Do Black Socks Cause Foot Odor?

Do black socks cause foot odor, or is that just a myth?

You may have heard that wearing a black shirt in hot weather—especially in the sun—can make you overheat and lead to excessive sweating. But is the same true for socks?

Some people prefer to avoid black socks for fear of developing foot odor. But the truth is, black socks get a bad rap they don’t deserve. And wearing any other color socks doesn’t automatically mean your feet won’t smell!

If you’ve been worried about wearing black socks, read on. We’ll reveal the reason behind foot odor and how your socks might be contributing… But also some practical ways to prevent foot odor no matter what color your socks are.

Why Do People Dislike Black Socks?

With some digging, you can find information suggesting that black socks were once dangerous to people’s health!

This is because hundreds of years ago, the dye used to color clothing items black contained poisonous chemicals—including arsenic—that could be absorbed through the skin, often making the wearer sick and possibly even causing death.

Thankfully, technology has improved, and your socks can no longer kill you! But these days, many assume that darker colors absorb heat, which can make your feet sweat more, leading to odor.

However, as the socks’ material isn’t directly exposed to the sun, this isn’t the most logical assumption. In most cases, the color of the socks has very little to do with foot odor—instead, unpleasant odor is often caused by other factors.

What Causes Foot Odor?

Did you know that the bottom of your feet contains the largest sweat glands on your body? That means that your feet sweat quite easily, and sweat is the biggest reason your feet develop an odor.

When bacteria and fungi begin to multiply in the dark, moist area, they release chemicals that cause the unpleasant odor to develop. Foot odor is almost always a sign of bacteria or fungi!

But sweat alone isn’t always enough to cause a smell. Here are some contributing factors: color isn’t one of them!

Sock Material

The material that your socks are made of is a much more important piece of the puzzle than their color. For example, cotton socks may be natural and soft, but they tend to absorb moisture, trapping sweat and providing the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive… And smell.

The thickness of your socks also plays a role. Thinner socks allow moisture to escape more easily, while thicker socks may keep heat and moisture in, increasing your chances of foot odor developing.

Poorly Ventilated Shoes

Even if your socks allow heat and moisture to escape, if your shoes aren’t well-ventilated, that heat and moisture will still sit around your feet.

Unless it has somewhere to go, you’re likely to have the same problems with stuffy shoes as you would with thick, non-breathable socks.

Poor Foot Hygiene

Considering how many sweat glands your feet hold, it’s important to maintain good foot hygiene. If you don’t wash and dry your feet properly daily, you’re at a higher risk of developing foot odor.

Dirty feet can keep the odor hanging around. Wearing dirty socks can also keep your feet smelling unpleasant. Socks and shoes are only one piece of the puzzle—keeping your feet hygienic is the other!


Sweat is a necessary ingredient for foot odor. In rare cases, some people may wear the right socks, choose breathable shoes, and maintain good foot hygiene but still develop foot odor due to excessive sweating.

The condition hyperhidrosis causes excessive sweating. This could be spread throughout the body—generalized hyperhidrosis—or confined to a specific part of the body, like the feet—focal hyperhidrosis.

When the feet sweat excessively, there’s a chance that you may develop foot odor even if you take precautions against the above factors. Those who suffer from this condition should ask their healthcare provider about medical solutions.

Who Shouldn’t Wear Black Socks?

If you’re worried about black socks causing foot odor, you can rest assured that they are no more likely than any other color to make your feet smell. If you have no underlying conditions, you can confidently wear black socks.

That said, we highly recommend that people with diabetes avoid wearing black socks. Although they still won’t have any bearing on foot odor, darker-colored socks can hide sores, bleeding, or infections on the feet that diabetics may not be able to feel.

The only reason to stick to lighter-colored socks is so that you can see at a quick glance if your feet are bleeding or oozing. If you aren’t diabetic and don’t have neuropathy in your feet, you can easily wear black socks without worrying.

Ways to Reduce Sweating & Prevent Foot Odor

Regardless of what color socks you prefer, reducing excess sweating and preventing foot odor is a good idea. Here’s what you can do to lower your chances of getting smelly feet.

Develop Good Foot Hygiene Habits

It’s important to maintain good foot hygiene to keep sweating to a minimum and reduce the chance of developing foot odor. You should wash your feet with warm water and soap at least once a day, including the spaces between your toes.

Once you’ve washed your feet, make sure to dry them properly. Bacteria thrives in moist places, so failing to dry your feet completely leaves you open to developing foot odor when you put your shoes on. Keeping your toenails short and clean will also help to keep foot odor at bay.

Part of good foot hygiene is making sure to change your socks regularly. If you’re wearing sweaty socks, changing them is a good idea, even if you wear two pairs of socks daily.

Keep in mind that your insoles can also become sweaty and dirty. If your feet sweat a lot, it’s a good idea to take your insoles out and allow them to dry properly after every use. Insoles should be replaced every six months to a year, depending on how often you wear the shoes.

Go Barefoot At Home

If you can, go barefoot at home to allow your feet breathing room. It’s also a good idea to avoid sleeping with socks on, as this can trap heat and sweat against your feet and cause odor to develop.

While going barefoot often is good for your feet, it’s advisable not to be barefoot in public places. This can expose you to dangerous bacteria and fungi that can cause infections and foot odor.

Choose the Right Socks

Considering we’ve been talking about black socks, it’s obvious that socks are important for good foot hygiene! While you can choose any color of socks you like, you should be more choosy with the socks’ material.

Synthetic materials like polyester are usually moisture-wicking and well-ventilated, which will help your feet to stay cool and dry throughout the day. Other materials that you should consider include bamboo, which is natural and antibacterial, and Merino wool, which is temperature-regulating and extremely comfortable.

Wear Well-Ventilated Shoes

As mentioned above, your shoes are also important. Try to choose shoes that are well-ventilated and allow heat to escape.

If you’re wearing athletic shoes, check the upper to ensure that it features wide enough perforations to let air in and moisture out. Natural fabrics like leather also allow your feet to breathe well.

Take Care Of Your Shoes

Remember, your shoes absorb sweat and can be a haven for bacteria to grow. This is why it’s important to take good care of your shoes, socks, and feet.

It’s a good idea to alternate between shoes every day. Try not to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row, as this will give your shoes enough time to dry out completely before you wear them again.

If you wear shoes that aren’t completely dry, there’s a higher chance of bacteria developing, causing your feet to smell. Wash your shoes regularly and wash and air-dry your insoles if they’re holding onto odor. You can also use an antibacterial spray to kill bacteria in your shoes.

Treat Your Feet

Treating your feet with antiperspirant may help. However, you can’t just use regular under-arm antiperspirant on your feet. You can ask your doctor for a prescription or buy products online.

You can get different antiperspirants, depending on what you’re comfortable with. If you prefer a roll-on, consider a product like Neat Feat 3B Foot Saver Roll-On. Those who use lotion often may like Carpe Antiperspirant Foot Lotion.

We recommend Dr. Scholl’s Probiotic Foot Spray if you don’t like sprays or lotions, as it’s a quick and easy way to reduce odors. Alternatively, you can use talcum powder to reduce sweating.

Soak Your Feet

If you have the time and like to pamper yourself, you can try a foot soak. There are a few different soaks you can try. If you’re treating an acute foot odor, create a soak by adding two teabags to a pint of water and boiling it for 10 to 15 minutes. Wait for the water to cool before putting your feet into it.

You want to soak your feet in this mixture for about 30 minutes every day for a week. A compound in the tea bags called tannic acid can kill bacteria and help to close the pores on your feet, reducing sweating.

If you simply want to keep foot odor at bay, create a foot soak with Epsom salts—½ cup of Epsom salts in a foot-soak-sized tub of water—or vinegar—2 parts water to 1 part vinegar. If you choose vinegar, ensure no open wounds on your feet. Both can be used once a week or for 15 to 20 minutes.

When To Worry About Foot Odor

Everybody suffers from foot odor at some point. It’s not usually anything to worry about—in most cases, it’s just the result of your feet being stuck in your shoes for too long and having sweat trapped in the shoe, leading to the development of bacteria.

However, if you experience excessive sweating in colder weather or after only a short time wearing shoes, it may be best to see your healthcare provider, as it could be a sign of an underlying health problem.