Got stinky shoes? Here's what to do

Ummm, what's that smell?

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Listen, I’ll be the first to admit it, I have an issue. My shoes reek. They range in odors from “slightly off putting” to “oh my god did something die in there?!”. I like to think that these stenches stem from the fact that I’m an avid runner, but I have been notorious since childhood for always having the smelliest sneakers around.

Why are some of us blessed with the curse of stinky feet? The world may never know. However, fortunately for us, there are some simple at home solution that will leave your shoes (and roommates) thanking you profusely. I gave some of these at-home remedies a try myself and the results were surprisingly positive.

foottreatments
Credit: Amazon

Smell Prevention

It’s inevitable your shoes will lose that “fresh-out-of-the-box” smell after repeated wears. However, there are ways to making your shoes stay fresher longer and prevent awful odors from making permanent homes in your soles.

  • Wear socks
    If you have athletic shoes and you aren’t wearing socks with them, first of all, you’re a monster. Second of all, they’re going to get real smelly, real fast. Socks act as a nice barricade between your stinky feet and the inside of your shoe. If you’re prone to wearing shoes like ballet flats, you can still buy specially made socks that won’t be visible while wearing your stylish footwear.

  • Try not to wear them out in the rain
    We live on planet Earth, so rain is inevitable. However, whenever the opportunity arises, reach for rain boots (definitely not Ugg boots) instead of getting your everyday shoes soaked.

  • If your shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper
    One of the oldest tricks in the book, newspaper sucks up moisture and dries out your shoes shockingly quick. Personally, I use this trick whenever I go for a run in the rain, it always leaves my sneakers dry and wearable the next day.

  • Leave them outside
    Sunlight acts as a subtle, yet natural disinfectant. Plus, a good gust of fresh air won’t do your shoes any harm.

  • Don’t wear your shoes multiple days in a row
    If you happen to have multiple pairs of shoes, make sure to rotate them throughout the week. This way, one pair won’t get the brunt of your sweaty feet. This is especially important for athletic shoes.

When the odor is just too much

Humble brag: I’m a marathon runner. Not so humble brag: this basically ensures that my feet have an offensive stench to them at all times. I took 4 pairs of my smelliest athletic shoes and put them to the test when it came to homemade remedies. In all 4 of the tests, I began the deodorizing process at 10 p.m. and then came back to give the shoes a sniff at 7 a.m.

shoes on stairs
Credit: Kate McCarthy

The offending sneakers, waiting to be de-stunk.

1. Baby powder

In one pair of shoes, I liberally sprinkled baby powder into the soles, shaking it down the entire shoe so it reached the toe. The toughest part about this method was shaking the powder out the following morning. After a long sniff, the shoes actually didn’t smell half bad, with the powder mainly being the prevailing scent. However, this was the messiest of the at home remedies, and the powder left white streaks all over my black Nikes. Next time, it would be easier to use a handheld vacuum to remove the baby powder.

2. Baking soda

I preferred the baking soda to the baby powder methodology. I put the same amount of powder in each shoe, but the baking soda was significantly easier to shake out the next day and didn't stick all over the inside of my shoe. Also, it didn’t leave a specific scent, it just dulled the odor of sweat that had been simmering in my sneakers for many, many months. Did it completely eliminate the odor? No. But it was drastically improved after only one night.

3. Essential Oils

I was skeptical of this method at first, mainly because essential oils seem to be the answer to everything on the internet these days. This was also the easiest method by far, so it seemed too good to be true. All I had to do was put two small drops of peppermint essential oil inside each sneaker, and then go to bed. The next morning, all I could smell was mint with a tiny, tiny lingering aroma of feet. Not too bad for just two tiny drops.

4. The freezer

I was most excited to see if this method would actually work. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of putting non-food items in the freezer since I had heard about people who don’t wash their jeans and put them in the freezer instead. For this method, all you need is a plastic bag, paper bag or pillowcase to place your shoes inside, and some extra room next to your frozen waffles. I placed my grungiest, smelliest running shoes inside a trash bag, whispered good luck, and shut the freezer door on them overnight. The next morning I stuck my entire face inside the shoe and yup, it had worked. With an odor that you used to be apparent from down the hall, I now had to stick my entire nose inside the shoes just to catch a subtle, sweaty smell. If that isn’t a modern day miracle, I don’t know what is.

You’ve gotten rid of the smell, now it’s time for upkeep

feet in grass
Credit: Canva
  • This should go without saying, but keep your feet clean. When you’re in the shower, actually focus on washing them, instead of just letting them chill in the remnants of the soap that runs down your leg. Your feet have over 250,000 sweat glands on your feet, so it’s easy for them to get stinky real quick.

  • Just like brushing your teeth before bed or shutting off the lights before you leave the house, make deodorizing your shoes part of your daily routine. Leave a small bottle of baby powder or essential oil near the entryway to your home. Once you get in from a long day and kick off your shoes, give a gentle spritz of your remedy of choice and spend the evening satisfied that you’ll start the next day literally on a fresh foot.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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