How to Keep Sneakers or Running Shoes from Smelling

As runners, running shoes, socks, shorts and t-shirts are essential for your everyday routine. When they’re used and stained, t-shirts, shorts and socks aren't that big of a problem because if you put them in a washer and dryer right away, they smell fresh again. But this isn't the same for sneakers or running shoes. After a few sessions, your running shoes stink, and there’s also no way you keep washing them everyday. 

What Caused the Smell to Build Up in Sneakers and Running Shoes?

Bacteria are to blame in this. First, in order to regulate our body temperature, sweat glands therefore produce sweat. Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments. It causes unpleasantly smelly chemicals as a result of your skin breaking down acids from your sweat. Though bacteria generally don’t harm us most of the time, it leaves an odor behind. 

Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments. Photo credit: Envato Elements

Stinky Shoes and Feet: Does It Indicate an Underlying Condition?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t pay much attention to your running shoes. They just sit in your closet until you feel like going for a run or hit up your favorite fitness class. Unfortunately, wearing smelly shoes around town can ruin everyone else’s day—and turn off some potential workout buddies. 

Most of the time, foot odor isn’t a sign of underlying illness if it isn’t so severe that it interferes with your everyday life. But excessive sweating even when it’s not summer or even when your body isn’t heated from working out could be a sign of ‘Hyperhidrosis.’

If you want to stop those stinky kicks and feel confident again, keeping your feet and your shoes dry and clean is step one. If something happens while you’re out on a run, change socks as soon as possible so your feet don’t get even more bacteria than they already have.

How to Wash Your Smelly Running Shoes?

When your gym shoes smell, you need to take action. Washing your running shoes is actually very easy. Just fill up a sink with cold water and use a small amount of mild detergent to gently wash them, then air dry. Be sure not to put them in the dryer. Instead, let them air dry with direct heat or sunlight for at least 24 hours before wearing them again.

Even HOKA footwear company suggests that general cleaning and care guidelines are to hand wash with cold water, and allow them to dry naturally away from direct heat or sunlight. However, there are also a few other habits to keep for decreasing odor-causing bacteria before you even put your shoes on.

Don’t put your shoes in a washer. Photo credit: Envato Elements

How to Keep Sneakers or Running Shoes from Smelling Bad

Your road-running shoes are just like any other technical garment you own. They get dirty, sweaty and smelly. You can’t clean them in a washing machine, aside from washing them by hand, what are other ways to get rid of the unpleasant stinky running shoes? Here are some tips to prevent odor from recurring later on, or even getting worse. 

1. Remove Your Shoes As Soon As You’ve Finished Your Workout

This is a pretty simple tip—you just need to keep in mind that the longer you keep your shoes, the better any residue will get stuck in your socks and get transferred to your shoes, so be sure you remove them immediately! Don’t wear them for leisure activities.

2. Use Baking Soda To Clean Your Socks

Alternatively, you might be able to get rid of odor (and some bacteria) on your socks with baking soda. Take about 1/4 cup of baking soda and pour it into a dirty sock. Use your toothbrush to scrub down both sides of each one. Rinsing completely clean under lukewarm tap water, rolling up in a towel and letting it air dry under direct sunlight. Wearing synthetic, non-cotton socks is also recommended.

3. Wash Your Shoes At Least Every Week or Two

The most effective method we’ve found for eliminating odor and mildew buildup is regular washing after every week or two. You may also wipe down any areas where moisture and sweat tend to collect (such as the tongue of your shoes). As an added bonus, you can eliminate oils that build up over time that may cause friction against your skin which can cause blisters or hot spots. Neither of which make for enjoyable runs. A little extra care can go a long way toward keeping things happy between you and your favorite pair of Hokas or any running shoes.


Use two pairs of your trainers alternately. Photo credit: Envato Elements

4. Invest In A Second Pair To Alternate 

We understand there's nothing better than rocking a pair of your favorite trainers and getting ready for a run or workout. Just remember you should air out the other pair if they're getting wet, even if they don't seem dirty. It might seem excessive, but keeping it dry and clean is the key point.

5. Store Your Shoes Properly

Store your trainers in a cool and dry place and remove the sole inserts to keep it dry as much as possible. Some say sprinkle some baking soda in your shoes and let them sit overnight, or use a deodorising product such as Skylarlife REFRESH Activated Bamboo Charcoal Shoes Deodorizer, which helps remove nasty odors without harming materials or fabrics. Try slipping a FRESH bag into your shoes and let it sit overnight. By following this tip, your favorite pair of shoes won’t stink up—or scare away potential sweat mates!

Last Words

When it comes to smelly gear, there are two types of people in this world: those who want to ignore their gear and pretend it doesn’t exist, and those who want a refreshingly odor-free experience. If you’re interested in heading down that latter path, try following a list of our best tips mentioned above for keeping your running shoes fresh. If you've had success with other methods, be sure to leave them in the comments! 



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