How It Works
Bare feet on the beach

Why do feet smell?

Bare feet on the beach

Sweat actually keeps the skin of our feet moist and flexible to cope with the constantly changing pressure when we walk. Without this moisture the skin would dry and crack, and walking would become extremely painful.

Despite the huge number of glands (250,000 per foot) and amount of sweat that comes from our feet, it’s still just salt and water. The odour comes from the bacteria that live on human skin which, while unsettling, are perfectly natural.

Our socks are a dark, moist feast for them as they eat sweat and dead skin and the waste products they excrete are what smells bad. The more the bacteria eat the worse our feet smell. To keep the smell down, make sure you change your socks and let your shoes air for 24 hours if you can. Also, wash your feet and spray them with antiperspirant!

Discover more amazing science in the latest issue of How It Works magazine. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, make sure you subscribe today!

Plus take a look at:

How do antiperspirants work? 

Heatwaves explained

Why do things smell?