Say Goodbye to Foot Odor

By Rebecca Reynolds / September 21, 2011

Dear Overcome,

I am here for you, and trust me, I understand. My boyfriend is a fitness expert and wears his running shoes all the time. Add to that three lovely and active daughters and you get piles of used shoes. Let’s talk about what causes the smell. Simply put: bacteria. When your body sweats to cool itself, you not only lose water, but proteins and fats. The moisture, proteins and fats, combined with a low to no light environment breed bacteria.

Not so simple are the methods to combat bacteria. It’s not just your body sweating that makes for the smelly cocktail, there are many layers to this issue. We’ve touched on the first, but let’s peel back the second layer. Your body’s overall condition, or your health, determines body odor. Studies show that body odor is actually a sign of toxicity. This may be an indication of liver or intestinal congestion, or dietary imbalances resulting in constipation. When elimination is not sufficient, your body is holding on to toxins, and those toxins find a way out, one way or another. Deficiency of magnesium and zinc may be other causes of body odor. Another culprit is anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria flourish when your body doesn’t have enough oxygen. As the body’s metabolism goes to work, it gives off odors that are the body’s way of ridding itself of waste products. Any imbalances to metabolism will result in stronger odors.

A third layer is cleanliness. Most of us have one pair of running or gym shoes that we wear every day. This does not allow for much breathing room, or time for your shoes to air out. As stated earlier, the day in and day out moisture collection is one of the key issues related to bacteria. Let’s not forget your socks. Do you change your socks daily, even twice a day? If you wear the same socks all day, or even re-use the socks you wore yesterday, you contribute to the bacteria pool.

Then there is the actual maintenance of your feet. Washing, drying, powdering regularly are necessary care measures that many leave unattended, yet have a serious impact on your overall cleanliness, and by that I mean “stink factor.” If the only true washing that your feet experience is standing in the small amount of soapy water that falls off your body while showering, chances are you are leaving behind bacteria.

Now that we understand the layers involved, what are the steps to correct them?

• To improve your inner system, consider moving to a plant-based diet, such as vegetarian, vegan, raw food or reducing animal protein. This is very cleansing to your system.

• Drink plenty of pure water. The average person loses 2.4 liters of water a day, based on normal activity. Depending on your physical exertion you will need to add accordingly.

• Supplementing with chlorophyll, magnesium, vitamin B (multi), and zinc has been shown to balance the body’s metabolism, reducing perspiration.

• Get plenty of sleep. Your body detoxifies at night. The more detox time you have, the better. Personal care, beyond diet, is extremely necessary for the reduction of odor causing bacteria. Consider following these steps:

• Wash feet daily with a mild, organic soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap. The essential oil of peppermint is a natural odor remover, and also lifts the spirits.

• Dry your feet thoroughly. Don’t forget in between and under the toes, too.

• Powder you feet with corn starch, or corn starch with essential oils of tea tree, lemon, and rosemary, which are all shown to be anti-bacterial.

• Wear only natural fiber, natural-dyed socks that allow your feet to breathe. Consider changing your socks mid-day for extra protection.

• Alternate shoes. Purchasing two pairs of running/workout shoes is important not only for reducing odors, but is healthier for your feet in general.

• Place shoes outside in full sun and allow to air out daily. The sun is our most natural odor eliminator, and it’s free, too!

• Soak your feet each evening in a 50/50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and water for 15 to 20 minutes. Vinegar has antibacterial qualities, and is a great odor preventer.

• Use bauxite crystal deodorant (found in most health stores) rolled on the bottoms of your feet to help reduce bacteria.

Caring for footwear is important, too. Truthfully, good cleanliness can also extend the life of your footwear. Most shoes can be hand washed with a mild soap and water solution. If you choose machine washing, it is best to place your shoes in an old pillowcase, wash in cold water with mild soap on the delicate cycle. Machine washing is not recommended on most shoe labels, but I have seen great results with my own experimentation process. Use caution though, every shoe is different, so proceed at your own risk.

Whichever method of washing you choose, make sure you thoroughly dry your shoes in the sun or in a warm, open air location.

Between washing you can try good old-fashioned baking soda as a moisture and odor absorber. Just fill the dry shoe with baking soda and leave over night. In the morning, and before wearing, dispose of the baking soda in the garbage. An alternative, and somewhat less messy method is using Aquarium charcoal, placed in a used nylon, then put in the shoe and leave overnight to absorb odors. Just remember to remove before wearing.

If you follow the steps above there will be no need for a gas mask. In fact, you may even feel like doing laundry again-—maybe.

Breathe easy,

Ms. Green Clean

If you have a question for Rebecca Reynolds, a.k.a. Ms. Green Clean, contact her at

Otherwise known as Ms. Green Clean, Rebecca writes the “Green Clean Advice” column for Organic Spa Magazine. She is based in Rocky River, Ohio.

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds is a holistic practitioner who helps people become truly well by working with them as a whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Rebecca is the founder of green clean (, a certified health coach, Thai massage practitioner, and raw food educator.
Rebecca Reynolds

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