No Socks, New Shoes … No Problem

No Socks, New Shoes … No Problem

Going without socks isn’t just for preppies in boat shoes any more. On the runway this spring, designers showed men sporting even the most expensive dress shoes without socks. And even the most cursory glance around the street this summer shows that men have fully adopted this trend.

But how on earth is a man supposed to keep his feet and shoes smelling clean, let alone fresh, if he’s not wearing socks? Sweat and leather and … yuk! But fear not. A shower, some foot powder and an extra pair of shoes can keep your dogs from barking, and those offending odors at bay.

Why Do My Feet Smell?
In a word: bacteria. “The odor comes from bacteria that ingests sweat and excretes a smelly compound as a result,” explains Dr. Robert Beil, a primary care physician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

With more than 250,000 sweat glands each, your feet are among the most perspiring parts of the body. In one day, each foot can produce more than 1 pint of sweat. That’s a lot of food for hungry bacteria, who love dark, damp places. So basically your shoes are an all-you-can-eat buffet for thousands of funky bugs whose sole purpose in life is to make you smell funky too.

While that sounds a bit ominous, the solution is as easy as following these three simple rules.

1. Keep your feet and your shoes clean. Wash your feet with soap at least once a day, more often if you’re athletic or if you sweat more than average. Sneakers or anything made of canvas should be tossed in a washing machine (cold water only) with regular laundry detergent at least once a month. Obviously, this doesn’t work for your Bruno Maglis, but the concept is the same: Just have them professionally cleaned once a month or every other month. And between wearings, sprinkle a little baking soda into each shoe, let stand for a day or so, then give them a good banging to remove all of the excess baking soda before putting the offending footwear back on your feet.

2. Stay as dry as possible. If you don’t wear socks, don’t wear the same shoes two days in a row. Moist kicks are a breeding ground for funk-producing bacteria. The only way to slow the smell down is to dry them out between wearings. Loosen the laces, pull up the tongue and let the air really get in there and circulate.

3. Powder On. Sprinkle foot powder on and use dry hands to spread it between your toes. Gold Bond is classic for a reason. It works thanks to talc, which draws moisture away from the skin, and menthol, which makes your feet feel cooler. Just like with changing your socks, you can reapply powder throughout the day, if necessary.

If you’ve tried all of these steps and your dogs still bark, call your doctor. “As a last resort,” says Beil, “doctors can prescribe an antibacterial solution to apply to the feet that will remedy the problem. But maintaining basic hygiene is probably enough for 99 percent of guys out there.”

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Aaron Krach, former grooming editor of Cargo magazine, is a writer and editor based in New York City. His work has appeared in InStyle, Out, and TimeOut New York, as well as on Aaron is a frequent contributor to Style and Tech for Men.