Do you know why you should wear socks? It’s to keep your feet and shoes from smelling.

Foot odor is caused by bacteria or fungi rotting old skin. Your skin turns over every 28 days. A new cell starts on the bottom layer of skin, then another skin cell forms underneath it. The process continues until the bottom cell reaches the top and is sloughed off as dander or dandruff. If you don’t wear socks, your old skin deposits in the shoes where it rots and emits an offensive odor. Socks prevent the old skin from getting into your shoes and washing socks gets rid of the old skin and prevents them from smelling.

The bacteria that rot your old skin grow luxuriously when the skin is wet. Pouring a small amount of powder into the toes of your socks before you put them on will help to keep your feet dry during the day and prevent bacteria from growing. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes more often than every third day so they can dry out between use. You can also kill the bacteria by applying a common deodorant containing aluminum chlorohydrate to your feet at bedtime and sleeping in socks. If the skin starts to itch, wash off the antiperspirant with soap and water.

If you still have foot odor, check with a dermatologist who will do cultures for bacteria or fungi. Wet lesions are usually caused by bacteria, while dry scaling is often caused by fungi. The appropriate antibiotic or antifungal medication can rid you of the odor.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News
Checked 10/24/14