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Worried about your sweaty feet - and the smell that goes with them? Too much sweating of the feet will lead to an odour. That sweating may be due to a normal but high activity, or it may be due to a medical condition. Excessive perspiration in the feet can be a function of over-active autonomic nerves.

We have no voluntary control over the autonomic nervous system which controls automatic functions of the body such as blinking and breathing. So if our autonomic nervous system is damaged due to trauma or accident to the spine or lower limbs, this can result in over-or under-activity of the autonomic nerves. Over or under-active autonomic nerves may also be inherited. Other systemic conditions such as tuberculosis, overactive thyroid gland, under-active adrenal glands, viral infections and certain nervous conditions relating to anxiety and stress can also cause excessive perspiration, Normal, day to day conditions may also lead to excessive perspiration.

Waterproof or protective footwear such as gumboots worn for long periods as a necessary condition of employment in some trades do not allow air circulation and are not absorbent causing excessive perspiration. So your sweaty feet may be caused either by a medical condition or just by your living and working conditions together with the footwear you are using. Regular washing is the obvious answer - so why do they still smell? Some medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus and renal failure can give an odour to perspiration.

The natural bacteria of the skin also have a very short lifecycle. In just a few hours, the bacteria grow, multiply, die and decay, leading to the unpleasant odour. Excessive perspiration in the feet promotes faster than normal growth of the skin's natural bacteria. So more perspiration means more bacteria both alive and dead and more odour.

It is an ongoing cycle. Assumining you don't have a systemic medical problem, and even if you do, you can minimise the extent of the problem by choosing shoes and sandals made from breathable materials, leather or porous natural fibres so that air can circulate. Artificial materials with no porosity do not allow any air to circulate and causing excessive heat build up and perspiration. Even in cool weather, your feet can be working very hard inside your shoes raising the temperature and givng off water vapour while perspiring.

Your shoes will readily absorb both the moisture and the salts exhuded. Together with the dead skin cells and natural bacteria they provide a perfect breeding ground for fungal infections. So take every opportunityh to change your shoes and allow them to dry out somewhere with fresh air and sunlight. Use anti-perspirant foot sprays first thing in the morning to minimise perspiration.

Use absorbent foot talc in socks and closed shoes to dry up any perspiration produced. Change your socks frequently and always after any sports activity.

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