Having smelly feet is not laughing matter – even though it’s often portrayed as such in comics and comedy films. It’s obviously a very embarrassing condition so it’s best to try to understand what causes this instead of making fun of the person who suffers from it.
Body odor is caused by sweat. Foot odor is different from genital and armpit door because the feet are covered with eccrine sweat glands whereas the genitals and armpits are covered with apocrine sweat glands. When the protein and amino acids from apocrine glands mix with bacteria living on the skin – body odor occurs.
The sweat produced by eccrine glands is watery and thin – and evaporates pretty quickly as such, doesn’t have time to create a smell. However, since feet have half a million sweat glands, the concentration of sweat is higher. And since most of the time our feet are encased in socks and shoes – the sweat do not have time to evaporate.
Bacteria is still to blame for stinky feet but this time, the bacteria responsible for smelly feet do not feed on sweat. The bacteria (Brevibacterium linens) that live on your feet prefers to eat the dry, dead skin of your feet and thrives in warm, most environments such as sweaty socks. When the “sock bacteria” start feeding on the dry, dead skin of your feet, they break down an amino acid and produce a gas methanethiol, which is said to smell like rotten eggs or cabbage.
If your foot aroma smells more vinegary, then you don’t have the Brevibacterium linens but have the Staphylococcus epidermis. This bacteria eats amino acid found on the skin and produces isovaleric acid.