We demand a lot from our feet. They carry our bodies around all day, often from within uncomfortable shoes. It’s no wonder many of us end up with blisters, pain, odor, and fungus like athlete’s foot. But there is a simple solution to your woes, and it's in your kitchen.

Vinegar is a diluted form of acetic acid that is both versatile and harmless. We use it to cook and clean — and to treat our tired, aching, stinky feet. According to one study, the antifungal activity of vinegar is more powerful than that of other food preservatives, all while being safe enough to eat. It’s this action that’s credited for some of its most notable benefits.

A note: You should avoid the treatments listed below if you have diabetes. People with diabetes should have their healthcare team treat any foot issues they have.

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that affects the toes. The toes appear red and the skin may peel. Athlete’s foot often burns and itches.

For mild forms of this condition, a vinegar soak works well. The antifungal properties also make vinegar soaks a good idea for people who have toenail fungus. Soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes daily in a vinegar bath until the infection subsides. It may take 2 to 3 weeks or longer to see improvement in symptoms. Improved symptoms indicate that you have treated the fungal infection long enough.

If the symptoms don’t improve, of if they worsen or spread up the foot, you should seek medical attention. If you note increased dryness and cracking, you may need to decrease your soaking to a couple times per week instead of daily.

Vinegar can also disinfect the feet. This helps eliminate or reduce foot odor by getting rid of the bacteria that make them smell.

Before soaking, wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water. Then relax with your feet in a vinegar soak.

In addition to soaking, lifestyle choices are important to consider when treating foot odor. For example, try wearing shoes made of leather or canvas. These allow your feet to breathe, unlike shoes made from plastic materials. Also, wear breathable cotton or wool socks. When you’re at home, go barefoot.

Quick tips

  • Wear breathable cotton or wool socks.
  • Wear canvas or leather shoes, which allow your feet to breathe.
  • Go barefoot when you’re at home.

Vinegar is a mild exfoliator, so you can also use it to treat callouses and warts. After soaking, you can file your feet with a pumice stone to help rid it of hardened skin. You can also apply vinegar directly to the affected areas with a cotton ball.

Vinegar foot soaks can also soothe dry, cracked feet. Use cool water, as hot water has a tendency to dry out your skin. Soak nightly, then moisturize your feet and put on socks. Soaking too often or for too long may cause your feet to get even drier, so use this soak sparingly for dry and cracked feet.

Vinegar will not hurt your feet, but you should still dilute it for a foot soak. Generally, using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water is a good ratio.

While the soak will smell strong, the odor will dissipate after the vinegar dries from your feet. You can also use essential oils to change the scent slightly.

Vinegar is an inexpensive and easy-to-find remedy for a variety of foot ailments. Not to mention, soaking your feet after a long day can be quite relaxing.

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