Sniff Sniff: How to Prevent Stinky Shoes

prevent stinky shoesWhat are the best practices to prevent stinky shoes?  How do you destink your shoes once they’re already funky?  Reader K has a delicate question regarding stinky shoes:

I need advice on how to keep my shoes from developing a bad odor. I wear hose 90% of the time with my dress work shoes, and they develop a foul odor within just a few weeks of wear. I have tried odor eaters without success, old pantyhose filled with baking soda, rotating my shoes to never wear them two days in a row – nothing works. I haven’t normally had smelly shoes or feet, but now that I am in a professional environment and wear dress shoes instead of socks/sneakers, I can’t get a handle on this. I don’t notice the smell when my shoes are on, but when I take them off at home, look out. I am afraid that it will keep getting worse and my feet will smell all the time!

Interesting.  We’ve talked about delicate issues such as body odor, sweaty feet in pumps, what to do when drycleaning doesn’t remove smells, and general shoe care for women, but I don’t believe we’ve talked about how to prevent stinky shoes. Reader K herself mentioned some of the other oft-cited advice, but I might stress a few things:

  • Give your shoes at least a day off — it lets the leather dry out.
  • Products like Silver Linings have insoles “infused with antimicrobial silver ions for women who wear shoes without socks.”  (They’re available at Amazon, but here’s the product page for more behind the technology.) Readers have also previously recommended Summer Soles, for open-toed shoes.
  • Look into ventilated shoes, like Geox — they’re designed to let air circulate better.  They’re sold at the usual spots (Zappos, 6pm, Amazon, Nordstrom), but here’s a link to their product page about the technology behind the shoes.
  • Avoid plastic shoes that don’t breathe at all.
  • Try the freezer — put your shoes in a ziplock bag, then stick them in the freezer for 24-48 hours.  (This is also supposedly a great way to defunk your expensive denim.)
  • Wear socks.  Trouser socks, knee-high pantyhose, even shoe liners all exist for exactly this purpose.  I tend to prefer toe liners when they don’t interrupt the line of the shoe. Here’s a link to our older discussion on what hose to wear with pumps (if any).

Here’s an extensive thread on Reddit with more tips for battling smelly feet; Mashable also has some advice.

Ladies, have you taken measures to prevent stinky shoes?  What are your best practices for avoiding funk, and then your best suggestions for destinking your shoes?  

Social media picture credit: Deposit Photos / © belchonock.prevent stinky shoes

What are the best practices to prevent stinky shoes? It happens to the best of us -- particularly if you wear heels and flats without socks or hose. We rounded up some of the best tips for how to prevent stinky shoes -- AND how to destink the shoes that are too smelly!



  1. Look for shoes that have leather insoles as well as leather uppers. They are more expensive, but it makes a big difference.

  2. My feet get stinky when I wear nylons since they trap moisture. Try using a foot powder.

  3. This is strictly about stinky feet (although it might eventually reap benefits for your stinky shoes), but the best, most effective advice I’ve ever read was actually from a comment section in an earlier thread. Antibacterial hand gel will take the stink right out of your feet. I have done this numerous times: just pump a little bit onto a tissue, and then apply to my feet, getting in between my toes. Voila! It takes off all the sweat and odor. I have some lavender-scented gel, and I love to use that on my feet!

  4. Stinky Feet :

    I had the same problem. It is simple to solve – use antiperspirant on your feet. The same things that work for your underarms work on your feet. It sounds simple and it is. Your feet are skin with sweat glands just like your arm pits. I had a physician recommend this to me and it was sort of a “duh” moment when I thought about it. Experiment with what you like but it was a game changer for me.

  5. Simple baby powder can help in a pinch. I sprinkle some in my shoes. you just have to be aware that when you step out of them you may make some powder “foot prints” on the floor.

  6. I cosign the advice to put on spray antiperspirant followed by athlete’s foot powder spray.

    You can also spray the insides of your shoes with a diluted alcohol-water mixture and let them dry for a few days. The bacteria live in your shoes and your feet. You have to attack both.

    The big one for me is to buy shoes with leather uppers (or cloth). No man-made insoles. That’s just asking your feet to be in a stinky sauna all day. Also, make sure to wash your feet with antibac soap every day as you shower.

    And finally, if you have a really stinky pair, sometimes they just need to go and you need to know not to buy that kind of shoe again. I don’t know why, but I rarely have stinky feet, but I once had a few pairs of adidas running shoes in a row that were awful. Didn’t happen with other brands. Just adidas.

  7. yay! My dad told me I have stinky feet and would never get married to any guy with a sense of smell– so I bought some GOLD BOND MEDICATED POWDER to keep my foot odor down. Then Sheketovits moved in and his feet really stunk. So when I finally dumped him I gave him a can of GOLD BOND together with some cotton sheets he had stained and told him that his next (unlucky) girlfreind would thank me for that. FOOEY on stinky feet! I recommend GOLD BOND to everyone in the hive with stinky feet. Dad is right. Men will not marry women with stinkey feet. FOOEY!

  8. I tried everything, including sticking smelly shoes in a plastic bag in a freezer, and I found that the stink just came back. The only thing that has worked for me is a product called “On your toes,” which I bought off of the largest online retailer. It’s working so far. I believe it is a zinc powder.

    • Anonymous :

      For me, the answer was —- spironolactone. I started it for hormonal acne. A nice accompaniment was decreased hair growth on my face and less smelly/sweaty pits and feet!


  9. Smelly feet: likely tinea/athlete’s foot. Check your feet for peeling skin around the toes or heels.

    a) Go to pharmacy, buy antifungal cream (Lamasil, Tineaderm, etc.). Use as directed.
    b) Go to doctor, get perscription for antifungal cream, use as directed.

  10. Anonymous :

    Are you washing your hose between every wear? And really giving your feet a good scrub in the shower?

  11. Anonymous :

    I’m prone to athlete’s foot, and my podiatrist recommended a product called Steri-Shoe for treatment of all my shoes. I haven’t had shoe odor problems, but I ordered Steri-Shoe from Amazon, and noticed that many of the reviewers give it high marks for getting rid of shoe odor as well. It uses UV light to kill the organisms that live in your shoes and cause them to stink (and can give you athletes foot or toenail fungus).

  12. Sperry Top-Sider has a pump-spray Sandal & Shoe Refresher. It works well in my Top-Siders. It cleans the insoles (use a cloth or brush after spraying) as well as deodorizes them. I haven’t tried it in other shoes, but I think it would work there, too.

  13. SUMMER SOLES. I literally ask for these for birthdays and Christmas, put them in all my shoes for work where I don’t wear socks.
    Summer soles, I’m pretty sure I read about it on Corporette. I’ve tried the Silver Linings, which only last a few wears, Summer Soles help a ton.

  14. I’ve had great luck with silver linings, and I also use some odor eaters powder and sprinkle a little into my shoe.

  15. I’m late to this, but I recommend these little balls that you can get at DSW – it looks like they are called Matrix Sneaker Balls. Throw them in the shoes as soon as you take them off. Brilliant. The only problem is that they may not fit well into pumps. They work great for boots. I also put them into my boxing gloves between uses.

  16. I had this problem when I was working retail during grad school. Since I was on my feet all day in dress flats, working up a sweat during the busy times, my feet and shoes both smelled horrible by the end of the day. I found that the problem decreased (wasn’t solved entirely) by changing my trouser socks halfway through the shift. My feet don’t sweat a whole lot, but the sweat that was there just smelled worse throughout the day unless I changed.

  17. Tea bags have been a lifesaver for me! Buy some cheap ones in bulk (the scent makes no difference, as it does not scent the shoes) put one in each shoe while not being worn and switch them out every few weeks. I could not believe the difference it made.