Why Do My Husband’s Shoes Smell So Bad?

It’s a common household grievance – picking up your husband’s shoes only to get a whiff of an offensive odor emanating from them. His smelly shoes can quickly stink up a whole room. So what causes this unpleasant foot stench, and what can you do about it?

There are several reasons why your husband’s shoes might have built up an extra-strong smell. The most obvious culprit is sweat. Our feet contain more sweat glands per square inch than any other part of the body. When feet sweat throughout the day, the moisture gets absorbed into the shoes’ fabric lining and insoles. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive and produce foul-smelling compounds.

The type of socks your husband wears can also contribute to shoe odor. Non-breathable socks made from synthetic fibers tend to accentuate sweating and bacteria growth. Meanwhile, natural fiber socks like cotton tend to absorb moisture better. Wearing the same pair of socks multiple days in a row gives smell-causing bacteria more time to accumulate.

Besides sweat, another source of shoe odor is the shoes’ materials themselves. The adhesives and dyes used in less expensive shoe materials can break down over time and cause stinky chemicals to offgas inside the shoes. Leather and canvas shoes allow more airflow, reducing moisture buildup. However, any shoe material will start to retain odors after enough wear.

What can you do to combat your husband’s smelly shoe situation? First, suggest that he alternate between different pairs of shoes each day. This allows them more time to air out and dry between wearings. Make sure he has shoes made of breathable natural materials, and replace insoles regularly. Washable canvas shoes can be tossed in the washing machine periodically.

You can ask your husband to apply foot powder inside his shoes every morning. The powder will absorb moisture and help neutralize odors. Baking soda and activated charcoal inserts also work to absorb smells. And be sure he wears clean, moisture-wicking socks. Suggest that he change out of his work shoes immediately when he gets home so they have time to dry out.

If the smell persists, you may need to thoroughly clean the shoes. Remove the laces and insoles and scrub the insides with a toothbrush, laundry detergent, and hot water. Spraying with an antibacterial/antifungal spray can help eliminate leftover odors. Leaving the shoes out in the direct sun can also kill bacteria. As a last resort for stubborn odors, speak to a shoe repairer about replacing the lining.

With some vigilance about hygiene and shoe care habits, you and your husband can step out in fresh-smelling footwear. Don’t let stinky shoes come between you – a few simple fixes can get rid of even the foulest foot odor for good.