I have leather shoes (but others are affected by this as well); whenever I wear them for sufficiently long time (say, one hour), my socks, shoes, and feet smell bad. It makes me uncomfortable - e.g. I wouldn't be eager to go to someone's house with shoes like this. I tried freezing them, but the smell comes back quickly. I also have shoe deodorant, but it's more of camouflage - it substitutes the bad smell for a strong chemical smell.

What can I do to prevent my shoes from developing a bad smell and keep it out?

  • 1
    Not a hack really- buy trainer tamers (charcoal insoles) if there's room to fit them in the shoes, if not, Odor Eater spray sprayed into the shoes just before you put them on, clean feet, sprayed with proprietary anti perspirant (doesn't have to be a foot one, any one will do), clean socks over the top, preferably cotton ones.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:05
  • 4
    Dupe lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2400/…
    – giorgio79
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:47
  • 1
    I think this should be dup other way round, this one has more views, votes and more answers.
    – kenorb
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 16:19
  • @giorgio79 all sneakers are shoes, but not all shoes are sneakers. I also ask for protection too, not just removing stench. My question is more general. Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 8:41

12 Answers 12


In order to answer your question the first thing we need is to consider what causes your shoes in becoming bad in smell.

Based on this link it states:

Shoe odor is actually caused by the feet, namely, the bacteria that live on human skin. These bacteria in the sweat produced by humans are part of the body’s cooling mechanism.

If you are in a tropical or warm country then this will occur to you most of the time, especially if you are doing much physical activity (e.g. exercising, running, etc.). If this is your case then you can do this

Applying antibacterials to the feet before putting on a pair of shoes can also help kill the bacteria that are on the feet. This is an option for those with particularly bad foot odor or those who are heavy sweaters.

So the question now is what antibacterials can I use, right?

The answer to that is GARLIC!

enter image description here

Based on this article you can rub it in your foot

Ajoene creams and solutions are not available commercially. But some experts recommend simply adding a few finely crushed cloves of garlic to a foot bath and soaking the affected foot for 30 minutes, or mincing a few garlic cloves, mixing the minced garlic with olive oil, and then using a cotton ball to rub some of the solution on the affected area.

  • Thanks! However, this is working mostly as protection. What can I do if my shoes already smell bad? Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 21:51
  • @MatthewRock, yeah you are right. I'll think about that. :) Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 2:44
  • Am I the only one who finds the idea of getting rid of an odor with garlic somehow counter productive? If you just want to focus on antibacterial, there's innumerable antibacterial agents less odorous than garlic. Hydrogen Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol for instance; there's those no-wash sanitizers you use on your hands... Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 14:13
  • The comment about mincing garlic with olive oil makes me think this may just be a joke; you just made salad dressing, not foot deodorizer. Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 14:15
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    @MatthewRock dust the inside of your shoes with baking soda after you take them off should help cut back on current odor. Also, you can dust them with BS before putting them on which I have found to reduce odor while wearing the shoes, just know that the BS will dry out your feet and is not something I recommend to do daily, but maybe every other day or so should be fine
    – celeriko
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 17:18

I put my shoes in the sun when they smell bad. This works well to prevent odor.

The reason is that by keeping your shoes dry, you prevent bacterial growth that causes odor.

If you live in a place that does not get a lot of sun, you can dry them next to a heater.

Warning: Putting your shoes in the sun may affect the colors, but since your shoes are leather, I hardly believe that it would be a problem.

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    Thank you for the suggestion, but would you care to elaborate? How does this help? Why? What is the reason and support behind this solution? I only mention this because such anecdotal solutions without support aren't really considered an "answer" in the context of this site. Have a look at other answers on this site. If you would like to add any information about what your solution does specifically, I'm sure it will be better received by the folks at this site. Thanks. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 21:06
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    @RobertCartaino Is that better?
    – Julia
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 21:12

I switched to wool socks - mostly merino - a few years ago and now have very little problem with shoe / foot odor. Wool is naturally antimicrobial and merino is very comfortable.

I don't think it would solve existing shoe stink but an old grandmothers' trick is soaking them in tomato juice for a couple days. Obviously this could have some effect on the color of shoes but it worked great on a goatskin bag I own.

  • Wearing wool socks doesn't stop your feet smelling, they just smell of warm wool, but this is actually rather nice.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 14:26

Put a dryer sheet in each shoe each day while you wear them. They're designed to deodorize cloth materials; like your socks and shoes are made of.

If they already smell, put them through the washer and dryer just like you would if they got swamp-mucked (or whatever cleaning method you use for your shoes, I think some people use a dish washer).

Dryer sheet/Fabric Softener/Whatever you call it, you know Snuggle the iconic bear tries selling these things: Dryer Sheets

  • What is a dryer sheet?
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 13:12
  • @holroy editted with clarification Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 14:10

I was skeptical about the use of colloidal silver solution for this, but have found by personal experimentation that it works quite well for bacterial smells.

  1. Get colloidal silver solution from a health food/natural medicine store. If possible, it's even better and more cost-effective to make your own, but you'll need specialized equipment (not too pricy).

  2. Put it in a spray bottle and spray the inside of the shoe. Also works on feet, underarms, and other smelly areas.

  3. You will need to reapply from time-to-time, perhaps daily.

  • I might add that I'd find this superior to garlic; it's a] Natural, b] odorless, and c] almost instant (cf. to soaking 30 minutes in a garlic solution). Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 15:18

Use baby powder! It will keep the shoes dry and prevent bacteria from growing as well as provide a nice deodorant. Several of my basketball mates used it.


Though you said you did this, every couple of days, put them in a large ziplock bag and place them in the freezer. The problem with most solutions is that you wind up with the smell intermingling with the foot odor creating a worse smell. Freezing will kill off the bacteria and smell for a few days until you need to do it again. Just make it a routine. It is even refreshing in he Summer to put them on freezing and they warm up quickly enough. Works like a charm, especially on nasty smelling sandals.


Someone once told me to put tea bag in every shoe that has a bad smell, and leave it that way for a few days maybe. I don't know why, but it helps remove the smell, and also prevent it a bit (just put the same tea bag again after you take of the shoes, and keep them with the tea bag inside while not wearing them).

And of course you can put talc (baby powder) in your shoes before you wear them, and it help absorb the sweat and smell.


I would say that you should always wear clean socks.

Do not wear the same socks twice, always clean ones.

It is also important to keep your shoes dry.

  • 2
    I never wear same socks twice. However, sometimes I have to stay in one shoes the whole day(8-10 hours), sometimes in high temperature - it's perfect for bacteria to develop, and for bad smell to come. I'm asking how I can prevent them from growing into large number. Also, in already smelly shoes clean socks won't do. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 19:37
  • @MatthewRock: If you really must wear one pair of shoes for 8-10 hours, consider doing three things. ❧ 1) Apply underarm antiperspirant to the soles of your feet, preferably twelve hours before you go out. If the antiperspirant irritates the skin, consult a pharmacist and ask what to do. ❧ 2) You may want to change your socks once or twice during the day. ❧ 3) If possible, wear sandals. (If you work in a factory, you'll need a pair of steel-toed safety sandals which has been approved by your local government.) This will help prevent certain diseases, such as athlete's foot. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:48

Not really a hack, but if you have two pairs of identical shoes and wear them on alternate days they can dry out thoroughly. This used to be a problem with some leather shoes called "Nature Trek" in the 70s.

If you are in the office keep some sandals there and take your shoes off. You can put them on the windowsill if they bother you, or in front of a ventilator until they are dry.

In hot weather wear sandals anyway, without socks. You can get high-tech sandals you don't need to feel ashamed about.


This suggestion is going to depend on the type of liner in the shoe and the sole material. I have leather boots and boat shoes, which have cloth liners and cloth soles. My feet stink really bad to me, so when the shoes start to stink, I spray ammonia in them and let it dry out. If they really stink, I spray ammonia in them and then put the shoes and charcoal in plastic grocery bag and tie it up decently tight, but with enough air leakage to allow the ammonia to dry.

Last ditch effort is to spray with ammonia, after that dries place baking soda in them for a few days, shake that out, spray in more ammonia and then place in the aforementioned bag with the charcoal.

This has worked for me, but others may be leery to spray ammonia near leather, however I always keep my leather footwear oiled so the ammonia does not dry them out.

  • In addition to the existing answers, you can leave your shoes overnight filled with orange peels. The citric scent will neutralize the bad odour.

  • To dry your shoes out during the night (after having worn them for a long time, or in the rain, for example), it's also helpful to fill them up with loosely crumpled newspaper pages. The paper will absorb all the moist, and in the morning you can just take out the damp paper.
    This will decrease the rate at which your shoes start to smell.

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