Going Sockless in the Summer


As a teenager, flip flops were a staple for me in the summer. I would go through a pair or two each season. But as I got older, I stopped wearing flip flops. Why? Well, for starters, I realized that men have really ugly feet and that most people probably don’t want to see my ugly man toes all the time. Additionally, flip flops just became too casual and adolescent for my maturing style sensibilities. As I started to dress more “grown-up,” flip flops didn’t seem to fit in anymore. Now I only wear them when I’m going to the pool or the beach.

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Despite giving up on the flip flop, I still enjoy liberating my ankles and calves by going sockless during the summer. Apparently a lot of other men do too. I’ve noticed more and more men taking the sockless route when wearing closed toed shoes. Walker Lamond from Rules for My Unborn Son picked up the sockless habit from his dad. And many of the men in Esquire and other men’s magazines are sporting shoes without socks.

But the first time I decided to go the sockless route, I ruined a pair of shoes and almost ruined my marriage (I kid about the marriage part). I didn’t take any precautions when I decided to wear my low-top Chuck Taylors sans socks, and in a few weeks I had a biological hazard on my hands. I tried a few things to get rid of the odor, but the stink was as entrenched as the BP oil spill. Thus the shoes were sadly demoted from everyday wear to yard work use only.

This summer I bought a new pair of Sperry Top-Siders that I planned on wearing sockless. To avoid my boat shoes suffering Chuck Taylor’s stinky fate, I looked into how a man can go sockless without the smell. Here’s the lowdown on what causes smelly feet and how I’ve kept my Top-Siders smelling like petunias, or at least from overpowering toddlers and small animals.

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What Causes Foot Odor

The key to preventing foot odor when you go sockless is knowing what causes your dogs to smell in the first place.

The main cause of foot odor is sweat. While sweat is odorless, every drop of it is a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes foot odor. Your feet produce copious amounts of sweat because 1) your feet are packed densely with sweat glands and 2) you stick your feet in shoes that have little or no ventilation for hours a day.

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Once you have plenty of sweat going, the bacteria that live on your feet start growing and producing smelly stuff. The main culprit for your stinky feet is brevibacteria. These suckers eat the dead skin that sloughs off your feet every day. After digesting your microscopic skin particles, the brevibacteria expel methanethiol, a gas that smells sort of like rotten cabbage. That’s right. Your smelly feet are the result of millions of little bacteria letting out a huge collective fart.

How to Prevent Foot Odor When Going Sockless

To prevent smelly feet you need to prevent two things: 1) sweat and 2) bacteria. Here’s your battle plan.

1. Wash your feet more frequently and vigorously with anti-bacterial soap. I bet most men devote zero time to washing their feet while in the shower. Like me, they probably think that the suds that wash down their body are enough to clean their feet. When you decide to go sockless, that just won’t cut it. Every day you need to destroy the dead-skin-eating bacteria that causes foot odor. Scrubbing vigorously with your favorite anti-bacterial soap will do just that.

2. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day. You need to give your shoes time to dry out in-between wearings. Remember, a wet shoe is a smelly shoe. Give your shoes at least a day of rest before you put them back on. More time is better.

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June 19, 2010