Running shoes can start to develop an unpleasant odor over time from sweat, bacteria growth, and wear. While it’s natural for shoes to take on a smell from frequent use, an overpowering foot odor can be embarrassing and off-putting. Luckily, there are several methods you can try to get the smell out of running shoes.
Wash Removable Shoe Parts
Many running shoes have removable insoles and laces that can be taken out and washed separately. This allows you to target just the smelliest parts of the shoe. Remove the shoe laces and insoles and wash them by hand with mild detergent and water or put them in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Let them air dry completely before putting them back in the shoes.
Clean the Interior
For the inside of the shoes themselves, mix together a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water in a spray bottle. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer that helps kill bacteria and absorb foot odor. Spray or wipe the vinegar solution liberally over the interior sides and bottom of the shoes. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes so the vinegar can work, then wipe them dry with a clean cloth. Stuff crumpled newspaper or tissue paper into the damp shoes to help them retain their shape as they dry. The vinegar smell will fade as they dry.
Alternatively, baking soda is another odor-absorbing substance that can be sprinkled generously inside the shoes. Let it sit overnight and shake it out in the morning. The baking soda will pull out smells and moisture. A combination of vinegar and baking soda works extremely well to combat odors. Spray the interior with vinegar first, let sit 20 minutes, then sprinkle in baking soda and let sit overnight before wiping clean.
Disinfect with Antibacterial Spray
Since bacteria growth contributes to foot odor, using an antibacterial spray can kill bacteria inside the shoes. Look for antibacterial sprays made for athletic shoes or footwear, like Lysol Disinfectant Spray. Spray the interior of the shoes, coating all sides and surfaces. Let the shoes sit for a few hours or overnight to allow the antibacterial agents time to work before wearing again. This will inhibit future bacteria growth.
Use Odor Absorbing Powders
Powders like baby powder or medicated foot powder can be applied inside shoes to absorb excess moisture that leads to odor. Sprinkle a light coating inside the shoe, targeting the toe area and insole where sweat accumulates most. Let the powder sit overnight then shake it out before wearing the shoes again. The powder will soak up dampness and sweat to help shoes stay fresher longer.
Stuff With Dryer Sheets
Stashing scented dryer sheets or fabric softener sheets into shoes when they aren’t being worn can make them smell better. The perfumed dryer sheets help mask foot odors. Simply take a couple sheets and ball them up to stuff into the toe caps before storing or after wearing. Change out the dryer sheets every few wears to keep the interior smelling clean.
Air Them Out
Make sure to let your running shoes fully air out between wears. Take out the insoles so air can get inside the shoes easier. Stuff them with crumpled newspaper which will absorb moisture and odors as they sit. Place them in a breezy spot rather than storing them in a dark closet or hamper between runs. The fresh air circulation will help dispel smells. Direct a fan at them to speed up drying.
Freezing shoes can kill bacteria that causes odor. Simply place the shoes in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer overnight. Take them out the next day to thaw and dry. The cold temperatures will help freshen them up and deter bacterial growth.
Use UV Light
Exposing shoes to UV light is an effective way to kill odor-causing bacteria. Devices like the SteriShoe Shoekicker use concentrated UV light to deep clean shoes. Simply put the shoes inside and run a cycle. The UV light sterilizes the interior surfaces. However, these devices can be pricy. A cheaper option is to let shoes sit in direct sunlight for several hours which also utilizes UV rays to neutralize bacteria.
Insoles tend to hold onto shoe odors no matter how much you clean shoes. If the smell persists after trying these methods, it may be time to replace the old insoles with fresh ones. Inserting new insoles can make smelly shoes seem like new again.
While smelly running shoes are unavoidable, don’t Just resign yourself to dealing with unpleasant odors. Employ these handy techniques to banish odors and keep your running shoes smelling fresh. With regular cleaning and air circulation, you can stop foot odor in its tracks.