Personal hygiene is important. That includes washing your feet on a regular basis. But from now on, not a single drop of soap will touch your weary hooves. How soon would they get stinky? What kinds of infections would you develop? And why would you eventually need to amputate your limbs?
No matter how well you clean them, your feet are home to different types of bacteria and 200 varieties of fungi. And would you blame them? Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments just like what your shoes, socks or slippers can provide. Most of these bacteria are harmless or odorless in small numbers. It’s when they start to multiply that the stink begins.
Hold on there. Don’t reach for the soap so fast. These bacteria could keep your feet healthy too. Some release oils to keep the skin soft and produce enzymes that break down dead skin cells. So if you permanently stopped washing your feet, would you be healthier? Or would you turn into a stinky fungus magnet?
Before you get started, you’d want to give your feet one last scrub. It would be best to start things off with a clean slate before you lace up those shoes. Then you’d set off about your day just like normal. By the time you’d get home in the evening, you’d kick off your warm shoes to get your first whiff of the odor building up.
That’s because your tight and cozy shoes are a perfect environment for Brevibacterium linens, the harmless bacteria responsible for making your feet smell. While the stench wouldn’t be unbearable just yet, the smell would be faintly reminiscent of stinky cheese. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s the same type of bacteria.
The next morning you’d hop into the shower as usual. But this time, you wouldn’t be allowed to touch those feet. You’d simply stand there and let the hot, soapy water run down your legs and wash off. I know some people are already doing that. Tell me you’re not one of those, are you? You may feel clean but you wouldn’t have sufficiently washed away the buildup of bacteria from the day before.
A couple of hours later, the smell would be even more intense than the day before. Now, you could even detect certain notes of stink. It could have hints of sweat, vinegar or even cabbage. It depends on the chemicals produced by the festering bacteria. After a few more days without cleaning, you’d start to experience some pain. The soles of your feet would be cracked.
You’d have itchy, flaky patches of skin developing between your toes. Uh, oh. Athlete’s foot. You could have picked up this fungal infection from a locker room shower at the gym. Without washing properly, that fungus would thrive in the damp humidity of your shoes and socks. Let’s fast-forward a couple of weeks.
You’d start to feel tenderness. Almost like you’re standing on little stones in your shoes. You’d have developed a plantar wart. And this would be different than the bacteria and fungi you’ve been dealing with. It’s a viral infection. Human papillomavirus (HPV) found a way into your body through a cut on the skin. What you’d see is a growth similar to callused skin.
It would be somewhere on the sole of your foot that bears pressure. Instead of protruding, plantar warts grow inward. With all these feet problems, you’d be starting to walk a little funny. Every inch of your foot would feel like it’s becoming a unique pressure point of pain. You could even start to develop joint problems or back stiffness.
But the worst would still be yet to come. These wounds could eventually develop into a life-threatening staph infection like MRSA. If left untreated, necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, could destroy the skin, fat and tissues over your muscles. If the infection entered your bloodstream, you could experience sepsis, organ failure or even death.
Sorry to say, but your only option to save your life at this point would be to have your feet amputated. You know, 28% of people don’t think it’s necessary to clean their feet daily. If you’re one of them, hopefully you’d start to change your ways now.
- “Why Do Feet Stink By The End Of The Day?”. Bill Sullivan. 2019. theconversation.com.
- “Um, Do You Actually Need To Wash Your Feet?”. Nast, Condé. 2019. self.com.
- “Athlete’s Foot: Overview”. Institute For Quality And Efficiency In Health Care (Iqwig). 2018. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- “10 Common Foot Problems And How To Manage Them”. Brian P. Dunleavy. 2020. everydayhealth.com.
- “More Than A Quarter Of Men Don’t Wash Their Feet In The Shower”. Nick Leftley. 2016. dollarshaveclub.com.