As exhilarating as climbing a mountain can be, it also comes with some unpleasant side effects – namely, smelly feet. Spending days or even weeks hiking and climbing at high altitudes leads to sweaty, stinky feet that can really put a damper on the experience. Here’s an inside look at what causes smelly feet when mountain climbing and how to combat it.

One of the main culprits of smelly feet is the shoes and boots required for mountain climbing. They trap sweat and bacteria against your feet, creating a warm, moist environment perfect for odors to brew. The stiff materials also don’t allow much airflow to your feet as you hike. Even the most breathable hiking boots will lead to sweaty feet after hours of uphill climbing. Moisture-wicking socks help absorb sweat, but won’t eliminate the problem.

Another factor is the altitude and climate. The higher the elevation, the thinner the air becomes. This means your body has to work harder to circulate oxygenated blood to your extremities like your feet. All that extra work pumps out more sweat, feeding the bacteria on your feet and enhancing odors. Cooler mountain temps also make feet sweat less efficiently. The sweat doesn’t evaporate as readily and remains trapped in your shoes and socks.

The hours of uphill hiking and climbingmotion also contribute. The constant friction and pressure between your feet and shoes creates more sweat. So do cramped quarters like rock climbing cracks and chimneys. Banging your feet repeatedly against the rock face only augments sweat production and bacteria growth. Don’t forget about stream crossings either. Wet feet equal smelly feet.

Unfortunately, proper hygiene is hard to maintain when camping and climbing for days or weeks. You may go days without removing your boots and socks in the wilderness. Washing sweaty feet with limited water is not a priority. That gives smells more time to develop and take hold. Changing into camp shoes at the end of the day provides some relief, but your feet are already marinating.

So how do you combat smelly feet while mountain climbing? Start with breathable, well-fitted hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks. Bring extra pairs of socks so you can change them throughout the day as they get damp. Use antibacterial foot powder or spray to help keep odors at bay. Pack baby wipes to give your feet a wipe down at camp. Bring plastic bags to quarantine stinky socks from the rest of your gear.

Whenever possible at camp, take your boots and socks off and let your feet air out. Wash your feet in a stream or with boiled water. Let them dry fully before putting socks back on. Some people recommend antiperspirant on clean feet before bed to curb sweat. Always dry equipment like boots and socks thoroughly to avoid mildew smells. And don’t wear climbing shoes to bed!

While you may not be able to fully avoid smelly feet when spending days scaling mountain heights, you can take steps to minimize the odors. Focus on keeping your feet as clean and dry as possible. With vigilance, you can reach the summit without knocking out your climbing partners with your stinky feet. Just be sure to warn them so they can bring clothespins for their noses. Happy climbing!