How To Get Rid of Smelly Shoes

Running comes with a plethora of interesting problems. One problem runners face is smelly shoes. There are ways to both prevent and remedy bad shoe odor and in this article, we give you our best tips on how to get rid of smelly shoes!

Why Do My Sneakers Smell??

After a kick-butt workout, you find yourself sweating, which is good news. The bad news is that sweat makes its way into every crevice, nook, and cranny.

A hot shower fixes the bodily odors, and a prewash of vinegar helps take the odor out of workout clothes. The shoes, however, are a different problem.

Photo credit Pam Berg – Trail Assail Waukesha, WI

Sweat pools into socks and shoes and bacteria thrives in the wet environment. The bacteria break down, turning the sweat into isovaleric acid, a fatty acid that causes the offensive odors.

There are ways to combat the offensive odors, as well as ways to mask the problem.

Give Odor The Cold Shoulder

Did you know that popping your shoes into a freezer can help kill the bacteria that thrive in your shoes? Bacteria need warmth to survive so putting your shoes into the freezer will kill the bacteria. This also works for your apparel in a pinch.

Dry Your Shoes

Never, never put your shoes into a dryer. You can combat odors by keeping your shoes dry, but that does not mean you can never run through snow or slush.

Pack your damp shoes with the newspaper after a workout. The newspaper will absorb the wet, leaving your shoes dry. Dry shoes are less likely to become a playground for bacteria.

Baking Soda

Sprinkling baking soda in your shoes will neutralize odors. Up to a tablespoon of baking soda in each shoe is all it takes!

Remove Insoles

Removing the insoles when airing out your shoes will help prevent odors. The insoles can be washed with gentle detergent or shampoo and left to air dry. The insoles or inserts should never be put into a dryer.

Rotating Shoes

There are many reasons to rotate your running shoes and odor prevention is one of them. Feet tend to sweat and stink and wearing the same shoes day after day not only leads to a breakdown in the cushion, they don’t have adequate time to air out.

Photo credit: Pam Berg

Giving shoes a break, removing the insoles and sprinkling some baking soda into the shoes on their “off day” is a good way to freshen them.

Furthermore, throughout the winter running months when shoes are likely to get damp, you can stuff a little newspaper into both shoes on the off days.

Proper Socks

Runners need to be careful about what kind of running apparel they wear. This goes for socks. Good running socks will prevent excessive sweat with breathable materials and protect your feet from blisters which will, in turn, make your shoes less smelly.

Take ‘Em Off, Baby

It may be tempting to linger in your running shoes or to keep them on post-race, but avoid that temptation. Removing your shoes and exchanging both socks an shoes for dry items is better for both your apparel and your body.

Hanging out in damp workout clothes is not good in any respect. So remove all workout apparel, including shoes, promptly post-workout.

Hang any workout clothing to air dry, remove insoles from shoes, stuff the shoes with the paper if they are damp, and then jump in the shower.

Photo credit: Fitness cheat

If you are running or working out away from home, do your best to avoid shoving wet or damp, sweaty workout gear into a gym bag. If you absolutely must pack up your clothing immediately after, get them out of the gym bag and either soaking, washing or hanging ASAP.

You can also keep a small container of baby powder on hand to sprinkle in shoes immediately post-workout. That won’t seem like an odd item to have hanging out with your workout clothes and will help long term when your shoes end up in your car or locker for a few hours post-workout or run.

About Really, Really Dirty Shoes?

Even runners who don’t set out to attempt a mud run sometimes find themselves with super dirty shoes. Can these shoes be salvaged? The answer is yes.

  • Remove dirty, wet shoes immediately
  • Rinse with cold water
  • Remove insoles, and rinse some more
  • Wash in the washing machine, on gentle cycle, with towels to pad the tumbling
  • If the shoes smell bad, add vinegar to wash cycle and use half the recommended amount of detergent OR use sports detergent
  • Remove from washer and stuff with newspaper to dry
  • About one hour after washing, remove the paper and add new, dry paper
  • Once dry, sprinkle with baking soda

Voila. Clean, dry, not smelly shoes!

Deodorizing Products

It is important to note that the following products should be used in conjunction with regular cleaning and proper drying of shoes, not in lieu of.

  • Sneaker balls are specially formulated items made to deodorize your shoes and gym bag
  • Foot powders like Dr. Scholls are made to eliminate foot odors
  • Antibacterial sprays get sprayed into shoes to eliminate bacteria, which in turn eliminates odor
  • Shoe sprays use a variety of different chemicals to eliminate odor, but there are also natural items – Sprayzee is a product that deodorizes using essential oils, which have increased in popularity in recent years
  • Deodorizing bags use bamboo charcoal to naturally eliminate bad scents from shoes
  • For the smaller budget, dryer sheets are often used inside of shoes to freshen things up
  • Many people find baby powder and/or baking soda do the trick on a shoestring budget

Prevention, Cleaning, Deodorizing – It All Matters

The long and short of it is that you certainly can remove unpleasant odors from running, cross-training or other workout shoes. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Prevent odors by removing shoes promptly after working out and ensuring they are not stored in warm, enclosed areas. Use baking soda or baby powder to absorb odors. Stuff your shoes with newspapers if they are damp after a workout.

Clean shoes with a good old fashion rinse, or go a step further and scrub them up with soap and water. Dry them with the same newspaper trick, or let them air dry. There are also products marketed to help deodorize shoes so they always smell fresh.

The long and short of it is no one wants stinky shoes. Do your best to prevent that from happening but when the inevitable happens, use our tricks on how to get rid of smelling shoes to get them clean and pleasant smelling again!

How Often Should You Run For Optimal Benefits?
Ultra Athlete Marcus Smith On How To Develop An ‘Unbreakable Mindset’
Common Mistakes When Planning Your Half Marathon Diet
Pain In Groin After Running: The Why And What To Do
How Important is Sleep to Runners?
Running and Yoga: Best Yoga Moves for Runners
What To Eat Before a Half Marathon: Everything You Need to Know
How To Wash Workout Clothes: Getting Rid of the Stink!
You can not leave comments. Please SignIn / Register.

An important note for our customers in the UK.

UK customers your order from Rockay is duty-free, despite changes to agreements with the EU. You do not have to pay any fees to receive your delivery, contrary to any messaging you may receive from a courier service.
Thank youfor your comment on our website!
Rockay Rewards$0.00
Welcome to Rockay Rewards:
Rockay Rewards
Shop at!
Earn 10% back on every purchase to be applied towards future orders
We value loyal customers!
We have created a loyalty program in order to reward customers who enjoy using Rockay products on a regular basis. We grant 10% credit for every purchase you make in our shop to use for your future purchases.
How to join the Rockay Rewards?
Customers with Rockay accounts are automatically enrolled. If you do not have an account, join today by clicking here to create your account. It is absolutely free!
How to earn credit?
You will earn 10% credit on every purchase you make in Rockay shop. Purchases made with a gift card will not add points to your account.
How to redeem rewards?
You can use your credit at any moment for any purchase. There is no minimum amount that you can use.
How to use rewards?
Rewards are given to you as credits. You can tick the box at checkout to apply your credits on any order you want.
Can I use Rockay Rewards together with other coupons and/or promotions?
Rockay Rewards' credits cannot be used in conjunction with other coupons and discounts.
Who are referrals?
Your friends will receive a 10% discount off their first order and you will receive 10% of the value of your friend’s purchases, credited to your Rockay Rewards balance. You can send your personal code to any number of friends, but only the first 10 to place an order will receive the discount.
Want a Restock? We will have this item in the inventory soon! Let us know that you want to have it by entering your email, and we'll contact you when we get this item in stock!