I Ask: How Do I Stop Feet-Stink?

SAVE ME FROM MY SON’S FEET! They smell like the small bear that died under our porch in May. (Which could’ve possibly been a large raccoon posing as a dead bear. Either way it was disgusting.)

At first, I thought it was the shoes. He has running shoes that he wears just in case an emergency marathon runs by and yells QUICK E! JOIN IN! WE NEED YOU!

They’d gotten wet AND he had worn them without socks. So after the couple at IHOP asked to be RESEATED because of the smell, I washed them. And they dried less-smelly. I required E to wear socks at all time to avoid anymore issues. I WON!

Until my son was on his way into Romp n’ Roll and took his shoes off. My first inclination was to ask if the camp was run by rotting zombie (which I imagine smells worse than regular zombie) because WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT SMELL? Me and my awful sense of smell (I would totally die in the wild) slowly recognized that I COULD SMELL HIS SOCKS FROM THREE FEET AWAY.

His feet are causing houseflies to die in mid-flight. They smell AFTER a bath. Not as bad. But not a good enough place to start either.

Scott vaguely remembers his own smelly tinger feet issues. I only had them with my Airwalks (mine were green) in high school. But the problem was solved by leaving my shoes outside. My feet were FINE.

My sneakers trying to run away from E's sneakers.

So how do we de-stink E’s feet? Because, honestly, giving out clothespins to his fellow campers just seems wrong.

Answer that was no help at all but made me feel like my advice column is useful to more than just me (I think that’s called warm and fuzzy, but I’m not sure). mrs. notouching says: I’m no help here, just saving this post for future when my boy is here… because every little boy I know smells like cheese. True story.

Answer I’m totally going to do if only because it means buying something. And I like things. Angela says: My friend’s son had the same problem. You could smell his feet from a mile away. She swears by Geox shoes. They’re a little pricey but you can often get them on sale at Saxon and such. She swears it’s the only way to help combat his foot stank.
And Jess seconds: We love love love Geox shoes. Great fit and nearly impossible to wear out (3 kids have worn most of ours). I prefer Nordstrom to Saxon — friendly sales staff, calmer atmosphere, huge fish tank = WIN. Sure, they’re more expensive than Target shoes, but people seem to need to replace Target shoes because they fall apart. If you pay 3x the price but get 4x the wear AND can hand them down? Not more expensive after all.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

25 thoughts on “I Ask: How Do I Stop Feet-Stink?

  1. My friend’s son had the same problem. You could smell his feet from a mile away. She swears by Geox shoes. They’re a little pricey but you can often get them on sale at Saxon and such. She swears it’s the only way to help combat his foot stank.

      1. We love love love Geox shoes. Great fit and nearly impossible to wear out (3 kids have worn most of ours). I prefer Nordstrom to Saxon – friendly sales staff, calmer atmosphere, huge fish tank = WIN.

        Sure, they’re more expensive than Target shoes, but people seem to need to replace Target shoes because they fall apart. If you pay 3x the price but get 4x the wear AND can hand them down? Not more expensive after all.

  2. Gold Bond Foot Powder (The Blue One that’s medicated). Apply every day until stink (Fungus) is dead (gone). This tidbit has been won in my 20 year battle with my feet. Remember, shoes don’t make feet stink. Feet make shoes stink. Avoid high priced shoes at all costs (pun).
    I Love parentheses almost as much as you do. Write on!

  3. My youngest son has the same problem. You can use baking soda in the shoes, and also, I told him to start spraying the insides of his shoes with deoderant. That seems to work.

    1. Ooh, my son will LOVE spraying deodorant… except I’m not sure if I can get him to confine it to his shoes. I wonder if his sister will mind smelling like Right Guard?

  4. it’s probably a water issue. first thing to do is make sure the feet are clean – not like visbily clean but disinfected…you can start with a good antibacterial soap like dial (no lotions or moisturizers bacteria breed on that stuff) – if that doesn’t work i suggest a good soak with a tad bit of bleach or if that freaks you out a baking soda scrub on the feet and rinse with vinegar (E might actually think that is cool because it’ll make his feet bubble)

    next is to keep the feet dry…let him weak flip flops whenever possible. when shoes are a must make sure you are using dry cotton socks. synthetic socks tend to trap moisture and exacerbate the problem. you can use powder to help with this (but i’m not sure this is very practical for a 4 year old =)

    finally since it’s next to impossible to stop sweaty feet from sweating…best to have two pairs of shoes and alternate wearing them…they way each pair has an entire day to “dry” out before you stick feet in them again

    hope that helps…

    1. Ooh, buying more shoes to alternate? I can handle that… oh you mean, E? Bummer.

      I like the baking soda and vinegar idea. E will LOVE the bubbles (or totally freak out — stay tuned.)

  5. I think there is a fungus among us. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) I’m agreeing with the hints that he may have a foot fungus. So I’d treat that – and continue to clean the shoes as well to get rid of the fungus that has spread to them.

    Les Stroud burned chunks of termite mounds and put his feet in the smoke. Seemed to work in the jungles. You may want to try that…

    Don’t you love that the smelly disgustingness that is a man starts at a very young age. Such a shame.

  6. How old is he?

    Because pre-pubertal boys go through this PHASE. It’s not written up anywhere in the literature that I can find, but there’s a phase of total STINK. It lasts about two years, just as those hormones are starting to ramp up. It’s appallingly gross.

    Otherwise: get new shoes. You can never get washed ones to smell good again. Bacteria just don’t get washed out.

    1. He’s four. So if this is the start of the phase, I think that I’m in BIG TROUBLE.

      Bacteria is such a pain in my butt. Or shoe. Or his shoes. But new shoes are fun to buy at least. But not so much for a four year old boy obsessed with gray New Balance running sneakers ONLY.

  7. I agree with Gold Bond or baking soda. Tea Tree oil is another natual odor eliminator. You can get it at most health food/organic groceries.

  8. Does he wear shoes indoors at all times? In addition to treating for fungus, it might also help to air out the feet. …Maybe start that as a preventative measure *after* you combat the stink.

  9. We had this same issue with my son and there was a good year or so that people would not ALLOW him to take his shoes off in their house. All of the above suggestions are good and what worked best for us was a combination. What we found to work was 1) natural fabrics in both socks and shoes, cotton, leather, breathable (bamboo socks, if you can find them in his size, are great for sweaty feet), 2) at least two to three pairs of shoes, never wear the same pair more than a day before changing to a new pair, and 3) spray deodorant in the shoes at the end of the day. That seemed to nip the problem in the bud. We never discovered any fungal issues, just sweaty issues. Well and my son was rewearing socks more than once (he was 8, so he was dressing himself). Good Luck!

  10. I have no help or comment to offer other than totally enjoying reading everyone’s comments! Wow! So many fun things to try. Keep us posted on the experiment. I say you try them all and document which ones work. :o)

  11. Alex,
    I actually have a lot in common with you. I also went to med school and then residency and had my 1st son during residency. I managed to finish (thanks to my husband working part-time, them visiting me every day at lunch and no nights and weekends). Anyway, now I work about 8 hours/week, and stay with my kids the rest of the time. I’m mostly a SAHM, but I’m gone just enough to feel like I’m gone too much and I’m at work just enough to feel like I can’t quite keep it all together.
    Enough about that– the stinky feet– I would try clindamycin lotion. You might be hesistant to try something you need a prescription for, but I’ve seen others improve with it. Depends on how much it bothers him (you).

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