Shoes with bad odors are a common problem for the best of us, especially those of us who spend hours on our feet. But there are certain types of shoes which are prone to either worse odor or becoming smellier faster. Sneakers are very popular culprits for this. The reason for this is partly because of what they are made out of and partly because of their function. We love them, and we all wear them, particularly the ones of us who are sporty or regular gym bunnies.

Sneakers are comfortable, supportive, and we probably have multiple different pairs to match our favorite Lycra outfits. But what do you do when you need to take these dreadful smelling sneakers off, and you are out in public? You tense yourself ready for the smell to hit you and everyone else around you…

But does it have to be this way? No! ShoeAdviser wants you to be comfortable in and out of your sneakers, so here are the top tips on to how to fix the smelly sneaker scenario. You are not the only person in this situation, you don’t need to keep replacing awful smelling sneakers, and there are multiple solutions to suit you and your lifestyle. Keep reading to find out more about how to quell the smell.

Why Do Sneakers Stink?

To understand how to eradicate something, we need to fully determine the cause before we begin in our quest. So we are first going to work out the cause of the stinky sneaker. Contrary to popular belief, sneakers don’t smell because of sweat, they actually smell due to the build-up of bacteria. Any area of your body that has sweat glands, such as your armpits and including your feet, are areas that are prone to sweating.

When sweat occurs, and the area remains hot, this is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This beautiful bacteria then gets trapped within our sneakers, socks, and skin on our feet, so even when you take your sneakers off and hide them away somewhere, your feet will still smell funky.

If you are wanting to get really technical, the specific sweat types that come from the glands in your feet are scientifically known as Micrococci and Corynebacterium. Their core function is to break down sweat which they then turn in to a very specific strain of fatty acid known as Isovaleric acid, and it is actually this final product which causes the familiar and much-dreaded sneaker smell.

Now that we know the cause of the smell, we can move on to learning how to treat the problem with the three most common ways in which to handle it. These ways are all effective and can be chosen subjectively to suit you, your timetable, and your lifestyle.

No Stink Neutralizing

One of the most common ways to get rid of the smelly sneaker is to neutralize the bacteria which has accumulated within the sneaker. This can be done quickly, easily and in a reasonably cost-effective manner through the use of baking soda. Yes, exactly the same product as you would use in baking, readily found in most household kitchens and easy to source from most local stores.

For baking soda to take effect, all you have to do is to open up the sneaker as much as you possibly can and apply baking soda to the inside of the shoe in as many areas as possible. The main area to target is the insole of the shoe, especially if it cannot be removed, which is common in most types of sneakers. If you do this before you go to bed one night, the baking soda will take effect overnight, and you can throw the baking soda out in the morning when you get up. Leaving the sneakers to neutralize overnight will give them plenty of time for the smell to be eradicated because the bacteria will not have been able to continue breeding.

Handy information to know about this technique include that all material types can handle this method of odor eradication, but you need to be careful if you repeatedly use this technique on leather sneakers. This is because baking soda, while brilliant at neutralizing bacteria, is also very good at drying out material. Over time in leather, this will cause the leather to crack, and they will no longer be fully waterproof, or in the worst-case scenario, you will end up with a hole in your sneaker. But do not worry, you have to use this method of smell removal a lot of times for this to occur.

Freezing Footwear

If you are in possession of a large enough freezer, then a great way to remove the smell of sneakers is to freeze your sneakers. The best way to do this is to put each sneaker into an individual bag. This is partly for ease of fitting the shoes into the freezer and partly because you do not want any bacteria contaminating your food before it freezes. You don’t want to smell that stinky bacteria, so you definitely don’t want to consume it!

Why does freezing your sneakers work so well? It is a popular odor prevention method because of the way in which bacteria thrives. Bacteria loves hot and wet places and multiples at a rapid rate when it’s in the right setting. Putting your sneakers into the freezer removes both of the elements which enable bacteria to breed and therefore eradicates the sneaker smell.

Freezing sneakers kills the bacteria, and the longer you freeze the sneakers for, the more thoroughly the bacteria has been killed and the longer the smell of your sneakers will still away for. When it comes to pro athletes and frequent sports players, this is an easy, free, and quick method that requires very little effort but has a very big effect on the sneakers and the feelings when wearing and taking off the sneakers in a public place, too.

Dry Sneakers

When sneakers are wet, bacteria thrive. Damp, warm places are the favorite haunt of stinky bacteria and many other bad microorganisms which cause smells in their own right. For this reason, it would make sense if the sneakers were dried as much as possible. However, it is vital that you take note of the drying method here. For example, putting your smelly sneakers on the radiator to dry them out would certainly not improve the smell because your sneakers would be wet and warm for a while, which is the ideal bacterial breeding ground.

This would actually make the smell worse. Instead, the advised method for drying your sneakers is to stuff them full of newspaper as soon as you have finished your exercise regime. This helps for multiple reasons: Newspaper soaks up sweat and thereby eradicates the bacteria and microorganisms; newspaper does not get hot when it dries out your sneakers like a radiator would; newspaper enables your sneakers to maintain their shape so they will not be deformed and uncomfortable when you next go to put them on.

Alternative Smelly Sneaker Cleaning Methods

If you are looking for alternative methods for getting rid of the despised sneaker smell, then do not despair. There are many ways in which you can remove the stench from your favorite sneakers. Be sure that you are not going to cause any damage to your sneakers when you try these methods, but most of them can be used on all sneaker types.  Take note of what your sneakers are made from, and if your sneakers are dyed specific colors, then this may influence your stench eradication method.

Alternative methods for smelly sneaker can include:

  • Washing your sneakers – some people prefer to do this by hand, whereas other people have a sports shoe wash on their washing machine;
  • Spray – You can mask the stench with perfume or find some specialist shoe spray designed solely for the function of stinky sneaker eradication. It kills bacteria before it has time to breed and can be an absolute saving grace for people who spend large amounts of time in sneakers;
  • Apply Odor Eaters to your sneakers;
  • Tea bags – Stop throwing away your tea bags once you have used them. Save them and dry them out. Once you have been for a run, place a dried tea bag in the toe of each sneaker, and the tea bag will absorb the sweat and moisture from your sneakers and leave you odor-free;
  • Alcohol solution – Create your own homemade solution spray out of 50% Isopropyl alcohol and 50% water, spraying your sneakers vigorously once you have worn them and then leave them to dry out thoroughly before you wear them again.

Decrease the Stench

To lessen the smell of the sneakers, make sure that you never go barefoot when wearing them. It is advised that you always wear socks so that there is a layer of material between your sneaker and your foot, which can absorb moisture and smell. This way, you are also less likely to get any foot fungus, and the smell will be much less than if you went barefoot.

You could also try washing your feet more often with the best methods for odor decrease found when athlete’s wash their foot pre and post sporting activity.

Don’t always wear the same pair of sneakers. Give the sneakers some time to recover and some time for the bacteria to die without repeatedly giving them the hot and wet breeding ground that they thrive on, on a daily basis. Having multiple pairs of sneakers to alternate between is the best solution here.

There is a cleaning and smelly sneaker decreasing method suitable for every wearer and every type of sneakers. Take some time to find the right one for you, and you will be sure to have stench free sneakers in no time at all!

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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