Sweat is a normal by-product for all people, young and old. But for many it becomes a problem when their feet smell bad. One factor: wrong shoes. FOCUS online guest author and star dermatologist Yael Adler explains what you need to consider.
In which American comedy was it again: The plane has finally taken off, the main hero secretly takes off his shoes very relaxed – whereupon the ceiling flaps open above all passengers and breathing masks whiz down.
Exaggeration is known to increase clarity. The fact that we now and then, in more serious cases permanently, live on wet feet has nothing to do with a lack of personal hygiene: foot sweat served our ancestors as a natural anti-slip coating of the barefoot sole. If you were on the run and running for your life somewhere, your body would increase sweat production. The damp film on the bare sole ensured what today’s stopper socks, profiled soles or spikes provide: reliable traction. With stockings, shoes and boots, the foot sweat lost its survival function, and the now covered foot became a party location for the most adventurous odor pathogens.
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Isovaleric acid is the name of one of the very characteristic scents that is created when Staphylococcus epidermis, a completely odorless skin inhabitant, breaks down the amino acid leucine in sweat: The result is an intense cheese smell that reminds us of the Tilsiter in the fridge at home. Men excrete significantly more leucine than women. Larger people also have a higher sweat production than smaller ones. But other bacteria also ensure unforgettable scent experiences between sour and foul. In the case of strong foot odor, Bacillus subtilus regularly greets you, although its olfactory effect is anything but subtle.
Yael Adler is a dermatologist and bestselling author. She has completed additional training in phlebology (vein medicine) and nutritional medicine. Her specialty: The influence of nutrition and psyche on the skin.
Unfortunately, trendy and stylish shoe fashion doesn’t make it easy for us either. Sneakers, for example, are an oasis of well-being for cheese feet, but elegant, narrow-cut leather slippers can also help: they make your feet slim when your toes are slightly pressed together. Then the foot sweat collects aromatically in the spaces between the toes. The dark, damp and salty cracks also invite bacteria of the genus Brevibacterium epidermis, whose relative Brevibacterium linens is often used to make Limburg cheese. It stays in the family.
All about our largest organ – Yael Adler
When our ancestors equipped themselves with the first shoes, the feet were still ventilated. A good reason for us today to leave off the socks when wearing leather sandals: we avoid a common fashion faux pas and also ensure air under the sole. If temperatures and soil conditions allow it, walking barefoot is good – even in the apartment. If foot odor is not a hygiene deficit, but nevertheless becomes a social problem, wearing shoe inserts with cedar wood, cinnamon or activated charcoal is recommended.
Foot baths made from a decoction of oak bark and sage are also recommended. Incidentally, sage is also suitable for internal use, for example as a tea. Natural essential oils such as citral, citronellol or geraniol inhibit the formation of the notorious isovaleric acid. Or medically for excessive foot sweating – foot baths in pools with a weak current flowing through them, the so-called “tap water iontophoresis” on prescription. Botox injections into the skin of the feet can also help. Anyone who washes feet should use soap-free washing substances with a pH value of 5 and not use alkaline soap. Because a good protective acid layer helps keep your feet smelling good.
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By the way, your partner can also help: If he or she has fragrant feet, foot pads, i.e. regular skin contact, can certainly help to capture something of their skin microbiome.
Put a dry sole on the floor and get through the time healthy!