10 Ways To Fight Awful Foot Odor

Hygiene is a moral imperative that escapes no man; thankfully, we have most of it figured out. We shower, we comb our hair, we brush our teeth…hell, we even slide a razor across our face from time to time. But one final frontier has most of us buffaloed—smelly feet.
Feet sweat, fabric stinks, and we all have at least one pair of shoes whose mere memory makes us shudder. Whether yours is just a gross and minor embarrassment, or whether your dogs are downright contemptible, here are 10 ways to quell that smell.

1. Stick them in the washer

Depending on what they’re made of, a simple wash-and-dry could be the answer to your problem. Most running shoes and canvas sneakers do well in the wash. Just tie up the laces and go for it. You can dry them as well, but if you’re paranoid about them clunking around in your dryer for an hour, a good air-dry is fine. Stick crumpled up newspapers or paper towels in to speed up the drying process. 

2. Put them in the freezer

Sneakers are a lot like a tropical paradise, but without all the fancy umbrella drinks. Stick your feet in them long enough, and they become hot and moist—the perfect climate for bacteria! Luckily, a deep freeze may be enough to kill them off. Seal them in a plastic bag and toss them in your freezer for a day or two, and then allow them to thaw out naturally. And look at the bright side. At least your tropical shoe bacteria isn’t this bacteria.

3. Sprinkle some baking soda

The same stuff that makes your bread rise and teeth white may also help stop your shoes from singeing off your eyebrow hairs. Layer a couple tablespoons of baking soda on the inside of the offending shoe and let sit overnight. Up the ante by mixing in some of this stuff. Shake it all out the next morning, and carry on, wayward son!

4. Bust out the kitty litter

Do cats suck? Well, they’ll use your living room as a toilet, and they turned the Internet into a giant virtual cat park. But cat litter is awesome. Besides helping your living room smell like a living room and not like a Bronx Zoo restroom, cat litter is a powerful odor fighter. Dump a cup of kitty litter directly into your smelly sneaker (or tie it into an old sock and stuff it in there) and wait for magic to happen.

5. Mask the smell with dryer sheets

A proverbial Band-Aid over a bullet hole, this method is only effective if your problem isn’t too severe. Crumple up a few of your favorite fabric softeners and line your sneakers with them. Will it kill any bacteria? No. Will it solve your smelly shoe problem? Probably not. But will it make your feet smell like Sweet Blossom & Wild Flower or Fresh April Rain? Yes, and goddamn it, sometimes that’s all that matters!

6. Give your shoes a twist of lemon

This age-old household remedy for fighting foot odor involves placing the brine and peel from your favorite citrus fruits—oranges, limes, lemons, and even grapefruits—inside your gross sneakers. The light acidity of citrus has been known to kill very minor bacteria, and the pungent smell emitted by the peels are usually enough to kill, or at least maim, the smell. 

7. Try using charcoal

Believe it or not, charcoal is a powerful odor absorber. No, we aren’t talking about the stuff you use to barbecue a slab of ribs, but a distant relative called activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is treated with oxygen and undergoes a chemical process wherein it becomes super porous and great for absorbing foul smells and other chemical reactions. Pick some up and fill an old sock with it. Place it in your shoes for at least a day or two, or until the odor is gone. While it won’t kill bacteria, it’ll certainly kill the smell.

8. Cedar works really well

The absorptive properties of wood (you know, the stuff paper towels and napkins are made from) have made it a go-to remedy for sopping up excess moisture for centuries. Specifically, cedar’s clean and distinctively strong smell has made it a very popular weapon for fighting foot odor. If you’re not really cool with the idea of dumping a bunch of cedar chips into your running shoes, check out the Cedarsole by Zederna. Made in Germany, they’re like BMWs for your feet—but not really. Even cedar shoe trees get the job done. Here're some from Allen Edmonds.

9. Spray some tea tree oil

Tea tree oil contains natural anti-bacterial properties that can kill the microscopic bastards responsible for that disgusting smell. Mixed with other natural oils like mint or lavender, a good concoction won’t just kill the bacteria, but will also keep your shoes (and your feet) smelling like fresh-cut daisies on a warm spring day with babies and kittens and rainbows.

If you want something from the experts, check out this stuff from Rocket Pure. It’s a 100 percent natural spray made from tea tree, eucalyptus, mint, and thyme. Everyone loves it.

10. If all else fails…

Go back to the basics. Companies like Dr. Scholl’s, Gold-Bond, and Odor-Eaters have created an entire way of life around making sure your feet don’t hurt or stink, and offer entire lines of odor-fighting insoles, sprays, and chemical powders to help absorb foul smells and moisture, and kill bacteria.

And if that doesn’t work, put on your flip flops and head to the doctor, because you’ve got trouble!

Maxwell Barna is a contributor to Supercompressor. His feet smell fine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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