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Your Child Has Smelly Feet: What To Do?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 12, 2021

While the majority of sweat and therefore body odors are natural and can be washed away, some of us sweat more and smell more than others of us. For example, some children’s feet might smell more than others. 

Like adults, some children inherit hereditary sweating, have skin or gland disorders, or sweat a lot due to feeling anxious. Developing hygienic habits like wearing clean, dry, fresh socks every day can help lessen the smell. 

However, some smelly feet cannot be made better by merely shifting habits. Knowing the right steps to take can help you address the concern. If these steps do not help, your child might need medical attention or they may simply need a new pair of shoes. 

What Causes Smelly Feet in Children?

Many causes could potentially be making your child’s feet stink. Some of the most common reasons include:

They need to change their socks and shoes more regularly. Often, odor from feet is caused by bacteria or fungus that grows in the shoes or on the skin. This bacteria can be so powerful that it can eat through the skin on the foot. Make sure your child watches their feet with hot soapy water daily and wears clean socks. Also, some of the synthetic materials used in footwear are more prone to create bacteria when mixed with sweat.

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Anxiety can make your child sweat more. Some children’s feet sweat more when they feel anxious. Addressing the anxiety or nervousness may be a way to control sweating.

They might have a condition called hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis basically is just a fancy name for excessive sweating. This type of sweating happens throughout the year, regardless of external factors like temperature or the types of shoes your child wears. It has more to do with how your child’s glands work and other hereditary or physical factors.

Hormonal changes can make teens sweat more. Sometimes teenagers can produce more sweat generally because their bodies are releasing so many new hormones.

What to Do When Your Child Has Smelly Feet

Before seeking medical attention, try a few simple at-home steps to see if they might help address the problem.

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Make sure they change their footwear daily. Helping your child change their socks and shoes every day can do wonders for their foot smell.

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Wear clean and dry socks. Making sure that your child’s socks are clean and dry socks helps make sure the bacteria from the previous day does not continue to grow on their feet. 

Clean feet thoroughly, daily. Washing your child’s feet every day with warm water and soap and then drying them right afterward helps to maintain clean, bacteria-free feet. 

Steer clear of tight-fitting footwear.  There’s a great chance that your child’s foot will get hotter and therefore produce more sweat if they are wearing a shoe that fits too tightly. Avoided this by making sure they have shoes that are looser or fit just right. 

Do not buy your kids shoes or socks made from synthetic materials. Shoes made of plastics or synthetic materials increase the chance that bacteria might grow in them. This also goes for socks. Fabrics like nylon, rayon, and others increase the chances for a funky smell because they mess with the airflow to your child’s feet. Stick to cotton, leathers, and breathable material. 

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Air them out. Going barefoot and letting the feet air out daily can also be very helpful. Encourage your child to take off their shoes and socks after school or when they are playing around the house. It will give their feet some time to breathe. 

Use over-the-counter products. If you and your child have tried all of these options and still nothing has changed, you might need some help from modern medicine. There are many odor-fighting powders, antiperspirants, and odor-fighting insoles that can treat common fungal food infections or help combat sweat and smells. 

Take your child to see their pediatrician. If you've tried the common-sense steps, but you're still concerned about your child's foot odor, going to see the pediatrician will be helpful in some cases. They will be able to treat more advanced bacterias and figure out root causes more deeply. They can also prescribe medical-grade products to treat any infections. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Alberta Health Services: “Abnormal Sweating in Children: Care Instructions.”

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: “Foot Odor."

Nemours: “Why Do Feet Stink?”

NHS Wales: “Sweating (excessive sweating- hyperhidrosis).”

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