Is It Normal for Babies' Feet to Smell Bad?

Babies' feet are characterized by their softness and beautiful scent. However, sometimes the smell can be a bit strong and requires some care and hygienic measures. Here's what you need to know.
Is It Normal for Babies' Feet to Smell Bad?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Reviewed and approved by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Babies’ feet don’t smell bad, except on certain occasions. When this happens, certain measures can be taken to prevent this condition and allow you to take good care of them. Therefore, there’s no need to be alarmed when little ones don’t have the particular pleasant smell they usually have. Keep reading to learn more about it.

Why do babies’ feet smell bad?

One of the most important functions of the surface of the skin is to eliminate excess heat from our bodies. To do this, the body carries out a process through sweating. In addition, according to Kidshealth, the sole of the foot is one of the areas of the body with the highest concentration of sweat glands. Consequently, children and infants sweat 2 to 3 times more than adults and there is an excess of moisture around their little toes.

However, sweat doesn’t smell; it’s the bacteria found on the soles of babies’ feet that break down and emit a bad odor. Also, babies’ sweat is usually not as foul-smelling as that of adults because they don’t yet have activated apocrine glands (which happens at puberty).

Care to prevent babies’ feet from smelling bad

There are many measures that can help keep babies’ feet healthy and in good condition. While it’s not advisable to bathe little ones too often to avoid dry skin, their neck, hands, and feet should be cleaned regularly.

A woman holding a baby dressed in a white dress and fancy white socks.
The choice of socks is important to avoid bad odor in babies’ feet. The most recommended socks are made of cotton or a light and breathable fabric.

Choose cotton socks

The most recommended socks are those made of a light and breathable fabric such as wool, cotton, or a special fabric. On the other hand, it’s best to avoid socks made of polyester, nylon, or those that provide little ventilation. The type of fabric of clothing or socks can have an important effect on the absorption of moisture and can be one of the causes of babies’ feet smelling bad. It’s also advisable, from time to time, to allow little ones to walk or be barefoot to promote their proper development and not retain too much moisture.

Use the right shoes

Ideally, shoes made of synthetic materials should be avoided, as babies’ feet perspire and need to be kept outdoors. Even tight-fitting shoes tend to increase foot odor due to lack of circulation. Therefore, it should be optimal, providing comfort and not causing damage to their delicate and soft skin.

Flexible soles are the most appropriate. Also, it’s important that the weight of the footwear isn’t too much. However, in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, they should be functional, stimulate the baby’s development, and preserve the health of their feet.

Wash shoes regularly

Washing shoes regularly ensures that foot odors are eliminated. In fact, some of them are compatible with machine washing and then drying them in the sun. Be careful not to wear the same shoes for several days in a row to avoid the proliferation of bacteria.

Maintain proper hygiene

The UK’s National Health Service recommends washing feet with soap and water. This is a good idea so that they don’t smell bad. In addition, they should be dried properly, especially between the toes, to avoid maceration. Nails should be kept short and clean, not only to avoid bad odors but also to avoid injury when they rub against each other.

An adult washing a baby's foot in the sink.
Although experts don’t recommend bathing babies every day, it’s important to wash their feet, neck, and hands with soap and water frequently.

Use insoles in footwear

The use of insoles can help prevent foot odor in toddlers and babies. Therefore, after use, it’s good to let them air out for at least one day to dry and prevent the development of microorganisms. At the same time, shoes should never be worn without socks, as this increases the amount of sweating and the growth of substances that will generate bad odors.

Ensure free movement

Muscle development occurs from the kicks and movements made by children. For this reason, their feet should be active and not restricted by overly tight clothing. In general, there are recommendations to keep babies barefoot to stimulate the development of the nervous and intellectual system, as they have greater sensitivity in their feet compared to their hands. Keeping babies’ feet free of socks and shoes also helps prevent them from smelling bad.

Babies’ feet and bad odor

Babies’ feet smell bad when there’s poor hygiene, poor quality footwear, or inadequate materials that don’t allow perspiration. It’s not usually a serious condition and isn’t related to other diseases, but it is annoying and unsightly, so managing it requires hygienic measures.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.