Bloomington / Normal, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Trick or Treat “Smell My Feet”


Well, Summer is officially gone. Sadly, sandals and flip flops have given way to socks, boots, and shoes which are bound to encounter more than a little odor at some point. There can be many causes of odor in your shoes, and, surprisingly, only one of them is your feet! The real source of the odor is actually fungus, bacteria, and/or mold! Yuck!

Everyone has bacteria all over their bodies, and fungus lives everywhere in the environment. There are many, many different kinds of fungus and bacteria, some of them providing a very useful function in the world. Unfortunately, some other types can cause infections, itchy feet, discolored toe nails, or…. smelly shoes.

In colder weather, it’s necessary to protect our feet with shoes and socks. This warm, wet, and dark environment causes feet to sweat, which leads to sweaty socks and sweaty, damp shoes. And if you go out without socks, feet sweat even more, making the problem worse!  The number one reason that bacteria and fungus like to live in our shoes is that they thrive in the dark, damp environment that our shoes provide.

So now you have stinky shoes, and maybe someone else has also noticed. You say to yourself, “Something must be done, but what?” That very question has led to an entire shelf section in the pharmacy devoted to this problem, from deodorizing sprays to powders to disinfectants to inserts for your shoes. Unfortunately, only some of these options might actually work. Many of these products are full of chemicals that do nothing except temporarily mask the smell.

Fortunately, you now know what’s causing the odor. But no matter what is making the inside of your shoe damp—whether a sweaty foot, a dirty wet sock, or walking in a rain puddle—the only way to get rid of the shoe odor is a two-fronted attack:

  1. Kill the currently residing fungus and bacteria
  2. Take away that dark, damp environment that invited the odor in the first place.

The VERY best way to achieve this is to always make sure your shoes and socks are dry, and to remove them if they become wet. Socks should be changed as often as needed to make sure they are always dry (sometimes two to three times per day!). If your shoes become wet, you should air dry or fan dry them thoroughly before wearing them again.

Look for an all-natural product with anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties rather than one that only “deodorizes” or one with harsh chemicals—read the small print on the labels! Some all-natural options may include silver or copper, which are naturally anti-microbial. These can come in the form of sprays, but also in products such as socks to help maintain an anti-microbial environment. Another product, called the ShoeZap Shoe Sanitizer, will naturally destroy the bacteria and fungi that cause toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, and foot odor. ShoeZap works by utilizing a special germicidal ultraviolent light (UVC) to kill bacteria, fungi, and germs. You just put the shoe-shaped device in the shoes and turn it on!

Often times it may also be necessary to treat a fungus or bacterial infection on the skin or nails of your foot in order to rid your shoes of the odor. Conversely, if you are having difficulty treating fungal toenails or a skin infection, such as athlete’s foot, it is extremely important to also treat your shoes in order to prevent reoccurrence or spread of the infection.

With a comprehensive approach, smelly shoes and feet can become a thing of the past!

For any foot or ankle problem, contact Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates at 309-661-9975 or visit their website at They are dedicated to not only providing comprehensive foot and ankle care, but striving to do this in a timely manner with upfront pricing and payment options so that patients can get back to their busy lives. Their office is located at 10 Heartland Drive in Bloomington.