How to Eliminate Smelly Shoe Odor

Smelly shoe odor can be socially embarrassing. Here’s what to do about it.

It’s an embarrassing problem to have. Smelly shoe odor is no laughing matter and if the sweat glands in your feet are overactive, it can be a challenge to correct this frustrating problem. Smelly shoe odor arises when the proper conditions exist to support the growth of bacteria and fungi in shoes. These bacteria and fungi give off by-products that cause an unpleasant odor which can be a true social embarrassment. These bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, moist conditions so if you happen to have overactive sweat glands in your feet, you’ll likely end up having a problem with smelly shoe odor unless you take corrective measures.

The best treatments for smelly shoes involve reducing the moist environment inside the shoe so the offending bacteria and fungi can no longer grow and thrive. One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to choose shoes with good ventilation. Avoid wearing heavy or thick boots and shoes and select light weight leathers and canvas shoes that allow better air circulation. Wearing all-cotton socks can also help to reduce the excessive moisture that sets up a good environment for bacterial growth. Synthetic sock materials such as polyester should be avoided since they tend to trap moisture and worsen smelly shoe odor.

Another treatment for smelly shoes is to place them in a warm, dry place immediately after wearing them. This helps to reduce the interior moisture content that promotes bacterial growth. Allow them to rest for at least 24 hours before re-wearing them. Have several pairs of shoes available that you rotate on a regular basis so you don’t have to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. By constantly rotating your shoes, you’ll reduce moisture build-up and give smelly shoes a chance to completely dry out between wearings.

Baking soda also helps to deodorize shoes and eliminate smelly shoe odor. Sprinkle some on your feet before putting on your socks in the morning. In the evening when you take off your shoes, sprinkle a small amount on the inside of your shoes before placing them in a dry place. If the smelly shoe odor is particularly bad, spray the inside of your shoes lightly with rubbing alcohol and leave it overnight. The rubbing alcohol helps to kill any odor causing bacteria. Another way to deodorize shoes is to place them in a plastic bag and freeze them for at least two hours to kill bacteria and fungi.

A more expensive way to deal with smelly shoe odor is to buy odor reducing inserts for your shoe from your local drugstore. You’ll also find various odor reducing foot powders and sprays, although these generally don’t work any better than inexpensive baking soda.

Don’t let smelly shoe odor make you afraid to remove your shoes in front of your loved ones. By taking a few measures to correct this problem, you can breathe more easily.

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  1. good tips kristie! :)

    and i also would like to add that another way to eliminate odor is using a charcoal. my personal experience was placing a small chunk of charcoal inside my shoes. i say, it’s really effective!

    in fact, charcoals are also used by many when deodorizing their comfort rooms and refrigerators (just make sure it doesn’t get mixed with the foods. it’s actually a cost-effective way of deodorizing. :)

  2. Good call on the charcoal, I’ll try it.
    My way: Dryer sheets in the shoes.
    They work when you’re wearing them, and when you’re not.
    SUPER cheap way, cause hey, most peeps already have them at home.

  3. Try a small amount of rubbing or denatured alcohol…Just enough to dampen the inserts/bottom of your shoes (where most of the bacteria live). Denatured alcohol works best, but it’s hard to find. Killing the bacteria is the only way to effectively get rid of the smell, and the alcohol does the trick. Freezing, drying, etc. only serve to slow bacterial growth, NOT kill them. Let the alcohol do its job for some time, 30 mins to an hour and then rinse. One caveat to this treatment: be careful of color bleed…I haven’t found this to be an issue with tennis shoes, etc. but I have a pair of FiveFingers and the colored dye did not like the alcohol…

  4. I used to buy those Stick-Ups air freshner disks years ago and put them in my shoes. They did an awesome job in killing the shoe funk. My shoes were smelling like roses after using them. Unfortunately, they stopped making Stick-Ups. I will try the charcoal trick, and the plastic bag in the freezer trick.

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