Smelly feet are a common problem that can be caused by a variety of factors like sweat, certain socks and shoes, some medical conditions, and bacterial overgrowth. While there are specialty foot products marketed to help fight odor, many people have turned to using apple cider vinegar as a home remedy to eliminate foot odor due to its antibacterial properties. But does apple cider vinegar truly help get rid of smelly feet?
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How Apple Cider Vinegar Works
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which gives it antibacterial and antifungal properties. These properties make apple cider vinegar a popular at-home remedy for many health issues. When it comes to smelly feet, the claim is that apple cider vinegar can kill bacteria and fungus that cause foot odor.
It’s important to note that smelly feet are usually caused by a buildup of bacteria, not necessarily a fungal infection. So treating the bacteria overgrowth is key. The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar creates an environment that makes it difficult for bacteria to survive.
Anecdotal Claims of Effectiveness
There are many internet testimonies and home remedy websites that claim soaking feet in apple cider vinegar eliminates foot odor issues. People report that after a week or two of doing an apple cider vinegar foot soak, their smelly feet improve dramatically. The recommended method is to dilute apple cider vinegar in warm-to-hot water and soak feet every night for up to 30 minutes until odor dissipates.
Some people claim that not only does the soak eliminate existing foot odor, but it prevents odor from returning for several days after treatment. The theory is that apple cider vinegar kills the odor-causing bacteria in and on the feet, stopping new bacteria growth in its tracks.
Study Results Are Mixed
While internet claims about apple cider vinegar’s success against smelly feet abound, scientific studies present conflicting evidence regarding efficacy. Some small studies have shown apple cider vinegar to have antibacterial activity against isolated strains of odor-causing bacteria. However, other studies indicate vinegar is only mildly effective at altering all bacterial populations.
One controlled study had participants with athlete’s foot use an apple cider vinegar soak for two weeks. The vinegar treatment reduced scaling and itching associated with the fungal infection but did not fully eliminate the fungus. A different two-week study of using antibacterial soap and apple cider vinegar soak showed no difference in foot odor reduction compared to just water.
Researchers concur that evidence is lacking to fully support using vinegar as an antibacterial agent against foot odor. They note larger scale, more controlled studies are needed to determine apple cider vinegar’s true efficacy. There are also no standardized guidelines regarding the ideal concentration of apple cider vinegar solutions or the duration and frequency of treatment.
Possible Risks and Considerations
While using a diluted apple cider vinegar foot bath is generally considered low-risk, there are some potential side effects to consider. Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, so some burning, redness, and drying of the skin is possible if the soak is too strong or done too frequently. Always start with a high water to vinegar ratio and test on a small area of skin first when trying a soak.
It’s also important to thoroughly dry feet after an apple cider vinegar bath to prevent skin maceration issues. Using apple cider vinegar soaks could make existing skin conditions like eczema or skin neuropathy worse for some people. Discontinue use if any discomfort, inflammation, or skin changes occur.
Lastly, individuals with diabetes need to be especially cautious using apple cider vinegar foot soaks frequently. Any skin openings or damaged skin can increase infection risk for those with neuropathy. Monitoring foot health closely is essential if experimenting with vinegar soaks.
Based on the current evidence and research, apple cider vinegar foot soaks may be helpful at controlling mild to moderate foot odor, but results can be hit or miss. The organic acids in apple cider vinegar likely reduce some bacterial populations associated with foot odor, but may not fully eliminate the problem. Vinegar foot baths seem reasonably safe for healthy individuals if used properly. However, those with existing foot infections or concerns should consult their doctor before trying this home remedy.
While not a “cure-all,” apple cider vinegar foot soaks could be a worthwhile foot odor treatment to try in conjunction with other good foot hygiene habits. But vinegar baths alone are probably not potent enough to tackle extreme cases of smelly feet on their own. Realistically, getting odor fully under control will still require addressing underlying causes, moisture control, wearing clean socks, using antibacterial foot powder, and maintaining good foot health.