How to Fix Stinky Shoes? 8 Effective Ways to Remove Odor

We’ve all dealt with bad foot odor from shoes that make us cringe. But before you throw them out or relegate them to the back of your closet, know that you can get even the stinkiest shoes smelling fresh again with items you likely already have at home.

This article will cover 8 powerful DIY methods to effectively eliminate every trace of odor from your smelly shoes. Say goodbye to embarrassment and hello to odor-free footwear!

Method 1: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can help absorb odors. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside your shoes and let it sit overnight. Shake out the excess baking soda the next day. You can also place baking soda in a pair of socks or stockings and insert them into your shoes for a few hours.

Method 2: Vinegar is another natural deodorizer that can help eliminate shoe odor. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution inside your shoes and let it sit for a few minutes. Wipe away any excess moisture with a clean cloth and allow the shoes to air dry.

Method 3: Tea Tree Oil Tea tree oil is a powerful antimicrobial known to destroy odor-causing fungus and bacteria. Add several drops to shoes.

Method 4: Activated Charcoal Activated charcoal effectively pulls odor from shoes overnight when left in a small pouch. It also prevents future bad smells.

Method 5: Disinfectant Spray Look for shoe disinfectant sprays containing oxidizing agents like ozone or chlorine dioxide, which break down and deodorize shoe bacteria.

Method 6: Rubbing Alcohol Wiping down shoe interior and inserts with rubbing alcohol kills odor-causing germs in shoes and allows to fully dry and air out.

Method 7: Freeze Shoes Freezing shoes overnight helps destroy odor-causing bacteria. Place shoes in bags before putting in freezer.

Method 8: Replace Insoles Insoles hold onto foot sweat and odor. Swapping into fresh moisture wicking insoles removes smell incubator.

Why Do Shoes Get Stinky All the Time?

We’ve all experienced it – you take off your shoes after a long day and get a whiff of a foul, sweaty odor coming from inside them. No matter how often you clean them, your shoes seem capable of building up stench within hours of wearing them. So what causes shoes to smell so bad, and why does it keep happening?

The Culprits Behind Smelly Shoes

There are a few key culprits that contribute to perpetual stinky shoe syndrome:

Bacteria and Fungi Thrive in Shoes

The inner lining of shoes provides an ideal environment for microbes like bacteria and fungi to grow. It’s warm, dark and moist in there – perfect conditions. These organisms feed on dead skin cells and shoe dirt. As they digest these materials, they release unpleasant-smelling waste products that cause shoe odor.

Certain bacteria species are more likely to cause extra smelly feet and shoes, like Brevibacterium, which produces extra potent foot odors as a byproduct. Fungal overgrowth is also common in the toe areas and under the footbed, leading to fungus-related shoe smells.

Sweat Adds Fuel for Odor Causing Bacteria

Sweat itself doesn’t smell, but when all the sweat from your feet soaks into shoes and shoe inserts, it provides loads of nutrient-rich moisture for bacteria. This enables them to breed and create odor at an accelerated rate.

The average person sweats around half a pint in their feet per day! When all that sweat has nowhere to evaporate and pools in your footwear, stink builds up speedily.

Dead Skin Cell Build Up

We shed thousands of microscopic skin cells from our feet every day. When this dead skin accumulates inside shoes, it forms part of the ‘grime’ that bacteria feast on. More dead skin means more food for the stench-emitting critters.

Shoes Have Poor Air Circulation

Because shoes wrap snugly around feet and seal in heat and moisture, they provide poor airflow. Stuffy shoes mean sweat can’t evaporate effectively before microbes turn it stinky. Even moisture-wicking shoes or breathable mesh designs often have odor issues if worn constantly.

Adding insult to injury, shoes also limit sunlight exposure. UV light can otherwise help deactivate bacteria and fungus and reduce shoe smells.

Why the Problem Persists

With this army of microbes, sweat and skin cells continually building up inside them, it’s obvious why shoes end up smelly. But most people resort to a standard shoe cleaning routine and expect that to fix the problem for good. So, why doesn’t it?

Smells Can Linger After Cleaning

General scrubbing and washing removes dirt, dead skin and some microbes from shoes. But it likely doesn’t fully sanitize them. Bacteria embed deep into materials, and fungi colonize out of sight under insoles and linings.

So even freshly washed shoes soon start accumulating sweat, skin and microbes again – restarting the stink cycle.

Rotation Doesn’t Change ‘Favored Shoes’

Many people try rotating pairs of shoes daily to minimize odor issues. But in practice, most people favor certain shoes and wear them more often anyway. These frequently worn shoes get extra exposure to sweat, providing even more pungent smells.

Rotating does aid overall shoe longevity and cut back average smells. But it’s near impossible to wear all shoes truly evenly over time.

Environment and Activities Affect Odor Production

On hot days, shoes heat up and make feet sweat more. Extra sweat fuels extra smelly bacterial action inside shoes. Whereas on cold days, less sweating means shoe smells don’t develop as rapidly.

High activity and high impact exercise also accelerates sweat production and therefore shoe odors. The exact environment and activities when shoes are worn influences how bad and how quickly smells accumulate.

Tips to Handle Stinky Shoe Syndrome

To combat ongoing issues with smelly shoes, consider these tips:

  • Allow shoes a full 24 – 48 hours to air out and dry fully between wears. This starves odor microbes of moisture and limits growth.
  • Use antimicrobial shoe powders and sprays containing ingredients like zinc oxide or thymol regularly to tamp down bacteria overgrowth. Reapply after a few wears.
  • Stuff shoes with fresh dryer sheets or rolled up newspaper when in storage. Both absorb excess moisture and lend a fresh scent.
  • Replace insoles regularly so dead skin and microbe buildup has less area to accumulate on. Take outsoles out after wears too for air circulation.
  • Use UV sterilizers or ozone generating devices to fully sanitize the interior materials that washing can’t always reach.
  • Upgrade shoes themselves to more breathable, quick drying designs that provide less bacterial encouragement.

With vigilance, the right products and helpful habits, you can finally kick stinky shoe syndrome for good! Your footwear and all who encounter them will smell as sweet as they look.

Conclusion With simple household ingredients and cleaners, you can banish every trace of stench from your smelly shoes. No more avoiding your favorite pairs – enjoy them confidence again with fresh foot odor!

Angelus Easy Cleaner Kit
Sneaker Cleaning Kit | Premium Shoe Cleaner, Brush, and Microfiber Towel | Safe on all Fabrics – Made in USA
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Gear Aid Revivex Leather Boot Care Kit
Water Repellent, Cleaner, Brush and Cloth 100% Leather
Made in the USA
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Sof Sole Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Brush Kit for Shoes
Cleans and restores without the use of liquid
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Angelus Foam Shoe Cleaner Sneaker Cleaning Kit
5″ Hog Hair Brush- Cleans Dirt from White Shoes, Boots, & More
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Sneaker Clean Shoe Cleaner Kit
Sneaker Whitening Powder Stain Remover – Washing Machine Sneaker Deodorize Powder
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Learn more:

  1. 8 Ways To Get the Smell Out of Shoes
  2. How to Remove Shoe Smell and Make Them Smell Good.
  3. 7 Unexpected Ways to Get the Odor Out of Your Shoes
About the author

Hello, I'm Freddie, the driving force behind 'One Running Shoes Solution.' As a passionate runner and aficionado of the sport, I've dedicated myself to helping fellow athletes navigate the often daunting task of choosing the perfect pair of running shoes

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