“What do I do about these stinky shoes?”
Many patients have asked me this question and I [Dr. Collard] believe it’s probably an even more common question than just what I hear in the clinic. Commonly, the shoes we sweat in the most are the biggest offenders – athletic footwear, work shoes, work boots, etc. Yes, there are conditions in which people have overactive sweat glands in their feet, and with some, just a bad odor which can make any shoe start to stink fast. There are many home remedies with different ways to treat stinky shoes, but what really works? I’ve tried several and will go through a few of them below.
Caution: Some home remedies out there use cleaning agents or deodorizers that can break down the material of your shoes. You might want to test your method of choice on a small portion of the shoe first in order to see how it will affect the materials. Don’t risk destroying a nice pair of shoes! The most sensitive materials are likely leather and suede, which can become hard and brittle when exposed to certain agents. Take extra precautions when treating this type of shoe.
Note: Leather shoes tend to breathe more if they don’t have a fabric liner.
Helpful hints before we talk methods:
One of the best ways to prevent or limit the stink in your shoes, if you are using them every day, is to alternate shoes daily. Try rotating between 2 pairs, letting the one completely dry out while you use the other.
Commonly, I see patients come in with shoes that are far too old and are not doing them any good. Ask yourself if they are too old and maybe just need to be thrown out. If so, do your feet a favor – they will thank you in the long run!
Below is a rundown of a few methods that should make a difference [followed by a demonstration video]:
1) Baking Soda
This is an old remedy for removing odors from your refrigerator, but it can be used in your shoes as well. It is also one of the cheapest and the least irritating if you have sensitive skin. Caution: can cause leather and suede shoes to become stiff and brittle.
Sprinkle a layer straight into your shoes and tap it around and leave overnight.
This works best on shoes that are cloth or mesh.
In the morning, bang the baking soda out of your shoes.
The same method can be used with foot or baby powders.
2) Kitty Litter
Kitty Litter has deodorizer in it, and is another inexpensive solution which many people already have in the house.
Get a long clean sock.
Fill it with the kitty litter.
Tie a knot in the end of the sock, put it into your shoe, and leave overnight. (You could pour the kitty litter directly into your shoe, but the sock limits the mess.)
3) Dryer Sheets
These are a fabulous idea if you will be a situation where you know you will have to take your shoes off and are afraid of stinking up the place.
Simply place a dryer sheet into the bottom of each shoe.
Caution: This may cause some irritation to your skin if you have sensitive skin.
The printed page is becoming more rare, but the paper is a great absorbant. This is a great one especially for runners and those who have very sweaty feet.
The newspapers are used both on the inside and the outside.
Place your tennis shoes on the newspaper after you come inside.
Crumple up newspaper into balls and loosely pack each shoe.
Most commonly black tea. This might be a more expensive option than those above, but some people really think that it makes a difference. Caution: this may stain the inside of your shoes.
Place a few unused tea bags into each shoe.
6) Freezing your Shoes
Freezing your shoes overnight or for a few days may help with the odor.
Put your shoes into a sealable plastic bag.
Make sure to seal them up. (If not, you may end up with a freezer that smells like a big foot.)
Freeze them for a day or two.
This will dry out the shoes and reduce some of the odor.
7) Washing Machine
Throw them into the washing machine. This is more for athletic type shoes and others that have fabric on top.
Remove the shoelaces and shoe liners.
Place the shoes, laces, and liner into the washing machine. (You may want to place them into a washable laundry bag first.)
Wash on a gentle cycle.
8) Sprayable Deodorizers
This is one of the easier methods. There are several spray options on the market. One that I recommend to my patients is Sweat-X (which also has a laundry detergent version for gym clothes that I personally use).
Spray several squirts into your shoes and leave overnight.
Less irritating to the skin than diluted bleach or Lysol spray.
I hope these tips help get the stink out of your shoes! If one doesn’t work, try another. Make sure you aren’t just trying to salvage an old pair of shoes that isn’t supporting your feet anyway. Believe me, those old shoes aren’t doing you any favors. Sometimes you just have to say goodbye.
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