Shoe odor is caused by a build-up of bacteria and can cause a lot of issues. Not only are smelly shoes uncomfortable for you to wear, but they can also start stinking up your home and may result in bacterial infections in the feet, which is something you want to avoid at all costs if you can help it.

Stinky shoes are something that happens to us all, especially if you are wearing a certain pair of shoes every day. Your shoes are a breeding ground for bacteria, due to the moisture that they can hold from your feet and how warm they are. Whether you wear your shoes for running and working out or simply have an everyday pair of shoes that are starting to smell, this is likely due to a build-up of bacteria that comes from sweat.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to combat odor and make your footwear comfortable once more. This is the ultimate guide to dealing with odor.

What Causes Smelly Shoes?

You have probably noticed that it is not just the kind of shoe you wear to the gym or when working out that becomes smelly, as the odor can impact everything you wear on your feet. This is due to the moisture and sweat that occurs on the feet. With around 250,000 sweat glands on the feet alone, your shoes can be dealing with as much as a half-pint of sweat every single day – and that is without vigorous exercise!

When the feet are covered by a shoe, it creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria as it is warm, full of moisture, and dark, which is exactly what these microorganisms like. This build-up is what causes stinky feet, and although it can feel embarrassing, it is something that happens to us all.

This is why many of the steps that are in place to help remove odor from footwear deal with moisture and keeping shoes dry, as this can help reduce the bacteria that cause a stink and will help you get rid of stinky shoes for good.

What you need

There are various ways that you can get rid of the odor, and many of the tools you need can be found easily at home. The best way to prevent stinky shoes is to tackle the bacteria that develop from sweat and moisture, which means you need to work to keep the shoe sweat-free as must as possible.

This means that we will be needing to use materials that will help prevent moisture build-up, which, as we now know, creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If you want to ensure that you can tackle odor in your footwear whenever it appears, you will want to find the following:

  • Baking Soda: This is a natural deodorizer and can absorb moisture well
  • Rubbing Alcohol: This is a natural antiseptic that dries quickly and can kill bacteria
  • A Bar of Soap: This absorbs odor and has a nice, clean smell to keep your shoe fresh
  • Lemon Peels/Citrus Essential Oils: To add a fresh odor to your footwear which will combat the stink

You can also use your freezer to dry out footwear and remove moisture, as well as relying on a nice sunny day to do the same. Now that you have the tools on hand let us see how you can combat stinky shoes and reduce odor.

How to tackle shoe odor

There are five key steps when it comes to removing odor from shoes:

  • Prevent the issue from happening in the first place
  • Disinfect the shoe to prevent bacteria
  • Deodorize to keep moisture at bay
  • Protect the feet and skin from bacteria
  • Replace the shoes if necessary

1) Prevent

One of the best ways to tackle shoe odor is to prevent the issue from happening in the first place.

Following the correct hygiene guidelines when it comes to your feet and the shoes you wear is the best way to get a hold of the problem and keep your footwear odor-free for longer.

To prevent bacteria from taking place in your footwear, make sure that you are washing your feet regularly – especially on a hot day or during a particularly hard workout. You can use baking soda as a natural deodorant on the feet, placing some in the shoe, and also directly on the foot if sweat is an issue for you.

As well as this, you will want to thoroughly wash out your sneakers or boots after wearing them again, especially on sweaty days. Leave them out in the sun or use your freezer to ensure that the shoe is completely dry, and then combat any possible odors using essential oils.

2) Disinfect

Sanitizing your smelly shoes is vital as this prevents more bacteria from building up and can also kill off any that is already present, reducing the odor they create.

As we have mentioned, bacteria thrive in a dark and damp environment, which is what your shoe is when wearing it. This is why it is so vital to keep your footwear dry after wearing them and make sure that all moisture, like sweat, rainwater, or similar, has been dried away before wearing them again.

You can effectively kill bacteria in a freezer as these microorganisms cannot survive in the chill. Place your sneakers in a ziplock bag and freeze it overnight to kill off the bacteria.

It is also possible to buy a spray sanitizer than can be used in your shoe regularly to kill bacterias and prevent odors. It is recommended for you to only use a spray that has been made for shoes, rather than any household cleaner as this can cause issues to your skin and the material of the shoe.

Instead, rely on rubbing alcohol, which is a natural antiseptic that dries quickly or use something like white vinegar to provide the same effects.

3) Deorodize

No matter how hard you work at keeping your footwear dry, chances are there will be some kind of odor after wearing them for a long time.

This means that working to deodorize the footwear and keep the odors at bay is vital. This is where using things like essential oils, baking soda, and citrus fruit peels come in very useful and are highly effective at reducing the stink.

Once the bacterias have been killed and removed as much as possible, you can use things like essential oils to provide a fresh smell to your sneakers. Baking soda should be used first, as this can neutralize all odors and is a great way to combat bacterias.

You can create little deodorant baggies using a coffee filter, baking soda, and essential oils that will neutralize odors and leave a fresh scent to your footwear the next time you wear them.

4) Protect

At this point, you may notice that the odor in your shoes has gone, but that doesn’t mean the work can stop just yet. You need to protect your sneakers and feet from further bacteria build-up to keep the stink away. This is where you can use a bar of soap or scented products to ensure that your shoes are smelling fresh when you next wear them.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to do this is using a bar of soap, which needs to be placed inside of your shoes and left overnight at least. This offers a natural solution to bad odors that will not damage the material of the shoe nor irritate your skin but is effective at eliminating the stink.

You can also use lemon or orange peels in this step if you do not have any nice smelling products or do not want to waste a full bar of soap. Simply place these in your shoes overnight for the same effect. As we know, moisture is the main cause of bad odors, so you need to keep it controlled as much as possible.

This can be done by wearing breathable cotton socks with your shoes that will prevent sweating. You can also reduce bacterias when storing your shoes by making sure they are not packed in a closet or storage box with too many other shoes. This creates a dark and damp environment that bacterias can grow in and is often the cause of shoes smelling before you have even worn them.

5) Replace

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to reduce odor in your shoes is to throw them away. This is the last step to tackling smelly shoes, and it should always be a last resort to prevent wasting money and causing excess waste that is not necessary.

If you have tried all of the steps mentioned above and cannot seem to tackle the smell your shoes are creating, then it may be time to toss them. Some shoes are just beyond recovery, especially if you have had them for a long time and worn them out.

You can tell whether shoes are ready to be thrown away by looking at the condition of them. Over time, shoes get worn out, which means the lining can become torn, holes will appear, and they simply do not look the same anymore.

This can happen if you have tried to wash your shoes too many times as a way to get rid of the stink. Although it may hurt at first, especially if you have loved a pair of shoes or worn them a lot, there will always be more that you can buy.

When shoes become worn and damaged, it is harder to remove the bacterias as it can become embedded, which is why the stink will not go away. Save yourself the time and stress by getting rid of them and investing in a new, fresh pair.

You now know how to take care of your shoes to prevent odors, so hopefully, you will not have to throw any more out any time soon!

Final Notes

Smelly shoes can be embarrassing, but it is something that everyone has to deal with at some point. There is no way that we can stop our bodies from sweating, which results in bacterias in our shoes and odors, but we can take care of the footwear we use to prevent it from becoming an issue.

Ensuring that you are wearing the right socks that are breathable and following the correct hygiene procedures for your feet is a great way to keep odors at bay. Prevention is the best solution after all, but thankfully this is not your only option.

Keeping your shoes dry and using natural scents is a great way to get yourself out of a funk and remove smelly shoes from your life!

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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