By Stephen J. Praetorius for GQ.
Let's get one thing straight: for no reason--save taking a vacation somewhere warm and sandy--should your feet be making an appearance in polite company at any point in the foreseeable future. Period. It's winter, after all; no matter how unseasonably warm it is outside, going sockless should be reserved for after the first buds begin to bloom in April. Besides, don't you want to show off those L.L. Bean boots you copped before they sold out back in October?
Of course, though, swaddling your toes all winter long comes with its own set of challenges. Namely: sweat, and the inherent odor that arrives along with it. Likewise, we've compiled a sliding scale of fixes to help with your seasonally reeking feet. So no matter how bad the sole-stink, you'll be ready to handily defeat it.
Smell Level: Relatively Fresh
Does your sweat not particularly stink? Good for you. Still, there are things you should be doing to ensure that you're not overtaken by a sudden bout of foot-related odor. First off, make sure you're washing your feet thoroughly with an exfoliating soap. Smoothing skin and sloughing off dead cells, this will ensure that bacteria and fungus don't have additional nooks and crannies in which to thrive. Also, it's important to rotate your daily shoe selection, so that each pair can thoroughly air out and dry before you wear them next.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Grooming Your Feet
Smell Level: Vaguely Musty
So you've started to whiff something a touch less than ideal? Not to worry, we've all been there. At this stage, the thing you need to concern yourself most with is sweat. Because by reducing the moisture around your hooves, you reduce bacteria's ability to grow and smell up the joint. Applying a powder to absorb moisture is a good first step, but you real power-play is to cut off sweat at the source with an antiperspirant. The same stuff you use regularly will work, so long as you make sure to apply it well in advance of putting on your boots, since it takes a bit time for active ingredients to get busy.
Smell Level: Particularly Pungent
As we've said before, sweat itself doesn't actually smell; that distinctive odor actually comes from bacteria and fungus digesting it. So, when the odor starts to get really gross, these bacteria should be your primary target. Tea tree oil can be especially helpful in this department, as it's got both antifungal and antibacterial qualities. Similarly, soaking your feet in either salt water, a vinegar solution or, oddly enough, tea can inhibit germ growth and help get rid of stink, quick.
Smell Level: Seriously, What the Hell Is That Smell?
Next-level funk emanating from your feet? Then on top of all the above, it's time to see someone with an M.D., like a dermatologist or podiatrist, because while it could be as simple as a case of excessive sweat, you might also have some truly heinous stuff taking up residence between your toes. Or, it could be a sign of larger health issues. Either way, you wanna get it checked out, stat. Oh, and also consider tossing a few of your more odorous pairs of shoes.
A fresh start never hurt anyone.
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