You’re a busy kid. You get up in the morning. You go to school. You play hard at recess. After school, you have practice. When you finally get home and are ready to relax, there’s nothing that feels quite as good as pulling off those tennis shoes or soccer cleats.

Unfortunately, when you do, your joy in relaxing is cut short by the overwhelming stench of…YOUR FEET! Whew! Open a window! That kind of smell must be hazardous to your health, right?

So what’s the deal with your feet? You take showers or baths and put on deodorant to keep your body clean and smelling nice. No matter what you do, though, your feet insist upon stinking it up. Why is that?

The culprit is bacteria. These tiny organisms just love your feet. In fact, they look at your feet the way you might look at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

That’s right! Bacteria feed on your feet. They eat dead skin cells and the oils secreted through your skin. As they eat, they grow and multiply. As they do so, they get rid of their waste in the form of organic acids that happen to smell really bad.

Why are your feet so popular with bacteria? Bacteria love dark, damp places. The insides of your shoes — especially when your feet are in them — are the perfect home for bacteria.

And the more active you are, the more you will sweat. Bacteria love sweat, because the moisture helps them multiply even faster. That’s why they love your feet.

Each of your feet has over 250,000 sweat glands that produce more sweat than other parts of your body. Each foot can make more than a pint of sweat in a single day!

As if that’s not bad enough, your socks and shoes make things worse. When your feet sweat, your socks and shoes soak up that moisture and hold it in. This creates the perfect spot for bacteria to feed and produce their stinky waste.

If your feet tend to be supremely sweaty, they may attract bacteria called Micrococcus sedentarius. In addition to organic acids, these bacteria also produce sulfur compounds that make feet SUPER stinky! How stinky? Have you ever smelled a rotten egg? If you have, that smell was caused by sulfur compounds.

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    • What a PERFECT link to today’s stinky Wonder, Mrs. Caplin! We think your Poetry Friday activity sounded like a ball of fun! We bet your students had a SUPER time thinking outside the box and rediscovering what poetry can be! We will be thinking about poetry all day thanks to you! :)

  1. Hi wonderopolis! this was an odd wonder, I never knew that just one foot can produce 1 pint of sweat in a single day! I am exactly like that, I always have practice and after that I always think, why do my feet stink?

    • Hey there Fitz, we’re glad to see you here! It’s pretty incredible what the human body is capable of– and sometimes smelly feet mean our body is working properly! We’re glad you can Wonder about why your feet might stink after working hard at practice! The good thing is– you’re not alone! We’ve all got stinky feet from day to day! :)

    • Hey there Allycat, we love your comment today! Welcome to a new day of WONDERing! We appreciate your honesty about smelly feet! But, as we mentioned in our comment to Fitz, you are certainly not alone! We’ve all got feet… and sometimes they can be smelly! :)

  2. Hi! I’m in Mrs. Caplin’s class. My mom says that I have really stinky feet. But when I say that they don’t, she says I have bad allergies. I never knew that your feet could smell as bad as a rotten egg!

    • Good morning, Mookie the cat, we’re glad you’re here! Perhaps your allergies come in handy when your feet are extra smelly– who knew a stuffy nose could ever be a good thing? We bet you learned a lot about today’s Wonder… luckily we can all relate to smelly feet! Have a SUPER day, Wonder Friend! :)

  3. So, I can wash my feet and socks, but what about my non-athletic shoes? What’s the best way to keep them from soaking up and keeping the stink?

    • Great question, Thomas– we like all the WONDERing you’re doing today! :) It helps if you give your smelly shoes some time to rest, just like we do when we go to bed at night. When your shoes aren’t damp and dark, which causes bacteria when mixed with moisture, the odors can start. Yet, sometimes giving your shoes some time to air out in a cool place will help. Have a SUPER day! :)

    • Great question, Allycat! We love your observation… it seems that our Wonder Friends are taking longer than normal to drum up tomorrow’s Wonder. We must have them stumped! :) We will have clues for tomorrow’s Wonder up very soon… thanks for checking! :)

    • Hi Allycat– our Wonder sneak peek for tomorrow is up!

      Wonder What’s Next?
      Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is all about one of the fiercest — and sweetest? — animals around!

      Thanks for being patient! :)

    • Hey there Wonder Friend S, what a great day to Wonder with you! We appreciate your comment, and we totally understand that sweat is not the most appealing thing to Wonder about, but we have something in common– we all sweat! :)

  4. We think it is really gross that the smell is actually from the waste of the bacteria. We were really surprised our feet could produce so much sweat in one day.

    We can’t wait for the next wonder.

    • Hello Wonder Friends in Mrs. Karr’s class! We’re so happy you’re WONDERing about unpleasant odors with us today! :) While smelly feet aren’t the most appealing thing to imagine, it’s pretty interesting to understand how and why that stench occurs! Our feet are capable of a lot– including helping us move from place to place. Sometimes we sweat as a result! We are excited to see you tomorrow… we will Wonder together again! :)

  5. We thought it was smelly and interesting. The video was kind of short though we would like to see more. We think that Monday’s wonder might be about sports or cookies.

    • Thanks for commenting today! We’re glad the students in Mrs. Trainor’s class are WONDERing about those stinking feet today! :) We Wonder if you can do some more research on your own to find the perfect video that helps us understand the causes of stinky feet. We can’t wait to Wonder with you again on Monday! :)

    • What a super question! The students in the library are doing a great job of WONDERing today! Wearing flip flops or sandals gives your feet a bit more freedom and access to air– keeping them out in the open. However, feet can still get stinky from outside sources when your foot is not enclosed in a full shoe OR with the help of the material from the sandals. Lots of sandals are made of plastic or leather, which can sometimes cause sweat and bacteria to grow. Soap and water is important to keep your toes feeling fresh! :)

    • Hi there Orion, we are so glad you stopped by today! Thanks for spreading the Wonder– we are glad you enjoyed our smelly, but awesome, Wonder today! :)

    • We like that our Wonder Friends are bonding over a shared experience– stinky feet! Thanks for commenting today, Mr. Awesome– have a WONDERful day! :)

    • What a SUPER question, Ryan! We are beyond excited to Wonder with you and all our Wonder Friends tomorrow… we don’t know what tomorrow brings but we know it will be GREAT! :)

    • Hi there M.K.H. cool, thanks for sharing your comment today! We bet stinky feet aren’t the most fun to have, but we are glad you’re WONDERing with us today! We hope you have a great day, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Hey there Anastasia, we sure appreciate your honesty! We all have stinky feet from time to time! :) We hope you learned something new about WHY feet stink– it’s all about WONDERing! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Seamus said he knew his feet stunk because he smelled them in class today. Juliana said her feet smell, too. Maja said her smelly feet filled her car with a horrible smell. We all agree that we should wash our feet every day. Have a great day.

    • Hello to all the AWESOME students in Mrs. Kennedy’s class! We’re so happy you’re WONDERing about stinky feet with us today! We know the smell is not always pleasant, but we’re glad you learned something new with us today! Don’t forget to keep those toes clean by washing them every day! :)

    • Great question from the SUPER students in Mrs. Wright’s class! :) We think it’s important to give your shoes some time to “air” out and take a rest from keeping your feet clean. Also, keep those toes clean each and every night– the bacteria can be removed with a good scrub full of soap and water! We Wonder if you can find any other preventative methods on your own?! :)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Today’s wonder is funny, I’ve been wondering about that too! I always though it was my socks or shoes, it would be a good explanation, but it’s wrong. I never knew there could be bacteria on your feet.

    I watched the beat boxing video, in a word AWESOME! Someone at my table tried to beat box, but he couldn’t. I like the way you re-did the website. I think that tomorrow’s WONDER will be about a rabbit or a stray cat or dog.

    I LOVE THIS WEBSITE!

    • Hi there Alexis, thanks for leaving such a WONDERful comment! We’ve all learned something new today– especially since many of us at Wonderopolis thought our shoes and socks were responsible for that smell! We’re so glad you’re doing a great job of WONDERing– we love to hear it! You made us smile when you complimented our new look on the website– we hope you enjoy all the magic of Wonderopolis!

      We can’t wait to see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  8. Here are a few thoughts from the Hoppers. That’s gross, but cool. Stinky, but awesome facts. That is so disgusting.

    • YAY, the Magnificent Hoppers are here today! Thanks for leaving your AWESOME comment– we are glad you thought our stinky feet Wonder was cool… we agree that it can be a bit gross to think about. However, we all have smelly feet from time to time… so now we can all relate! Thanks for joining the fun, Wonder Friends! :)

  9. I think tomorrows wonder will be about… dogs, cats, raccoons, cheetahs, polar bears, dingos, kangaroos, chimps or maybe hippos?

  10. Hi wonderopolis I am Isaiah I talked to you in Mrs. Kennedy’s class because I’m in her class. I wonder what your feet smells like? I like your website too. Bye have a nice day.

    • Hey there, Isaiah, so glad you’re here! We love WONDERing with you and your friends in Mrs. Kennedy’s class! :) We’ve got to admit, sometimes our feet get a bit smelly at Wonderopolis. But that’s because we’re having so much fun jumping, running and moving around. We keep our toes nice and clean with soap and water– so our smelly feet go away in no time. Thank you for visiting today, Wonder Friend! We will see you soon! :)

  11. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I think today’s was a little funny. You would never guess it was stinky feet, but it is completely true. It is not fun to smell smelly feet.

    I do not know what tomorrow’s clue means I may get it someday.

    • We’re glad you can laugh about smelly feet, Natalie– that’s the way to go! We bet after you use some soap and water your feet are sparkling clean! We can’t wait to Wonder with you again– thanks for stopping by!

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I am a student in Mrs. Wall’s Fourth Grade class. I never knew that bacteria got on your feet and made them smell. I also did not know that bacteria like damp places. I play tennis, and usually my socks smell when I take my shoes off. It is a relief to get the socks off.
    In my opinion, tomorrow’s wonder might be about a bobcat. To me, bobcats are fierce but sweet. I enjoy wondering with you at Wonderopolis! :)

    • Hi there Peace123, we’re glad you’re WONDERing with us today! It’s so much fun to learn something new– especially since you have your own feet to Wonder about! We are so glad you enjoy the website– we hope to see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  13. Oh my feet!

    I learned a lot about feet and here is some of it:

    Socks make your feet smell even worse.

    Also I learned that Each of your feet has over 250,000 sweat glands that produce more sweat than other parts of your body.

    Lastly I learned that your feet have a lot of That’s right! Bacteria feed on your feet. They eats the dead skin cells and the oils secreted through your skin.
    Feet are really SMELLY!!!!!!!!!!

    • NICE WORK, Jules, you did a great job of summarizing our Wonder about stinky feet! Feet ARE smelly, but the wonders of soap and water can take care of that smell! :) Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • Hi there Melia, thanks for sharing your comment today! We know stinky feet aren’t always the most appealing thing to think about (or SMELL!) but you make a great point! Soap and water in the tub will help to get rid of those stinky smells! :)

    • YAY, we’re so glad you liked our Wonder, Michael! We all deal with stinky feet from time to time, it’s fun to learn why they smell like they do! :)

    • Great job– you’ve been WONDERing, Yurami! We bet at recess you are playing and running around in closed-toed shoes, right? When our feet sweat that often causes the sweat to be trapped in our shoes– causing that stinky smell. But you’re not alone– we all sweat from time to time! We can use some soap and water to keep our toes nice and clean, too! Thanks for visiting today! :)

  14. Hi there! :) I thought today’s wonder was crazy!!! Oh, and I homeschool, but we go places and if I wear tennis shoes, my feet stink!! Thanks!
    =Bryleigh= :)

    • Hi there Bryleigh, we’re glad you’re back today! :)

      We bet that just about everyone who spends a day on their feet, traveling from place to place in tennis shoes, ends up with stinky feet at the end of the day. But with some soap and water, your feet will be smelling much better in no time! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  15. That’s so gross!!! I knew that bacteria caused it but I didn’t know our feet sweat THAT much!!! That video was funny and sort of… cute. :p

    • We’re glad you learned something new today, Stellatgrl! We know that stinky feet can be a tough thing to Wonder about (or smell!), but don’t worry… we’ve all had smelly toes from time to time! We hope you have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

    • Cool, Wonder Friend Coadkid567! We know that smelly feet isn’t always the most fun thing to consider, but we’re glad you have fun with your Wonder classmates! :)

  16. Hi my name is paras and this is regarding my shoes and socks smelling too bad. Can you please help me and tell me how can I get rid of it… Please reply… Eagerly waiting…

    • Hi there, Paras! We’re sorry to hear that your shoes and socks haven’t been smelling too great lately… but you aren’t alone! After you wear your shoes all day, make sure you air them out! Also, wearing socks that allow your feet to “breathe” will help– but so will soap and water! :-)

  17. Wow now every time I get from school I’m going to wash my feet. haha :). You guys are really good. Hope you guys make ANOTHER GOOD WONDER VIDEO.

    • Thanks for sharing what you learned from our stinky feet Wonder, Carlos! Everyone’s feet smell from time to time– but soap and water can take care of that! We hope you’ll come back to Wonder with us again soon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do your feet stink?
  • Where do bacteria like to live?
  • What can you do to fight foot odor?

Wonder Gallery

shutterstock_28101556Vimeo Video

Try It Out

So you have stinky feet. As you now know, it’s a common problem. But what can you do about it?

You can’t buy new feet, of course, but there are a few things you can do to help reduce how much your feet sweat. If you cut down foot sweat, you’ll also minimize foot odor problems. Check out these tips:

  • Clean your feet every day! A shower or bath every day will help to clean off bacteria and keep your feet nice and clean.
  • Wear socks that breathe! Socks made of cotton or special wicking fibers will allow air to reach your feet and keep them cool.
  • Switch your shoes every couple of days and make sure they’re not too tight! Allowing shoes to dry out every few days will help reduce odor problems.
  • Disinfect your shoes! If your shoes start to smell bad, spray them with a disinfectant spray that will kill the bacteria. You might also want to let them dry in the sun.
  • Wash your shoes! Ask your parents for help washing your shoes every once in a while. A trip through the wash will often help shoes smell like new again.
  • Go barefoot! When you’re at home—especially at night—go barefoot to let your feet dry out and get some air.
  • Ask a foot doctor! If you have really bad foot odor problems, you might want to see a special foot doctor called a podiatrist. A podiatrist might recommend a special powder or insole that will help fight odor.

Still Wondering

In Illuminations’ Measuring with Our Foot lesson, children measure distances using an outline cutout of their own foot.

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Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is all about one of the fiercest — and sweetest? — animals around!

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