Smelly Shoes

Ever notice that some shoes are just smellier than others? Even when worn the same way by the same person?

Many people think that closed shoes vs. open sandals is what makes the difference, but that's a popular misconception. The primary factor that determines how smelly shoes get is the material they're made of.

What Causes Smelly Shoes?

In general, the more absorbent the material is, the smellier the shoe will be. Suede, for example, is very absorbent, so suede shoes are likely to absorb a lot of sweat, which will result in very smelly shoes. Likewise, running shoes and other athletic shoes are usually made of canvas or some other absorbent fabric that absorbs sweat. Since athletic shoes are often worn by very active people who by definition are sweating a lot, athletic shoes have a lot of sweat to absorb, so they can end up being the smelliest shoes in your closet.

In contrast, shoes made of plastic or hard leather, which won't absorb sweat, tend not to be as smelly.

What To Do About Smelly Shoes?

Some people don't mind smelly shoes — the smellier, the better. But for those who want to reduce the smelliness of their shoes, here are some tips:
  • Fresh air and sunshine: Put them outside in the sun to dry. Drying smelly shoes in the sun will reduce the smell almost immediately, but once they're worn again, they'll start smelling again quickly.
  • Cat litter: Yes, cat litter. Cat litter is specifically designed to absorb dampness and odors. Fill a couple of knee-high stockings with cat litter, tie them closed, and stuff one inside each shoe. Keep the stockings handy to stuff back into the shoes after wearing them again. And periodically replace the kitty litter with fresh litter.
  • Baking soda: Everyone knows to use baking soda in the refrigerator or the garbage disposal to absorb odors. It works in smelly shoes, too. Be sure to dry them in the sun first, then sprinkle baking soda liberally inside the shoes. You can wear the shoes with the baking soda still in there. After wearing, stuff the shoes with the cat-litter filled stockings again to keep them odor-free.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol also has odor-absorbing properties. Put some in a spray bottle or mister, and spray the insides of the shoes. Don't soak them; a light treatment is all that's needed.
  • Baby powder: Sprinkle inside the shoes (after drying them in the sun), and sprinkle some on your feet before putting the shoes on.
  • Dryer sheets: Stuff a dryer sheet or two (such as Bounce) into each shoe at night.
  • Lysol: The old standby, Lysol, is always a good way to get rid of odors in smelly shoes or anywhere else.
  • Febreze: Spray Febreze directly into the shoes to quickly reduce the smelly shoe odor. But unless you dry the shoes thoroughly, they'll start stinking again as soon as you wear them.

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