stinky sneakers

As athletes, we have to deal with stinky clothes all the time. We’re forced to get pretty good at dealing with it eventually, or else our $200 bib shorts are too nasty to wear after three weeks!

The problem is, we can’t throw our stinky shoes in the washing machine with everything else. And that sucks because our shoes are probably the stinkiest piece of gear we use!

So, here are a few things you can try to keep your sneakers smelling fresh (or at least make them smell better):

1. Alternate Shoes Each Day

I picked up this tip from businessmen who wear expensive leather shoes to work each day, but it will apply to running shoes as well.

The idea to is never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. This gives each pair time to dry out between uses, rather than be constantly damp with sweat. (Keeping your shoes as dry as possible is the key to preventing odor.)

You would have to buy two pairs of sneakers to pull this off, but it’s not a bad idea, since you’ll probably more than double the life of each pair. Plus, when you find a good pair of shoes, it’s good to buy two or three pairs of the same model, anyway (because you never know when a particular shoe will be changed or discontinued).

2. Use “On Your Toes” Powder

This powder is amazing. It’s what worked for me when nothing else did! It’s popular with rock climbers who wear tight shoes and no socks; so if works for them, it’s probably going to work for any athlete!

It requires a few steps to get the application right – you treat your feet as well as your shoes – but if you do it right, it will prevent foot odor for up to six months! Seriously!

I used to be embarrassed to remove my shoes in the climbing gym, but for less than $15, that problem has been solved by On Your Toes.

3. Anti-fungal Foot Spray

Need something to cut down on odor ASAP? The quickest, most conventional way to keep your sneakers smelling fresh is to use some sort of spray. The two main options are Odor Eaters Foot & Sneaker Spray and Dr. Scholl’s Odor Destroyers. Both come in an aerosol can and can be sprayed on feet, socks, or in your shoes.

Spray it on your feet before a run to increase comfort, and spray it in your shoes after a run to prevent them from getting too stinky.

4. DIY Smelly Sneaker Spray

You can also make a spray using common household ingredients.

Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar. Spray a light mist inside your shoes once per week to prevent odor-causing bacteria buildup.

5. Activated Charcoal or Kitty Litter

Activated charcoal has some cool uses. Some people put bags of it in their basement to absorb excess moisture and foul odors, and it’s also used to create scent-proof hunting outfits (used to prevent animals from smelling hunters as they approach).

Therefore, it makes sense that it could also work to absorb odors from stinky sneakers. What I suggest is getting some activated charcoal packets (like this) to keep in your shoes when not in use.

You can also buy the activated charcoal powder in bulk, then put it in some pantyhose or an old thin sock, and tie off the ends. Then just keep that in your shoes when you’re not wearing them.

(I’d hesitate to use charcoal from your grill… it’s not quite the same thing!)

You could also try kitty litter, which accomplishes nearly the same thing, and is probably cheaper and easier to find.

6. A Sprinkle of Baking Soda

Another inexpensive option is baking soda. An open box of baking soda is commonly used to keep your fridge smelling fresh, so why not try it in your shoes? Just sprinkle some baking soda in (or on) your shoes every so often and see if it helps cut down on odor.

Really work it into the insole, and beneath the insole.

At the very least, it’s a good substitute for the specialty products, since you most likely have some at home already.

7. Get Brand New Shoes

It’s not cheap, but new shoes should smell very, very nice!

Honestly, if your shoes are so stinky right now, it’s unlikely that a little spray or powder will completely change things around. So you might need to start fresh!

And remember to use the On Your Toes powder in every new pair of shoes.

This article was originally published on April 27, 2010. It was updated and re-published on August 10, 2019.

Photo credit: poolie

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  1. Baking soda is a great idea. Everyone should have some already.

  2. I use a boot dryer for my cycling and running shoes. It keeps my shoes stink-free!

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