Fresh Smelling Shoes
Any time you combine feet with heat you run the risk of creating smelly shoes. It isn’t a problem that’s confined to just summer either. In fact, in the winter time, the problem is often more pronounced because we tend to wear heavy socks that cause our feet to sweat and fully enclosed shoes that don’t allow any of that heat or moisture to escape. The result is a nice hot moist environment that’s perfect for fostering robust colonies of bacteria and producing the kind of nose crinkling odors that bring a tear to the eye. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of where you live or what the season it’s possible to keep those nasty odors away by using a few ordinary household items and some ingenious hacks.
Banish Shoe Odors Using the Following Tips and Tricks
Ridding your work or hiking shoes of unpleasant odors doesn’t require a degree in chemistry or wholesale changes to your lifestyle. All it takes is a bit of thoughtful ingenuity. Here are 10 ways to prevent your shoes from becoming smelly embarrassments.
1. Baking Soda
There’s little doubt most people have heard that if you put an open box of baking soda in the fridge it will help keep it smelling fresh and clean. But how, exactly does baking soda work such miracles? Turns out it’s all about chemistry. You see, being an amphoteric baking soda has the ability to act as both an acid and a base. As such, whether the compound causing the offending odor is an acid or a base it will react with the baking soda to form a new substance; salt. In other cases, tiny, odor-causing molecules are absorbed by the porous surface of the baking soda but have a hard time escaping. Both of these mechanisms – reaction and absorption – work to reduce odors.
So now that you know how baking soda works you can see why it makes sense to sprinkle some into your athletic shoes, wingtips or hiking boots to eliminate odors. Just leave the baking soda in your loafers or work boots overnight and dump it out in the morning. If you’re afraid your dog or cat is going to try and eat the loose baking soda (or you just don’t like the idea of putting loose baking soda into your shoes) pour some into an old (non-smelly) sock and tie it off. Then put the sock into the shoe and leave it overnight.
2. The Deep Freeze
Stinky shoes are generated by bacteria. When bacteria come in contact with sweat emitted by our feet they begin to break down the sweat molecules. The nasty odor we smell is emitted by the bacteria as a byproduct of digesting those sweat molecules. If the bacteria didn’t have sweat to ingest and digest you wouldn’t smell anything. Likewise, if there were no bacteria in your shoes there would be nothing to digest the sweat molecules and generate the stench. So, take your smelly shoes and stick them in the freezer overnight. Why? Because bacteria are no fans of sub-freezing temperatures so a good long night in the freezer should send them all to that big stinky sneaker in the sky. And you can have your shoes back sans odor.
3. Tea For Two (Shoes)
If your shoes smell like a zombie has been playing basketball in them break out the tea bags, plop a couple into each shoe and let them sit for 24 hours. Next day the odor will be gone, replaced by the delicate scent of your favorite apple cinnamon or lavender tea. Now we know this sounds a bit like we’ve been doing too much research into hallucinogenic drugs but there’s actually sound science behind this method of odor control. It turns out that many types of tea contain tannins. And tannins are known to kill bacteria. Therefore, when you place a couple of tea bags in your smelly shoes it’s not a matter of the apple cinnamon scent overwhelming the stink from the bacteria, but rather the tannins in the tea killing the bacteria in the shoes. No more living bacteria to digest sweat molecules in the shoe, no more odor.
4. Baby Powder
The two previous methods of deodorizing your shoes dealt with killing the bacteria in order to shut down the odor producing process. With baking soda, we’re taking the opposite approach. We’re going to use baby powder to shut down the supply of sweat so that the bacteria have no sweat molecules to ingest. Most baby powders used to be made using talc. But since some clinical findings suggest talc may be linked to ovarian cancer many manufacturers are moving away from using it and replacing it with cornstarch instead. But whether your baby powder contains talc or cornstarch the effect is the same. They are both astringents which means they cause the pores of the skin to contract. This shuts off the sweat faucet to some degree and whatever sweat does get through is then absorbed by the powder itself and not available to the bacteria.
5. Kitty Litter
If you thought using tea bags to eliminate the smells emanating from your shoes was a strange idea you’ll likely do another head spin over the thought of using kitty litter. And while kitty litter isn’t necessarily as effective as tea it will nonetheless do a serviceable job of returning your shoes to a non-smelly state if you use it on a fairly regular basis. The idea here is that the kitty litter does in your waterproof boots or other shoes the same thing it does in the litter box; absorb whatever sweat or moisture it encounters so that your shoes are not a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Even if some sweat is not absorbed and some odors are generated they’ll quickly be neutralized by the deodorants in the kitty litter. So line the bottom of your shoes with kitty litter before you hit the sack and then dump it out in the morning. Then blow your shoes out with the hair dryer to remove any kitty litter left behind.
6. Sheets Of Fabric Softener
Many fabric softeners tout their ability to make your clothes smell fresh and clean. And to their credit, it has to be said that clothes washed using a fabric softener often do end up smelling better than they would otherwise. The same goes with fabric softener sheets that are added to the clothes while they’re in the dryer. Clothes do tend to emerge smelling pretty good. You can put that ability to produce sweet-smelling results to good use by sliding a sheet of fabric softener into each shoe before you go to bed and leaving them there while you’re off in slumberland. The next morning, simply remove and dispose of the sheets and that’s it. Your shoes are bound to smell better. Keep in mind though that this fix does not actually address the source of the problem. It’s one of the few hacks on our list that simply masks the smell of the odors.
Everyone’s favorite condiment also happens to do a pretty good job eliminating odors from smelly shoes. This is another smell killing solution that attacks the bacteria that produce the offending odors. Salt acts to dry out bacteria by drawing water through their cell walls by way of osmosis. As dehydration isn’t good for any living thing a bacteria cell that’s starved for water isn’t going to be able to perform basic functions and will die off. Dead bacteria are good bacteria that won’t be gobbling up the sweat and generating odors. Salt also has the added benefit of absorbing sweat and other types of moisture in the shoe. So in effect, it attacks the problem from both sides.
8. Put Them Through The Washer And Dryer
Obviously, this is an athletic shoes only solution but it’s a pretty effective one. And since the shoes that tend to get the smelliest tend to be those we sweat into the most – aka the shoes we wear to the gym or running or playing sports – this is a solution that will work for a lot of people. Contrary to what most folks believe, however, it isn’t the hot water of the wash cycle that kills the bacteria generating the stink. Nor is the water from the wash cycle drowning that bacteria. It’s actually the prolonged exposure to the high heat of the dryer that does in the bacteria in your shoes thereby ridding them of the smell producing agents. So don’t make the mistake of taking your shoes out of the washing machine and letting them air dry. Not if you want them to smell better.
9. Rubbing Alcohol
Since it’s bacteria that produce unpleasant smells when they ingest sweat molecules most of our hacks so far have dealt with going after the bacteria. And this particular hack is no different. Rubbing alcohol will kill any bacteria it comes into contact with but you’ll need to apply a fairly good amount. As such put some rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle and spray it inside your shoes. Don’t soak the shoe but make sure you give it a couple of good spritzes so that everything has a light coating. Then let the shoes dry overnight. In the morning the bacteria should be dead and the smell should be mostly or completely gone. If you still detect a bit of odor repeat the process the next night. In all honesty, this particular method is probably best reserved for use on athletic shoes since the alcohol may not agree with the finish on some dress shoes.
10. Wear Socks
There is nothing that will promote the growth of bacteria in your running shoes or hiking sandals better than not wearing socks. If you don’t wear socks all the sweat from your feet goes directly into the shoes where it creates a petri dish for bacteria to grow in. And grow it will. Once the bacteria gorges on all those tasty sweat molecules you’ll have shoes that smell like the municipal dump on a late summer afternoon. Save yourself and everyone around you the pleasure of that experience by wearing socks at all times. Socks may make you feel hotter, and they’re not going to do a perfect job of absorbing all the sweat you produce, but they’ll absorb enough to make a distinct difference in the way your shoes smell. And the less sweat in your shoes the easier they’ll be to deodorize using one of the above techniques. Remember to always wear a clean pair of socks every day and don’t wear the same pair of socks on consecutive days. That means that if you are one of those people who wears compression socks because you work at a computer all day long make sure you have a number of pairs on hand so you have a clean pair at your disposal every day.
A Few Other Things You Can do to Prevent Shoe Odors
While the above hacks will help eliminate foul odors from your CrossFit shoes or work boots smelly shoes are not inevitable, even in the summer. Here are a few tips you might want to take to heart in order to prevent your shoes from becoming smelly in the first place.
- Wash your feet every day – Clean feet are bacteria free feet. Do your paws a favor and keep them clean.
- Wear the right sized shoes – Shoes that are too tight can cause your feet to sweat more than normal. Always make sure you buy shoes that fit properly.
- Get shoes with breathable surfaces – This mostly applies to athletic shoes. Always make sure your athletic shoes utilize plenty of breathable fabrics so sweat is able to evaporate.
- Change shoes on a regular basis – If possible wear different shoes every day. Even if you only have two pairs of shoes wear them on alternating days.