How to stop shoes from smelling

Stinky shoes are a royal pain. But if you thought that your favourite pair were beyond the point of salvation, then think again.


Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually the sweat that causes odours, but the bacteria on our skin, activated by the sweat. And with 250,000 sweat glands on each foot combined with the heat trapped in a small, non-breathable space (aka shoes), you’ve got yourself fertile breeding grounds for bacteria. 


Below, we’ve rounded eight foolproof techniques for reducing odours, starting with ensuring proper hygiene, to help you keep your favourite shoes comfortable and smell-free.


1- Washing your feet at least once a day with antibacterial soap

This should go without saying. Making sure to properly wash your feet with soap in the shower, paying special attention to in-between the toes and the soles of your feet, is the best way to target bacteria and dead skin. The next step is to make sure you dry your feet thoroughly, again paying special attention to in-between the toes. Moisture creates a breeding ground for bacteria. 


2- Wearing sweat-wicking socks (and changing them at least once daily)

Wherever possible, don’t go sockless. Socks create a barrier between your feet and the insides of your shoes and help reduce unpleasant odours. When choosing socks, avoid nylon and opt for natural materials, preferably with sweat-wicking capabilities instead. And remember to change your socks at least once a day.


3- Airing your shoes and shoe rotation

In a recent blog post, we ran through some does and don’ts that help keep your favourite pairs in better shape. One of the first things on the no-no list was wearing shoes two days in a row. Shoes need to be allowed to air for at least 24 hours after every wear.    


4- Deodorizing spray or powder

After following steps 1-3 above, you arm yourself with this extra layer of protection by applying the deodorizing spray to your clean, dry feet before slipping on a pair of clean socks that you will then slip into a pair of dry shoes. These deodorizing products are a quick and easy fix that helps ensure those nasty smells are kept at bay by keeping your feet dry. Hot tip - baby powder works too.  


5- Baking soda

Dump some baking soda straight into your shoes and leave them overnight to neutralize any odours. Remember to empty out the powder in the morning before putting your shoes on. But do be aware that baking soda can dry out some materials like leather. However, if you maintain proper hygiene using steps 1-4 above, you shouldn’t have to do this too often. 


6- Tea Bags

Black tea contains tannins, which are highly effective at killing bacteria. Place two tea bags in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes before taking them out and allowing them to cool for five minutes or so. Then place a tea bag inside each shoe and allow them to sit for an hour before taking them out and wiping off the excess liquid from your shoe.


7- Freezer trick

Two things are sure to kill bacteria- extremely high temperatures and freezing temperatures. Stuff your shoes into a bag and put them in the freezer overnight. That pesky bacteria will be dead by morning and with it the stench.


8- Medicated insoles with a deodorizing effect (charcoal)

There is a range of specifically formulated insoles, many containing charcoal, which are extremely effective at controlling odour. They’re easy to find and will work with almost any closed-toe shoe.

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