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The question

My tween daughter has the vilest smelling feet you can imagine. Her soccer shoes smell like they are soaked in cat urine. She has been inflicted since birth -- I kid you not -- but now, at this age, she is embarrassed easily and wants to take more steps to ensure her feet smell fresh all day. Besides daily cleansing, are there any steps she should take?

The answer

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Foot odors can cause quite a social problem. The smell is a result of sweating which allows bacteria to interact with dead skin. This condition, known as bromhidrosis, causes a smell similar to rotten eggs

This sulfuric smell, induced by Brevibacteria thriving in the damp and dark environment inside a sweat-soaked sneaker, can cause a child to lose friends and siblings to protest in a loud voice. It may even force the tween to leave the runners outside where the family dog may not be keen on running off with a stinky shoe!

Some tweens sweat more than usual and when they wear the same shoe day after day, smelly feet may pollute the air.

A shoe that is made out of plastic or synthetics breathes less well than leather or canvas shoes. If the tween refuses to wear socks, then there is less absorption of sweat. The best socks are ones that wick moisture away---cotton socks do that better than nylon or polyester socks

It is wise to change socks often. Sometimes, twice a day may be the solution. Try to not wear the same pair of runners two days in a row and let them air out at night in a dry environment.

Foot powders can be used and the less irritating it is to the skin the better. Lavilin is an example of a natural product sold in most health food stores.

Other products that may help are: Epson salts, vinegar, baking soda, zinc powder, castor oil cream or thorough washing with antiseptics such as betadine

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Inserts in the shoe which contains activated charcoal or cedar are helpful too in absorbing some moisture

For more information read "The Complete Foot Book" by Dr Morton Walker or visit the Mayo Clinic site.

Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at pediatrician@globeandmail.com. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Peter Nieman.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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