Having stinky shoes can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. No one wants to have smelly feet or spread unwanted odors. Fortunately, there are several easy methods you can use to deodorize your shoes and keep them fresh.
Why Do Shoes Get Smelly?
There are a few key reasons why shoes start to smell bad:
- Sweat – Your feet sweat throughout the day, especially if you wear closed-toe shoes. Sweat provides the ideal breeding ground for bacteria that causes odors.
- Bacteria – The bacteria on your feet eat your dead skin cells and sweat and produce a foul smell in the process.
- Trapped moisture – Shoes trap moisture and sweat against your feet, allowing more bacteria to grow.
- Old shoes – Shoes absorb odors over time. The older they get, the more smells get trapped inside.
Knowing what causes the smells can help you better target your deodorizing efforts.
Cleaning Your Shoes
One of the most effective ways to deodorize shoes is to clean them thoroughly. Giving your shoes a deep clean helps remove dirt, sweat, and bacteria that builds up inside:
- Remove footbeds and shoelaces – Take out anything removable so you can clean the whole shoe interior.
- Wash with soap and water – Use a small amount of gentle soap and scrub inside and outside with an old toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.
- Use baking soda – Sprinkle baking soda liberally inside your shoes. Let sit for several hours or overnight before shaking it out. The baking soda will help absorb odors.
- Disinfect with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol – Use a 50/50 mixture of either with water. Spray or wipe inside the shoes to kill bacteria.
- Air dry completely – Stuff shoes with newspaper or dryer sheets to absorb moisture. Let them dry in the sun for a fresh scent.
Regular cleaning makes a big difference in preventing shoe odors.
Deodorizing Sprays, Powders, and Insoles
There are many commercial products designed to get rid of smelly shoe odors and help keep feet dry:
- Deodorant sprays – Spray antibacterial and odor-eliminating products inside shoes after wearing. Look for formulas with tea tree, eucalyptus, or other essential oils.
- Foot powders – Dust on medicated, moisture-absorbing powders to limit sweat and bacteria. Talcum and anti-fungal powders work well.
- Odor-absorbing insoles – Insert insoles treated with activated charcoal, baking soda, or other odor absorbers that trap smells. Replace monthly.
- Moisture-wicking insoles – Prevent sweat by using insoles infused with antimicrobial copper fibers or designed to move moisture away from feet.
Use these types of products to maintain freshness between deep cleanings. Reapply as needed.
You can also make homemade deodorizers using common household ingredients:
- Baking soda – Spread baking soda generously inside shoes and leave overnight before shaking out. The baking soda absorbs odors.
- White vinegar – Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Mist inside shoes and let dry fully to eliminate odors.
- Essential oils – Oils like lemon, lavender, peppermint, and tea tree have antibacterial properties. Add a few drops to baking soda or dilute in water to spray.
- Activated charcoal – Place charcoal bags or pouches inside shoes when not wearing to absorb smells. Charcoal capsules can be opened and sprinkled inside as well.
- Dryer sheets – Stuff dryer sheets or cut-up pieces in smelly shoes overnight. They help mask odors.
These DIY methods offer an inexpensive way to tackle shoe odors. Rotate different remedies to keep shoes fresh.
Practice good foot hygiene and shoe care to stop odors before they start:
- Wash feet daily – Make sure to scrub between toes and dry feet thoroughly before putting on shoes.
- Alternate shoes – Rotate different pairs so you aren’t wearing the same ones two days in a row. Gives them time to dry out.
- Use shoe liners and socks – Look for moisture-wicking liners and antimicrobial socks designed to combat odors. Change your socks daily.
- Sprinkle with talcum or foot powder – Apply to feet and inside shoes to limit sweat and moisture.
- Don’t wear shoes without socks – The friction makes feet sweat more. Always wear socks to create a barrier.
- Use shoe shapers or bags – Insert cedar shoe trees or breathable cotton bags when storing shoes to draw odors out and wick moisture.
- Store shoes properly – Keep shoes in a cool, well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight. Let them air out between wears.
With the right preventative habits, you can stop shoe odors before your shoes ever start to smell.
When to Toss Stinky Shoes
If you’ve tried everything and your shoes still smell, it may be time to replace them. Shoes with excessive odor issues that don’t resolve can potentially indicate an underlying foot fungus or bacterial infection. See your doctor if foot odor is accompanied by itching, redness, blisters, or excess peeling. Don’t try to salvage shoes that could be contributing to foot health problems.
Don’t be afraid to get rid of shoes that are too far gone. While smelly shoes are annoying, they don’t have to be the norm. With diligent cleaning, deodorizing remedies, and preventative care, you can keep your shoes – and feet – fresh every day.