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Why Do Feet Smell Like Vinegar?

The foot contains some 250,000 sweat glands. That’s a lot of glands, and a lot of sweat. No wonder foot odour can be such a persistent and prevalent problem with our feet. One common symptom may be that your feet smell like vinegar.

Do you ever wonder if your foot odour is unique to you, and if no one else deals with it? In fact, much of the population deals with Foot Odour in some capacity at some point in their life.

Foot Odour has a pungent smell and is often a sign of fungal or bacterial overgrowth. Foot odour is directly correlated with sweat. More sweat = more bacteria. More bacteria = more foot odour. It can be as simple as that. There may however be other underlying causes.

At Toronto’s Feet First Clinic, we tackle the topics we know are prevalent, but that you may be afraid to talk about. Have no fear. We’re equipped to handle all foot conditions so you can rest easy.

For a bit of DIY at home, below you’ll find an overview of foot odour, its causes, and what you can do to eliminate those stinky scents.

What does it mean when feet smell like vinegar?

Foot odour derives from sweat. The more your feet sweat, the smellier they are. It’s not the sweat that smells though: It’s the byproduct of the bacteria consuming your sweat. The more sweat there is, the more there is for bacteria to thrive on.

Why Feet Smell Like Vinegar

According to, “if your feet smell like vinegar, it’s most likely the result of propionibacterium breaking down your sweat and producing  acid, which is similar to acetic acid (vinegar).”

Foot odour may also change. This change is usually attributed to one or several of the following factors:

  • Diet
  • Natural hormone cycles
  • General lifestyle

Some people may have stronger foot odour than others due to how much or how often they sweat. Excessive sweat is in and of itself a condition known as hyperhidrosis (excessive foot sweat is known as plantar hyperhidrosis). Sweat is considered “excessive” when the source is neither related to heat or exercise.

Does white vinegar kill foot odor?

Ironically, vinegar can kill the vinegar-smelling foot odour. White vinegar, since it’s an antimicrobial, can help kill the bacteria or fungi that contributes to your foot odour. You can do this by soaking your feet for 10-20 minutes in a vinegar bath: Simply add 1-2 cups of apple cider vinegar to warm water, and clean your feet before and after soaking with regular soap.

Why do toenails smell like cheese?

Smelly feet is a relatively generic symptom. The smell can come from anywhere. A common source is from your toenail(s).

Your toenails might give off a cheesy smell. Wait, what? That’s right. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one type of bacteria, called brevibacterium, lives between the toes. It thrives in a damp, salty environment, and produces the cheese-like smell of feet. That same bacteria is used in the cheese creation process for Muenster, Entrammes, and Limburger cheeses. Yes, it’s true.

The bacteria can find its way into your toenails through sweat. Wearing shoes for lengthy stretches creates a dark, damp climate in which bacteria can thrive. Moisture buildup also softens the skin around your toenails, which makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate the toenail.

How do you get rid of sour smelling feet?

Soap For Washing Feet That Smell Like Vinegar

Now that we know why our feet smell, it’s time to get rid of the smell once and for all. There are a number of at-home preventative methods to eliminate foot odour. These odour-killing methods include:

  • Wash your feet daily with an antibacterial soap.
  • Soak your feet for 10–20 minutes in a large bowl or tub of warm water with a half cup of Epsom salt dissolved in it. Epsom salt helps eliminate bacteria by removing moisture from your skin.
  • Dry your feet after showering, bathing, swimming, or soaking. Consider wearing cotton socks and shoes made of natural materials that allow the moisture to evaporate. Consider changing your socks during the day.
  • Powder a small amount of cornstarch in your shoes to help keep your feet dry.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) foot antiperspirant.
  • Swap your shoes regularly, and avoid wearing your footwear on back-to-back days to allow for proper drying in between use.
  • Spray the inside of your shoes with a disinfectant that contains a sanitizing ingredient, such as ethanol. If your shoes have removable insoles, take them out, spray them lightly, and then let them dry outside your shoe for 24 hours.
  • Use moisture-wicking socks. You want moisture and sweat away from your feet to help prevent and get rid of smelly feet. Investing in the proper socks can help your feet dry, and odour-free.

If foot odour persists, speak with your doctor about prescription medication for your feet.

While these methods will help with the smell and preventing bacteria buildup and fungal infections, they won’t eliminate an existing fungal infection – for that, you will need treatment from a foot specialist or doctor. Early intervention is key to effectively treating foot fungus, so if you suspect a fungal infection, it is best to get it looked at as soon as possible. Fortunately, the skilled chiropodists at our Toronto foot clinic can effectively treat various kinds of foot and toenail fungal infections.

Is smelly feet a sign of diabetes?

Smelly feet is one (of many) signs of diabetes.  But foot odour doesn’t just affect those with diabetes – anyone can have it. However, if the odour persists after following the above measures and preventative methods, you may want to take the condition more seriously. Also, if you have diabetes, common foot issues – like fungal infections – can lead to serious complications: We recommend routine foot assessments for diabetic patients for that reason, and to book an appointment with a foot specialist immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Turn those smells upside down at Feet First Clinic

Eliminate foot odour. Fast. We have all your solutions under one roof. Call or Book Today and we’ll have you in ASAP! Open 6 days a week, we’ll be happy to help inform you and solve all your concerns any day at your convenience.

Call us at 416-769-3338 or Click Above to Book Your Assessment Today!

Here’s to Many More Years of Foot Care!

At Feet First Clinic, we’re always excited to welcome new clients! After a successful 12 years of treating our amazing patients, we’re ready to continue offering only the best foot care services and products. Give us a call to ask our friendly staff any questions you may have! Our Toronto foot specialists are ready to help!

Call us at 416-769-3338 or Book Your Assessment Today!

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.