So, your favorite shoes stink. You don’t dare take them off even though your feet are screaming to be let out. Embarrassing, but true. Don’t worry, help is on the way.

16 Home Remedies for Stinky Shoes:

  • 1. Wash + exfoliate feet (especially in between toes)
  • 2. Stop sweaty feet to stop stinky shoes
  • 3. Foot and shoe deodorant spray
  • 4. Wear shoes that breathe (reduce sweat + bacteria)
  • 5. Alternate your shoes – give them time to air out
  • 6. Use shoe insoles to fight foot odor
  • 7. Sprinkle baking sode in those stinky shoes
  • 8. Keep shoes fresh smelling with dryer sheets
  • 9. Deodorize shoes with cat litter or wood chips ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 10. Clean shoes with rubbing alcohol
  • 11. Steam clean shoes
  • 12. Denture tablet shoe soak
  • 13. Freeze the stink out of your shoes
  • 14. Spray essential oils into your shoes
  • 15. Use tea bags to keep shoes smelling fresh
  • 16. If all else fails: Spring for new shoes

Where do stinky shoes come from anyway? The answer is… well… obvious. First comes foot sweat, then comes bacteria, then comes stinky feet, socks and shoes.

Why do my feet stink?

Foot odor is a universal problem unless you happen to live someplace where shoes are not worn. Most of us spend many hours a day in our shoes, so let’s talk about what causes foot odor.

Our feet smell because they sweat inside our shoes. When the sweat reaches the skin’s surface the foot sweat encounters bacteria that break it down. The decomposing sweat releases an offensive odor. The medical term for smelly feet is Bromodosis. The common term is stinky feet.

Here’s a fun physiological fact: There are more sweat glands in human feet than anywhere else on the human body.

You’re more likely to have smelly feet if you’re in your shoes most of the day. Stress can cause sweaty, stinky feet, as can a medical disorder called hyperhidrosis. Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections can also lead to bad foot odor. Hormonal changes that are prevalent in teenagers and pregnant women can cause abnormal sweating which leads to heightened foot odor.

Stinky feet = stinky shoes.

Let’s first talk about how to prevent stinky feet and then we’ll talk about how to get the smell out of shoes and other helpful odor-fighting remedies.

1. Wash + exfoliate feet to prevent stinky shoes

Since stinky shoes start with stinky feet, seems like that’s a good place to begin. Practicing good foot hygiene can help keep the foot odor down.

Wash your feet every day. Even if you don’t shower or bathe every day, take the time to wash your feet with warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and then dry with a clean, dry towel. Make sure you clean between your toes where bacteria love to grow.

Exfoliate. Removing dead skin can reduce foot odor. Wash your feet with an exfoliating pad, pumice stone, or exfoliating shower wipe.

Keep your feet dry. The bacteria that reacts with sweat thrives in moist areas. If your socks or shoes are wet, you’ve set up a feast for odor-causing bacteria. Wear breathable socks made of fabric that will wick away foot perspiration. Wearing shoes without socks may be fashionably cool, but it’s never a good idea. If you like stinky tennis shoes, don’t wear socks.

2. Stop sweaty feet to stop stinky shoes

If you’re often plagued by sweaty feet, you’ll want to focus on stopping some of that sweat. An antiperspirant lotion like SweatBlock is perfect for reducing excessive sweat on the feet. Your feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of your body. Bacteria love sweaty feet and and stink loves bacteria.

If you can reduce some of that foot sweating, you can reduce a lot of the stink that comes along with it.

3. Shoe Deodorizer Spray

A shoe deodorizer is a great way to eliminate stink on your shoes. If you’re looking for the best shoe deodorizer, search for a deodorizer that can be sprayed on both your feet and shoes. This quick and effective remedy is perfect for active walkers, sports enthusiasts, and students after gym class. The small spray bottle fits easily in your backpack or gym bag, and the fresh smelling spray will make your feet and shoes smell great right away. The deodorant spray provides natural anti-fungal protection and works on all types of shoes, sandals, and slippers.

4. Wear shoes that breathe

One of the most effective remedies is simple: Wear the right shoes. The best shoes for stinky feet are made from leather or breathable fabric. These materials allow moisture to vent to the outside world. Avoid shoes made of vinyl or other man-made materials. Non-breathable shoes act to prevent moisture dissipation and evaporation. And once you unlace those babies, you and anybody in the area will be reaching for a gas mask.

5. Alternate your shoes – give them time to air out

The smell of your shoes can be greatly reduced by not wearing the same pair on consecutive days. Of course, this means you’ll need more than one pair of shoes. Assuming that you have at least two pairs, alternate the days you wear them. Give ‘em a well-deserved rest. On their days off, pull out the tongue, loosen the laces and put them in a ventilated spot where they can air out.

6. Use shoe insoles to fight foot odor

Another way to minimize shoe odor is with specially treated insoles. Several varieties are available at your favorite grocery or drug store. They’re treated with activated charcoal or baking soda (or both) and neutralize unpleasant odors. They not only provide long-lasting odor protection (a few weeks or months), but they can also absorb foot moisture and add extra footbed cushioning.

Most brands come in a standard size that can be easily cut to fit any size shoe. These odor-neutralizing insoles are especially useful in taming those smelly gym shoes.

7. Sprinkle baking soda in those stinky shoes

Baking soda is another good home remedy for stinky shoes. Sprinkle generous amounts of baking soda in the offending shoe(s). Let the power of baking soda do its thing overnight. Dump it out in the morning and, boom, your shoes are as fresh as new. Well, maybe not quite that fresh, but they’re ready for the upcoming day.

One caution: Be careful about using baking soda too often with leather shoes, as it can extract the moisture from the leather and cause it to dry out and crack.

8. Keep shoes fresh smelling with dryer sheets

If we’re going to talk about how to deodorize shoes, we should mention using dryer sheets. It’s another unusual idea to freshen stinky shoes.

Take a standard dryer sheet, tear it in half and place one half in each shoe. Let the shoes sit overnight. Really stinky tennis shoes may require more time. Just remember to pull the dryer sheets out before putting on the newly freshened shoes.

Bonus tip: If you keep your gym shoes in a gym bag, throw a dryer sheet into the bottom of the gym bag. It will act as a shoe and gym clothes deodorizer.

9. Deodorize shoes with cat litter or wood chips

If your shoes are attracting attention (the wrong kind) because of shoe odor, here’s a hack you may want to try. You’ll need some cedar wood chips or kitty litter. You’ll also need some clean old socks or paper towels.

This cure is easy: Fill up a pair of old, but clean, socks with either cedar wood chips or cat litter. Place one of the socks in each shoe, and let them stand overnight. The wood chips or kitty litter will absorb the foot odor hiding in the shoes. Citrus peels can also do a passable job of refreshing your shoes.

10. Clean shoes with rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be used to kill odor and clean your shoes. There are two methods.

The first utilizes a mixture of water and alcohol. Take a cup of water and a cup of rubbing alcohol. Mix them together in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the inside and outside of each shoe. Place the treated shoes in a well-ventilated area where they can dry.

The alcohol acts to kill the bacteria that causes stinky shoes. The alcohol will also help dry out areas where moisture collects.

The second method uses alcohol and cotton balls. Saturate several cotton balls with rubbing alcohol. Place the saturated cotton balls in each shoe, filling up all the space. Be sure to get them way down in the toe area, and let the shoes stand overnight. Things should be looking up and smelling much fresher in the morning.

Tip: How to wash tennis shoes and sneakers to get rid of foot odor

Today’s tennis shoes (athletic shoes) and sneakers often cost north of $100. To keep them looking and smelling like new, you can use your washing machine. To protect your investment, there are a few steps to follow. This method works well for fabric and leather athletic shoes.

  • 1. Remove the laces (if any) and any removable insoles or inserts.
  • 2. Wipe away any loose dirt and debris.
  • 3. Place shoes, minus laces and inserts, in a mesh bag or pillowcase. Secure the opening so the shoes can’t come out.
  • 4. If you have a washing machine with an agitator, include some towels along with the shoes to balance the load. If you have a newer machine without an agitator, you probably don’t need the towels.
  • 5. Wash in warm water with a heavy-duty detergent.
  • 6. Air dry your newly cleaned shoes. NEVER put them in the dryer.
  • 7. Use a solution of water and baking soda to hand clean the insoles/inserts.

11. Steam clean shoes to kill bacteria and odor

Steam can help eradicate bacteria and foot odor in your shoes. If you have a dryer with a steam feature, give that a try. Be sure that you try this method on shoes that can tolerate moisture.

Another method using steam requires a steam cleaning appliance. These are used for cleaning and disinfecting things around the house. Just stick the steam machine’s nozzle into each shoe for about 30 seconds. Let them completely dry before wearing again.

12. Denture tablet shoe soak

You’ll only want to use this method on shoes that can be submerged completely in water without damage.

Take a bucket or medium size bin. Fill it with hot water. Drop in 3 to 4 denture tablets and allow them to dissolve. Toss in your sneakers and let them soak for 2 to 3 hours. Not only will they smell better but they’ll be germ-free, at least for a while.

13. Freeze the stink out of your shoes

Disgusting foot odor is caused by bacteria lurking in the dark recesses of your footwear. Putting them in the freezer overnight kills this bacteria. These foul-intentioned germs can’t stand the cold environment. But first, you’ll want to protect whatever else is in the freezer by following these simple steps:

  • Make sure your shoes are completely dry.
  • Put them in a sealable plastic bag or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Leave them in the freezer for the night.
  • Remove them in the morning

In the morning, don’t be afraid to stick your nose where it normally doesn’t belong. You’ll be pleased to find that the shoe stench is gone.

14. Spray essential oils into your shoes

Essential oils are a big thing for millions around the world. If you’re a fan of essential oils and their natural “super powers,” this essential-oils-for-stinky-shoes treatment will surely appeal to you. Be sure you’re using high-quality essential oils.

  • 1. Grab a small spray bottle. The 2.7-ounce size is ideal.
  • 2. Fill halfway with unscented witch hazel.
  • 3. Add distilled water leaving just a little space at the top of the bottle for these essential oils: 6 drops peppermint essential oil, 4 drops tea tree oil (aka melaleuca oil), 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 1 drop thyme essential oil
  • 4. Screw the spray top onto the bottle.
  • 5. Shake well.
  • 6. Spray lightly the entire interior of the shoe. Don’t forget the toe box.
  • 7. Place the treated shoes in a sealable plastic bag to heighten effectiveness.
  • 8. Let dry.

Each time you detect offending shoe odor, spray again. Not only will this essential concoction deodorize your shoes, but it also has the power to kill odor-causing bacteria. It might just be the best deodorizing spray you’ve ever tried.

15. Freshen your shoes with tea bags

This home remedy for shoe odor works the same way as the cat litter and wood chips methods. All you need are some stinky shoes and unused tea bags.

Place two or three tea bags inside each shoe. Let stand for several hours or overnight. The dried tea in the bags will absorb that bad odor emanating from your shoes. Simple. Easy. Effective.

16. If all else fails: Spring for new shoes

All the above remedies for smelly shoes have been tested, tried and proven. But if your favorite shoes just don’t respond well to one or more of these methods, it may be time to hang ‘em up for good and buy a new pair. New shoes smell great– for a few days. But then, the creeping bad shoe smell will return. So, keep experimenting with these cures for stinky shoes. The inevitable occasion will arrive when your shoes must come off in public. And this time? You’ll be ready.