Looking for ways to keep your running shoes smelly fresh? Then you’ve come to the right place.
From a slight nuisance to the complete running catastrophe, smelly running shoes are always a headache.
And no runner is immune. Sooner or later, the odor will catch up with you, and once it does, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve to stop the stink in your tracks.
In this post, I’ll share with you a few tips and guidelines on how to make your running shoes not stink so not only they can stay fresh but also stay long.
The Reason Behind The Smell
So why do your running shoes get stinky in the first place?
The smell on your feet, shoes, and socks comes from bacteria and fungi.
Yes, that’s the same bacteria that make your armpit smell is also making your running shoes stink.
The bacteria include branches such as staphylococcus, micrococcus, and Corynebacterium. When these interact with sweat, they get broken down into fatty acid known as isovaleric acid.
Your hands and feet are covered with sweat glands, but while the sweat can disperse from your hands, it gets stuck on your feet thanks to socks and shoes.
In fact, there are more sweat glands on the feet than anywhere else on the human body,
More specifically, each one of your feet contains more than 250,000 sweat glands that excrete as much as a half-pint of sweat per day—even more when you exercise.
10 Ways to Stop Your Running Shoes From Smelling
Take the following steps to help remove the stink away from your running shoes.
Clean Your Feet
I hate to state the obvious, but since smelly shoes start with smelly feet, a good place to begin to wash your feet.
Practicing proper foot hygiene can help keep the odors away.
Keeping your feet clean can also cut your risk of athletes foot and other nasty infections.
Wash your feet every day with a washcloth and soap. You should also wash your feet even on days you might not shower nor exercise—the more, the merrier.
You should also consider exfoliating—removing dead skin— the bottoms of your feet with a pumice stone, especially around the heels.
If you’re dealing with stubborn smelly feet, consider using an antibacterial body wash.
2. Remove Shoes Off Immediately
Once you finish a run, take off your running shoes as soon as possible. This lets them air out instead of remaining in contact with your sweaty socks and feet.
In fact, the longer the sweat loiters inside of your shoes, the smellier.
You should also remove the sole inserts and put them in a dry, cool place. Wash your socks, too.
Whatever you do, do not keep your sneaker in the trunk of your car or gym where they stay moist longer, providing a breeding ground for microbes.
3. Take Advantage of UV Power
The sun’s UV rays are the natural enemy of bacteria—the reason heat can purify water.
This might not eradicate all of the smell, but it will likely eliminate some of it, and it’s definitely natural and free.
Just remember not to keep your running footwear in the direct, hot sunlight for a long period of time as doing so can damage them and compromise their life span.
4. Wash Your Shoes
Along with your shoes, you should also wash dry your running shoes to keep them fresh.
Just before you toss the insoles into the washing machine, check the manufacturer’s website first to make sure they’re machine-washable.
At a minimum, wash your running shoes every two to three weeks as a part of your regular maintenance routine.
5. Wear The Right Socks
Your socks are another favorite breeding ground for bacteria.
As a rule, avoid cotton. This fabric holds onto sweat, creating the perfect breeding environment for bacteria.
Instead, choose running socks made of technical moisture-wicking fabrics such as Cool-Max to keep your feet comfortable and dry. These materials move moisture away from your skin so it can evaporate.
Ideal wicking materials are olefin, merino wool, and microfiber blends. Remember to change your running socks, too.
And whatever you, avoid going sockless in running shoes—that’s the recipe for chronic stink.
6. Medicated Foot Powder
If you notice that your feet excessively sweat while running, try an over-the-counter foot powder.
A shake of the stuff in the shoes before and after use can also help them stay dry and limit fungal growth.
One option is to apply a foot powder, like Squeaky Cheeks, before putting on your sneaker. This natural foot powder is made of elm bark, bentonite clay, and essential oils—all of which help keep your feet dry and fresh all day long.
7. Foot Deodorant
Sure, using foot deodorant won’t keep your feet dry but at least limit the growth of the odor-producing bacteria and fungi.
Be careful, though—just like an antiperspirant. Some deodorants may cause unwanted side effects.
8. Try Freezing Your Shoes
Another trick to help keep the smell away is ice therapy.
This may help limit the growth of stank-releasing bacteria and fungi.
Put your running shoes in a Ziplock bag and toss them in the fridge overnight. Ideally, by morning, you should have fresh-smelling sneakers again.
Yes, this is a drastic measure, but it might be the last resort to save your shoes from the eternal stink.
Just like direct exposure to sunlight, do not overdo it. Over-freezing damages the adhesives and glues, shortening the life of your shoes.
9. Get New Shoes
If you’re sick of washing/drying/deodorizing/freezing your running shoes but to no avail, it might be time to shop for new running shoes.
Some shoes are just beyond help—especially after long use.
The general rule of thumb is to replace running shoes every 400 to 500 miles.
This can come in handy not only for making sure that your shoes provide the needs support and cushioning while training but also to put the stony smell at bay.
10. When To See A Doctor
In general, smelly feet pose no threat to your health. But, in some rare cases, it can be a sign of a medical condition.
Consult your doctor if all of the above measures failed to cut on your foot odor or if you’re worried that your level of sweating is excessive.
Smelly feet rarely indicate a sign of ill health, but sometimes an infection can cause it. Consult your doctor to check for any signs of infection or of the odor just refuse to fade away.
If your feet tend to sweat more than usual, you might be dealing with plantar hyperhidrosis, which is a condition of excessive foot sweating that might interfere with daily life.
If hyperhidrosis is actually what you’re dealing with, your doctor may recommend a prescription antiperspirant, never-blocking medication, or prescription cream to limit sweating. In some cases, Botox injections are recommended if that doesn’t work.
Your doctor can also refer you to a treatment known as Iontophoresis, which delivers a relatively mild electric current via water to the feet to overcome excessive sweating.