The vinegar-like smell coming from your feet is most often caused when bacteria on your feet mix with your sweat. This combination can produce an acidic byproduct that has an unpleasant odor, which in some cases, may smell similar to vinegar.
On those hot, sweaty days, when you’re exercising, it will not come as a surprise if your feet smell a bit funny afterward.
However, if the smell is really strong all the time, then this may indicate that your hygiene practices need to be improved.
While having an unpleasant smell emanating from your feet isn’t necessarily something that you should be concerned about, it doesn’t mean that you should just ignore it.
After all, you wouldn’t want your partner to go down on you only for them to be shocked with how awful your feet smell, right?
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That’s why it’s important that you are always following proper hygiene practices to ensure that your feet never emanate that vinegar-like smell, and instead always smell clean and fresh.
Causes of feet Smelling Like Vinegar
Covered in layers of clothing, the presence of lower body hair, and numerous sweat glands make the mature area prone to bad odors.
Residual urine is also a factor.
If you’re not cleaning your feet regularly and properly, the area can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi – the most common causes of foul odor.
The humid and moist environment down there encourages microbes to grow really fast.
Sweat, by itself, is naturally odorless.
However, when the said microbes feed on sweat, they produce foul-smelling waste products. Thus, more microbes in the area mean more foul odor.
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Understanding Why Our Bodies Sweat
First, we must understand what causes our bodies to sweat. The human body has two types of sweat glands, which in turn produce two different types of sweat:
Eccrine glands – Found in most areas of the body. They secrete a mixture of salt and water which function to cool your skin and lower the temperature of your body. This is odorless.
Apocrine glands – Found primarily under the armpits, areola, and around the eyelids. They produce sweat that is thicker and contains much of what bacteria feed on as it’s secreted. Thus, you can say that they produce a smelly substance which we usually associate with sweating.
Now that we understand what causes sweat, now I will discuss what happens with bacteria.
`As bacteria break down the sweat, a couple of different odor compounds are produced.
These acids have distinct smells and are typically what constitutes body odor. Two common acid compounds associated with odor include the following:
Propionic acid – is associated with the smell of vinegar.
Isovaleric acid – is associated with the smell of cheese.
Tying everything up, the smell of vinegar from your feet primarily comes from a mixture of bacteria and the sweat that your apocrine glands produce, which in turn causes the production of propionic acid.
This is the acid byproduct that is usually associated with the smell of vinegar.
How to Keep Your feet from Smelling Like Vinegar (3 Helpful Tips)
To avoid that vinegar-like smell on your feet, proper hygiene practices are a must.
I have 3 easy tips I can recommend to help your feet smell clean and fresh, which I will discuss them in more detail below.
Wash Your feet Every Day
This should be self-explanatory. If you want to keep your feet clean, fresh, and free from any foul odor, then you should be showering every day.
During that shower, make sure to give your feet a good scrub (at least once a day).
As mentioned above, if your feet are left unwashed, they can become an absolute breeding ground for bacteria. Washing it (with soap) will help remove excess oils and dirt that can build up over time.
Bacteria and fungi grow by feeding on these oils. If they are allowed to grow, they can cause that foul odor that smells like vinegar.
Washing your feet every day effectively ensures that they are not given the chance to flourish.
Just remember to be thorough when washing down there. Make sure to get everything, not just your feet but also everything in the surrounding area as well.
Dry Your feet Thoroughly After Washing
This is related to the above, but when you wash your feet, make sure that you dry them thoroughly before putting anything on.
Dry the area gently. We recommend patting dry your feet with a clean towel, instead of roughly tugging or rubbing on the skin.
An additional sidenote: if you’re uncircumcised, make sure to dry under your foreskin as well.
If you put on your clothes while it’s not completely dry down there, the excess moisture can easily lead to a build-up of bacteria, which in turn might cause a vinegar-like smell on your feet.
Use Body Powder to Keep Your Feet Dry
Body powders are very effective in mitigating and preventing sweat.
It helps absorb excess moisture, and bad body odors, as well as prevent skin chafing and irritation.
If you don’t know what this is, just think of baby powder, specifically made for adults.
As I previously mentioned, it’s effectively this formula that causes your feet to smell like vinegar
r: sweat + bacteria = unpleasant odor (vinegar-like smell).
Applying body powder can help mitigate one part of that equation, which is sweat.
At the same time, most quality body powders have scents that will help keep your feet smell clean and fresh from morning to night.
I personally love the Chassis Premium Body Powder, which is talc-free and has a very light scent (mix of Old Spice + pumpkin).
One of the cool things about it is that the aloe and other plant extracts give an invigorating cooling sensation after applying the powder.
Going back to the original question: why do feet smell like vinegar?
This is often caused when bacteria on your feet mix with your sweat.
If you find that the smell down there is really strong all the time, this suggests that you may need to revisit your hygiene practices.
Some helpful tips to do to avoid having this vinegar-like smell on your feet:
1) wash them regularly (with soap),
2) dry them thoroughly after washing,
3) use body powder on your feet.
I discussed each of these in more detail above, which you can refer to for more information.
If none of these tips work, then you should consider consulting a professional (doctor) to rule out any medical-related reasons.