Why Do My Feet Smell Like Vinegar? It is not What you Think

I have noticed that sometimes, even after a quick shower, that my feet have a slight vinegar smell. I did some research to find out the cause of this odor.

Why do feet smell like vinegar sometimes? Feet tend to smell like vinegar due to propionic acid.  This acid is produced by a bacteria that mixes with foot sweat and that is why you will notice that the vinegary smell is apparent if your feet are sweaty.

I will now explain in more detail why we can sometimes have a vinegar odor on our feet and on other body parts.

Why Sweaty Feet Create a Smell that is Acidic

Having acidic smelling feet sounds bizarre and troubling at the same time. It is embarrassing visiting someone and then removing your shoes only to be super stressed because you are worried that your feet are going to be surrounded by a toxic acidic odor.

  • I have had sweaty feet after working out at the gym and I am always shocked at the weird smell created. Your feet have a ton of sweat glands so I guess that it makes sense for sweat to be apparent.
  • Also, it is not as if you can work around the world barefoot unless you grew up stranded in a jungle with apes, 99 percent of us wear socks and shoes that trap sweat while working out.
  • Your shoes are going to trap in the sweat and most shoes are not designed to suck sweat out of your socks. Dress shoes especially are designed for style and no so much for function.
  • My father, that was in the army, always had sweaty smelling feet after working during the day while wearing combat boots. I used to leave the living room as a kid sometimes if he were to put his legs up on his recliner. My cat used to be strangely attracted to the smell, but cats are strange characters.

Besides physical activity that creates more sweat, the material that your socks are made of is going to affect foot odor.  Cotton socks are better sweat absorbers than most dress socks that are not essentially designed to wick moisture.

The vinegar-like smell that you are dealing in your socks is created by propionic acid. Propionibacterium is the bacteria that love to munch away at your foot sweat. The by-product is an amino acid that contains propionic acid. This acid has a smell that is similar to the smell given off by acetic acid. Vinegar is actually diluted acetic acid.

How do you get rid of vinegar smell on feet?

Now that you know why your feet could smell like vinegar, what are you going to do about it? I did some quick research for you and here are a few solutions.

  1. You could try bathing your feet in Epsom salt. You can actually buy it in discount stores like Dollar Tree that state that your feet will end up having a menthol and spearmint smell. Great, your feet will now smell like chewing gum which some people love. I recommend the Epsom Salt by Sky Organics (link to Amazon).
  2. The Epsom salt soak will pull moisture from your feet. Removing the sweat will remove most of the bacteria that are feeding on the sweat and this will neutralize your foot odor.
  3. Another method that is similar to an Epsom soak it is to simply go the grocery store route and soak your feet in apple cider vinegar and water. Create a mixture of half water and half apple cider vinegar. A good brand on Amazon for apple cider vinegar is Bragg (click for pricing).
  4. Soak your feet 15 to 20 minutes. I read that you should only do this once a week, not sure why but I wanted to mention that to you.
  5. I was bewildered with the concept of a vinegar soak when you are dealing with a vinegar smell, to begin with. Why in the world would someone soak their smelly feet in vinegar?
  6. It almost sounds of it you are trying to pickle them. Nevertheless, the high concentration of vinegar creates an environment that is like kryptonite to bacteria.
  7. Besides vinegar, you could try this third method. This method is to powder your footwear often and especially before putting on your stinky shoes or sneakers.
  8. The powdery substance that works well is cornstarch. The cornstarch will soak up the sweat and remember that the bacteria are swimming around in your sweat.

Personally, what I do is that I always stand my sneakers up against a wall after I have returned from the gym. Doing so helps your sneakers to dry out. Never leave them in a gym bag or any other humid environment.

Why do my feet smell like Doritos?

I love Doritos (click for pricing on Amazon for 40 bags) and I am ashamed to say that if  I were hungry and I could smell that cheesy chip smell that I might salivate even if I were not sure as to the location of the odor.

You may have experienced a Doritos type smell emanating from your feet. Why exactly is going on and is mother nature playing a trick on you?

I did some research for you, my readers, and I found out that isovaleric acid is added to a lot of foods including some snack foods.  This acid gives off a cheesy smell, and believe it or not, the sweat on your feet can contain this acid.

There are two types of bacteria that love foot sweat called Staphylococcus epidermidis and Bacillus subtilis. Do not worry, we have bacteria on our body all of the time. We are exposed to numerous types of bacteria countless times throughout the day.

It is just that these two types consume foot sweat and then give off isovaleric acid that smells like cheese.  This by-product is oily to the touch also, so sometimes you may notice that your feet as somewhat sticky and that they smell cheesy.

My advice to you to ensure that you wash between your toes and the bottoms of your feet with a facecloth each and every time that you shower. After your shower, dry well your feet including between your toes. Then add some baby powder into your cotton socks so that the sweat from your feet will be absorbed throughout the day.

I know a few people that say that they just let the shower water run over the bottom of their feet and that they do not bother to use soap beforehand. I can wash my feet in about 10 seconds. Soap and water will get rid of most of the bacteria that had been multiplying while you were asleep.

While sleeping, you are creating the perfect storm for foot bacteria growth. The environment is warm and humid so your feet are probably sweating slightly throughout the night.

Just think about in this way, it is as if you have morning breath on your feet because of the bacteria growth and since probably brush off your tongue each morning, now you should be brushing off the bacteria from your feet each morning.

Why do my feet always stink?

Another predicament that some are dealing with is that their feet stink most of the day. I have noticed that if I am wearing tight shoes, that my feet sweat a lot. Plus, after removing my shoes, I am leaving behind a large portion of that sweat.

The bacteria do not care that your feet have left the scene, they are interested in your sweat. They will continue to have many more offspring.

There is a second-hand store that is not far from where I live. I love going there because I purchase computer parts there sometimes for super cheap. In the back of the store, there is a wall of used shoes of all shapes and sizes.

The humid sweat-like smell that comes from that area can almost knock you out sometimes, especially during a heat summer day. The store does not partake in air conditioning, they are all about low overhead.

I used to think that the smell was caused just sweat that was old, but now I know that bacteria are the cause. Also, I read that besides bacteria, that foot fungus can be present in shoes.

Here is my advice to you, is to probably avoid buying used shoes. Also, use my foot care tips that are in the above content. Plus, if you are in an environment where you need to remove your socks and shoes, like at the gym before a shower, take precautions.

What I tend to do is to wear flipflops so that I can keep my feet and toes happy because they will not be exposed to microscopic stink producing bacteria.  I recommend the shower shoe flipflops made by Crocs (click for Amazon pricing).

Found this post helpful? Don’t forget to share on Pinterest by pinning the image below!