic acid with 6 carbon atoms smells like goats. Hence its name, the Latin word for goat is capra. Incidentally, it occurs in a small percentage in our milk.

As strange as it may sound: All of these smelly fatty acids are used in making flavors. If you let them react with certain chemical substances, the alkanols, they produce fruity aromas such as pineapple or banana aromas.

And what now helps against foot odor?

A certain amount of sweating is perfectly normal. However, there are a number of things you can do about strong foot sweat or foot odor.

Here are a few tips:

  • You should wash your feet every day. The best way to do this is to use a pH-neutral soap. It is very important to dry your feet well after washing.
  • Special foot deodorant sprays or foot powder can reduce foot odor.
  • If you sweat heavily, you should make sure that the shoes ventilate or dry out in between.
  • Don't wear shoes without socks or stockings. Cotton stockings are better than plastic socks.
  • Shoes should be able to "breathe" or be able to wick away moisture to the outside. Shoes made of leather are therefore more suitable than those made of plastic.
  • Open shoes are ideal for summer because the skin has room to breathe. The sweat can evaporate directly and does not collect in the shoe. And where there is less sweat, there is also less foot odor ...
  • Go barefoot as often as possible so that air can get to your feet.

You can find more information in the article on Help from sweat odor!