Smelly shoes are so common that you might just accept it as a fact of life.
“Feet sweat, so my shoes are going to smell. Nothing I can do about it.”
I know the feeling.
I’ve had mini funerals for hiking boots that I loved because I just couldn’t get the funk out. I’ve been refining my approach over the last ten years, and I’ve finally dialed in a three-pronged approach that has silenced the barking dogs at the end of the day. Before I share my system, let me just tell you that some shoes might be a lost cause. If you been running around in the same smelly shoes for too long, they are probably possessed by stanky demons at this point, and no amount of anti-bacterial spray will bring them back. If you want to get a long life out of your shoes and boots your best bet is to start practicing these three steps from day one.
1. Start with a clean foot that’s ready for battle
Have a fresh foot at the end of the day can only happen if you start with a fresh foot in the morning. Your foot is going to be trapped in a shoe all day and bacteria will be eager to set up shop. A regular bar of soap isn’t going to cut it. You need something that is going to resist bacteria if you want to end smelly shoes forever. My favorite product lately has been Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Soap. It has a tea tree base that is antiseptic, anti-germ and anti-fungal. Use a scrub brush and get your feet nice and clean with this stuff.
2. If you don’t start the day with dry shoes, you’ll never win.
You know what bacteria love? Damp, dark places, as in, your shoes at the end of a long day. If you wear the same shoes every day and you DON’T proactively dry them, they WILL be damp the next morning. I don’t care if they feel dry. They’re not. The top of the insole might be dry, but I guarantee that the entire shoe isn’t. You have two good options here. One is to buy a boot dryer. They work great, but they’re noisy and kind of expensive. A cheaper option that works just as good is to buy some shoe deodorizer inserts. This 12-pack is cheap and will keep all of your shoes dry as a bone. If your feet are sweatier than the average joe, you should check out a new product called Drysure. They use silica oxide beads, and they’re amazing. Make sure you stick them in your shoes every single night. A bonus of the inserts over boot dryers is that they’re easy to use while traveling. Two tips down, and one to go to end smelly shoes for good!
3. You’re asking for trouble with cotton socks.
Cotton socks are responsible for millions of sweaty, smelly feet. Cotton is the absolute worst when it comes to keeping your feet dry inside a shoe or boot. This is because cotton retains heat and water, which creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. What you need is a well-made, wool sock. Wool has lanolin, which resists bacteria growth naturally. It’s also naturally wicking and allows your foot to breath and thus, stay much drier than a cotton sock. As far as which sock to buy, the lifetime guarantee of Darn Tough socks is hard to beat. My favorite year-round sock is the light hiker. The weight is light enough to be worn all summer, and I’ve found it to be sufficient in a winter boot as well. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
There you have it. The three-pronged approach to end smelly shoes. I’ve shared this method with many people, and they’ve all said that it did the trick. It’s comprehensive because there are no shortcuts when it comes to foot care. There isn’t a magical spray that will fix everything. You have to cover all of the bases. If you do I guarantee that your feet will be much happier.