When the weather gets hot, sweat compensates for heat and controls body temperature. Feet may be the hardest workers: They have more sweat glands than any other part of the body. When heat combines with moisture buildup and a lack of air circulation, though, foot odor occurs -- and some people get it pretty bad. Read on for some cheap ways to control it, and a few budget-friendly products that can help keep you from cringing in shame the next time the shoes come off.
Foot odor disappears after a shower, but sweat buildup and lingering odors can cling to the insides of shoes. Replaceable insoles are a cheap, handy solution. If you don't need thick gel insoles for extra support, opt for thin ones that can be found at any dollar store. They act as barriers to the shoe insoles and can changed every few months.
Some sprays cover odors for a brief time, only to have it creep back -- or, worse, combine with odor to create a funky scent. Instead, try Rocket Pure's Natural Shoe Deodorizer ($16 on Amazon), which averages 4.3 stars from more than 1,400 customer reviews. Made of all-natural ingredients (mint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme essential oils), it works on even the worst-smelling sneakers, according to some reviewers, and comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Sandals and some shoe designs allow circulation and airflow. A shopping trip to a big-box retailer such as Target will yield plenty of shoes with mesh designs, open sides (such as the trendy D'Orsay style), and stylish cutouts. Those with offices that enforce closed shoes should pack an extra pair of cotton socks to change into, so moisture and odor don't get the chance to build up.
Related: 8 Designer Look-Alike Sandals for Less
Epsom salts are one of the most recommended foot soaks, because the salt draws moisture from the skin, reducing sweating and killing bacteria. All that's needed is a 10- to 20-minute soak in a half-cup of Epsom salt and warm water at least once a week, according to the nonprofit Cleveland Clinic.
Wearing a favorite pair of shoes every day may be tempting, but alternating among pairs is better because it allows the inside of shoes to air out. Closed shoes such as sneakers, boots, and dress shoes should be swapped out so materials can dry and bacteria doesn't thrive. Shoes should be left out in a bright, well-ventilated area with some sunlight, if possible, so they can be ventilated and dried thoroughly.
When feet start sweating, shoes start to absorb the moisture, sometimes inducing bacteria to grow in the dead skin between toes. Socks prevent moisture buildup in the summer, which is especially valuable when wearing enclosed shoes without ventilation. When wearing flats or low-top sneakers, women can try inexpensive no-show liners ($11 for four pairs on Amazon).
It's a common misconception that sneakers, particularly the expensive models, can't be washed. Check care instructions first, of course, but most sneakers can be cleaned in the washer. Start by scrubbing off excess dirt and mud with an old toothbrush and removing the laces and insole. Wash the shoe, insole, and laces in separate laundry bags. Just don't machine dry the shoes -- the heat from the dryer may warp the materials. To be safe, hang them outside on a sunny day to air dry.
On humid, hot days, don't apply deodorant only to underarms -- get your feet too, especially on the bottoms and between the toes. Deodorants and antiperspirants work to kill bacteria and reduce the amount of sweat secreted at the surface of the skin. For an all-natural foot deodorant, consider the Thai Crystal deodorant stone (just over $5 from Jet), which has earned high ratings in hundreds of reviews on retail sites.
The ingredients for an effective, fresh-scent foot soak can be found in the kitchen. Combine the juice of one lemon, one-quarter cup of baking soda, and 8 cups of warm water for a 15- to 20-minute foot soak, as recommended by the blog Everyday Roots. The baking soda controls odor and bacteria, and the lemon juice adds astringent properties to combat excessive sweating.
A quick shower won't do the job, so invest in an abrasive scrubber, such as the Mr. Pumice Ultimate Pumi Bar ($7 for four on Amazon) to exfoliate away dead skin where bacteria can live and grow. Dead skin comes off easily after a few minutes' soak, so consider scrubbing feet right after a shower or bath for best results, targeting the areas between the toes and sole.
When feet sweat excessively even with socks and deodorant, it's time to consider a foot powder. Like baby powder or dry shampoo, foot powder absorbs extra moisture. Dr. Scholl's Odor-X (about $5 from Jet) is highly rated on multiple sites and gets credit from reviewers for working all day.