Should You Throw Out Stinky Shoes?

We’ve all been there – you open up your closet and are hit with an overwhelming stench coming from your favorite pair of sneakers or boots. No matter how much you love them, at a certain point stinky shoes may seem unwearable. But is tossing them in the trash really your only option? Here’s a look at what causes shoes to smell, when to consider getting rid of them, and some tips for dealing with foul footwear before taking the dramatic step of throwing them out.

When Are Stinky Shoes Unwearable?

A slight foot odor at the end of the day doesn’t necessarily mean your shoes have reached the end of their lifespan. But truly foul, overpowering smells, especially ones that linger for days no matter what you try, indicate it may be time to get rid of them.

Additionally, visible damage like:

  • Holes/tears
  • Major staining
  • Warping of the shape
  • Worn out soles with no tread

Usually means shoes have exceeded their useful life. Mold or mildew is another sign to toss shoes out rather than try to salvage them.

Tips To Freshen Up Stinky Shoes

Before condemning your kicks, try these simple methods to get bad smells out of shoes:

Baking soda – Sprinkle baking soda liberally inside shoes and leave it overnight, up to 24 hours. The baking soda will absorb odors. Dump out the leftover powder in the morning.

Freeze them – Place stinky shoes in a plastic bag, sealing tightly, and put in the freezer overnight. The cold helps kill bacteria responsible for smells.

Disinfectant spray – Spritz the interior lining with an antibacterial spray made for footwear. This helps eliminate odor-causing germs.

Vinegar soak – Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, submerge shoes for an hour, then stuff with newspaper to fully dry and absorb moisture. The acetic acid in vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant and deodorizer.

Activated charcoal – Place charcoal bags inside shoes when not wearing. Charcoal absorbs smells rather than just masking them.

UV light – Placing shoes in direct sunlight helps kill bacteria and dry excessive sweat. A UV shoe sanitizer works even better to thoroughly sanitize and de-stink.

Replace insoles – Insoles hold onto smells more than shoes themselves. Pop old insoles out and replace with fresh ones.

When All Else Fails, Replace Them

Sometimes even disciplined cleaning can’t rescue shoes from an overwhelming stench. If an odor persists despite your best efforts, it’s safest to throw them away. Bacteria and fungi building up inside can present health hazards that aren’t worth the risk just to keep an old pair going.

Additionally, materials like glue and padding break down over time. Though shoes may still look intact, issues developing inside could negatively impact comfort and support.

Rather than gamble with foot health or comfort, invest in a fresh pair that meets your needs. An annual shoe replacement is reasonable for sneakers/active shoes getting regular wear. Other pairs may last 2-5 years if properly cared for.

So before you toss those stinkers, try some DIY cleaning methods first. But if smells still knock you over, don’t feel bad about a trip to the trash can. Protect your foot health and comfort by knowing when to call it quits.