Get Rid of Your Child's Sweaty Feet - Jeffrie C. Leibovitz, DPM

Taking on Your Child’s Sweaty Feet, Foot Odor, and General Foot Funk

We know you love your child. You know you love your child. But there must be times now and then when you look over at them and think, “Just what is this creature in my house?”

What language are they speaking? What orders from the mothership are they receiving from that device they hold so dearly in their hand? And, perhaps, just what is going on with their sweaty smelly feet? Is it a defense mechanism of some sort?

If your teen or pre-teen can clear the room by taking off their shoes and socks, odds are pretty good that it is just part of growing up. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it! Keeping your child’s perspiration and foot odor in check can not only help make your domicile much more livable, but also help prevent additional problems such as warts and fungal infections.

What is Causing My Child’s Feet to Be So Funky?

In a nutshell, your child’s sweaty feet and—in turn—foot odor, are being caused by an old friend you no doubt remember: hormones.

Fluctuations in hormones can cause many types of changes, from pupil dilation to temperature change. They can also increase perspiration throughout the body.

But why do the feet seem sweatier than other places? Because they have many more sweat glands! A standard pair of two feet can contain about 250,000 of them. It can be a veritable waterworks down there, but the sweat itself is not the cause of odor and other problems.

Sweat is a great food source for various forms of fungus and bacteria who come to roost on feet and in shoes. When they break down perspiration and create other byproducts, those are what cause that ripe odor.

Eventually, most people grow out of this sweatier phase of life. About 2-3 percent of the population, however, will not. If your feet are still sweating up a storm well into adulthood, you have a condition called hyperhidrosis, and you may need medical intervention to improve it. It has become a Sympathetic nervous system problem.

But in the meantime (the teen time), what can be done to reduce sweat, neutralize odor, and help prevent those organisms from making things even stinkier and worse?

Children's feet

Tackling Excessive Perspiration and Foot Odor

There is plenty you can do at home to fight back against sweaty feet and the unholy aromas they can cause. Here are a few tips:

Give Shoes a Chance to Dry Out

When shoes hold sweaty feet all day, it does not take long for them to turn into a sewer. Keeping them dry should be a main priority.

Having the shoes made from a breathable material is a great first step, but it is likely not enough. They should have the means and opportunity to dry out.

This means not wearing the same pair of shoes every day. There should be at least a 24-48 hour period where the shoes are not worn and allowed to air out. Putting them in front of a fan or on boot dryers can help this process along. A time-activated, silver-based spray may also be effective to kill the fungus.

Wash and Deodorize Shoes, if Reasonable

It can be possible to put shoes through the washing machine, but only certain types of shoes and certain washing machines are worth doing this.

If you plan on trying this, remove the laces from the shoes and place them in a wash bag or pillowcase to prevent them from getting all tangled up. Add them to the washer along with a half dozen or so towels to help cushion and balance the washing drum.

However, if the shoes are too far gone or you have doubts your washing machine could handle such materials, don’t try it. You can always use anti-fungal and deodorizing powders instead of, or in addition to, washing. And there’s always, you know, burning—for extreme cases. I think that is how Burning Man Festival started.

Soak in White Vinegar

White vinegar (known in the chemistry lab as acetic acid) is not just good for cleaning windows; it is also a good astringent and antiperspirant.

The acid has the ability to “stun” sweat glands, making them less productive after a soak. Yes, your child’s feet will smell like pickles for about 10 minutes, but it is probably a better alternative to how they smell.

Soaking too long and too often can dry out feet too much, however, which might lead to painful cracks. We can help you determine what a good amount of time for a soak can be.

Child feet

What if Things Don’t Improve, or There is an Infection?

If foot odor is not improving with measures at home, it’s time to give us a call. We can see what factors may be contributing to the problem and recommend some more advanced treatments, if necessary.

Feet with this much moisture can also be more susceptible to fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or viral infections such as plantar warts. We can also provide effective treatment should such problems crop up.

For athlete’s foot and other fungal infections, a good topical cream can often do the trick (although these are not so great for nail infections).

In the case of plantar warts, continuing to keep feet dry and less inhabitable to outside organisms will aid in their downfall. Although there are dozens of treatment methods for warts, we employ methods of chemical cautery and minor surgical removals to treat warts with the goal of minimizing scar formation.

A Fresher Future for Feet

With sweaty feet and foot odor, take hope. In most cases, they will be over once teen years have passed. Soon enough your kid will be off to college and you’ll be converting their bedroom into a workout room without telling them—but that’s a topic for another blog.

Whenever your child has foot or ankle issues, please do not hesitate to contact our Indianapolis office at (317) 545-0505. Or, if you prefer to contact us electronically, fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you. We also have a FREE book on foot issues if you’re interested!