How to make shoes not smell

Updated February 21, 2017

Smelly shoes can be the source of embarrassment. Slipping off a pair of shoes to get more comfortable in a casual setting can turn into an unpleasant assault on the senses, for all those within sniffing range. Smelly shoes can also stink up the bedroom closet and leave behind an unsavory odour, long after the shoes have been removed. But there are steps to help stop shoes from smelling.

Understand the source of the smell. Foot odour, that passes onto the shoes, is caused by bacteria.

Avoid wearing synthetic socks or shoes. Feet cannot breathe in synthetic material, nor can the sweat be absorbed. Bacteria will breed in the sweat that builds up, causing the unpleasant smell. Cotton socks will help your feet breathe and reduce the growth of bacteria.

Wash your feet in antibacterial soap before putting on your shoes and socks. Feet should be dry, and foot antiperspirant spray can also be helpful.

Air the shoes out in the sun. Some athletes insist placing the shoes in a freezer will kill the bacteria and stop the smell. Yet, putting shoes in your home freezer may not be the most sanitary choice.

Sprinkle Fresh Step kitty litter in the shoes, and leave overnight. Chemicals in the litter will help to kill the bacteria and absorb the odours. Baking soda or dryer sheets can also be used to absorb the odour.

Use a product, such as Odor-Eaters foot powder, that can be spread inside the shoe. Or try placing Odor-Eaters insoles in the shoes. The inserts have an activated charcoal that absorbs the moisture and smells.


Instead of sprinkling the litter in your shoes, fill a sock with litter, tie it shut, and set in the shoe overnight, and reuse.


Your feet can spread the bacteria and smell from one pair of shoes to another.

Things You'll Need

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Foot antiperspirant spray
  • Cotton socks
  • Fresh Step kitty litter
  • Baking soda
  • Dryer sheets
  • Odour-Eater powder
  • Odour-Eater insoles
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About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.