10 Ways to Prevent Stinky Shoes and Smelly Feet

How to Have Fresher Feet

Do you have smelly walking shoes and sandals? The foot and shoe odor comes from bacteria and fungi that grow happily where it is warm and damp. Your sweaty shoes are just the place they love. Here are a few tactics to keeping your shoes and sandals odor-free.

Wash Your Shoes and Insoles

Shoes Drying on Clothesline
Shoes Drying on Clothesline. Datacraft/imagenavi/Getty Images

Washing and drying your shoes and insoles can keep them fresh. However, detergent and heat can degrade the materials in your shoes and insoles. Glue and adhesives may give way and you may have to replace your shoes sooner. Handwashing with cool water is best for shoes. You may add a little disinfectant to the washing solution, such as Lysol or Pine Sol. If you use a washing machine, remove the shoelaces and use the Handwash setting or the Gentle setting. It's best to air dry them as any heat in the clothes dryer will be bad for the shoes. Look for a shoe such as the Reebok Skyscape Runaround (Buy at Amazon) that is built to be washed.

Wear Sweat-Wicking Socks to Keep Feet and Shoes Drier

Balega Enduro Socks
Balega Enduro Socks. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Wearing socks made of technical sweat-wicking material such as Cool-Max instead of cotton can keep your feet and shoes drier. These fibers move sweat away from the foot where it can evaporate. Cotton retains more of the sweat, setting up a swampy incubator in your shoes for smelly microbes.

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Dry Your Shoes Between Wearings - Stuffitts

Stuffits. Stuffits

Don't keep your shoes in your gym bag where they will stay damp longer and provide a happy home for the smelly microbes. Give them lots of air between wearings. Remove the insoles and stuff them with dry paper towels to help speed drying. Another option is Stuffits Shoe Savers. a foot-shaped insert with cedar shavings. Put them in your shoes to dry them out quickly after wearing them. They work for dress shoes as well as athletic shoes.

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Copper Sole Socks - Inhibit Smelly Microbes

Aetrex Copper Sole Extreme Athletic Ankle Sock
Aetrex Copper Sole Extreme Athletic Ankle Sock. Courtesy of Amazon

Simply wicking away sweat may not be enough, especially if you wear less-breathable shoes. You can inhibit bacteria and fungi from growing by using socks woven with metal fibers, such as silver or copper. I received a review pair of Aetrex Copper Sole Athletic Socks and I really like them for their fit and sweat-wicking ability. Look for socks with copper or silver fibers to inhibit microbes.

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Gold Bond No Mess Foot Powder Spray

Gold Bond No Mess Powder Spray
Gold Bond No Mess Powder Spray. Wendy Bumgardner © 2013

Foot powders have talc to absorb moisture and often have scent and deodorant properties to mask the smell. I generally don't have foot odor as long as I wear sweat-wicking socks. But I have problems with the  shoes that I wear without socks. They get so smelly after four hours that I can smell my feet while sitting in an office chair. I solved that with a sprinkle of medicated foot powder in the shoes before and after wearing them. The powder helped keep the shoes dry and inhibit the bacterial growth. I also tried the less-messy option of Gold Bond No Mess Powder Spray. You can use that on your feet or in your shoes.

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2Toms Stink Free Shoe & Gear Spray - Shoe and Sandal Disinfectant

2Toms Stink Free Shoe and Gear Spray
2Toms Stink Free Shoe and Gear Spray. Courtesy of Amazon

It's a real problem when you have foot odor problems with sandals, as I have with FitFlops. I can't rock the socks-with-sandals look, and I don't want to use medicated powder when my foot is going to be visible. The solution for me was 2Toms Stink Free Shoe Spray. It uses benzalkonium chloride, a disinfectant found in many household products. The large spray bottle isn't very convenient for travel, however. I resort to using disinfectant wipes on my sandals when I'm away from home.

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Sole Socks - Washable Insoles

Sole Socks
Sole Socks. Wendy Bumgardner ©

If I don't wear socks, I get bad foot odor. That is a problem for the shoes I have that are designed to be worn without socks. Sole Socks to the rescue. These are washable insoles. They have a cotton terry cloth top and a latex rubber sole. Replace your shoe's insole or place them over it. They grip well enough to stay in place and provide moisture-absorbtion and cushioning. Wash them every three to six uses to keep them fresh. I was amazed at the difference they made in my usually-stinky shoes I wear without socks.

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Antiperspirant on Your Feet

This is a tactic used by marathon walkers to help prevent blisters. Most of the moisture in your shoes comes from the sweat from your feet. If you prevent foot sweat, you keep your shoes dry and don't provide a damp place for the bacteria and fungus to grow. This should be done with caution to ensure you don't have a bad reaction to the spray. Test it on one toe or a small patch on one foot to see if there is any redness or rash after a day.

Deodorant on Your Feet

Using deodorant on your feet won't keep them dry, but it will inhibit odor-producing bacteria and fungi. As with antiperspirant, do this with caution to see whether it produces any bad reaction.

Store Shoes in a Cool, Dry Place - or Even Freeze Them

Cold will also inhibit growth of bacteria and fungi. If you store your shoes in a cool, dry room that has lots of airflow, that will help keep growth at bay. Or you may want to take the drastic tactic of freezing your shoes. However, that may degrade the glues and adhesives and shorten the life of your shoes.

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