Smelly shoes?
Get rid shoe smell with these tips!

Author: Dr. I. Haist
Smelly shoes? | Get rid shoe smell with these tips!

Are smelly shoes leaving a very bad smell in your house?

Shoe odour that penetrates your entire hallway. Kids' shoes or your husband's workboots that smell so bad, you have to leave them outside.

You will probably recognise one of these situations. Did you know this smelly shoes has an even nastier cause?

Keep on reading to find out!

In this article:


What causes shoe odour?

Odour comes from bacteria and fungi

Let's cut right to the chase: that awful shoe smell coming from your shoes is caused by 2 things:

  • fungi
  • bacteria

Bacteria and fungi colonies that live in your shoes feed on moist and warmth, which allows them to multiply and penetrate your shoes' materials and seams. There they nest and are almost impossible to remove and start smelling. If left untreated, they can eventually cause skin- or nail infections.

A lot of people do not allow their shoes to dry properly, worsening the problem even more and causing smelly shoes. Wearing the same shoes daily does not give your shoes the chance to dry properly.

When the shoes stay moist or damp, the bacteria and fungi continue to thrive. It is very important to switch up your shoes daily and allow your smelly shoes to fully dry.

Don't blow dry your shoes or put them on the heater!

This could ruin your shoes very quickly, because the materials and the glues keeping your shoes together will dry out and harden. eventually your shoes will start falling apart and you will be left with a lot of smelly shoe parts.

Smelly sports shoes

Running shoes, soccer cleats or your casual sneakers

Running shoes, soccer cleats or your casual sneakers. Most of them are made of synthetic materials.

Fact: you wash all your clothes, except your shoes!"

Those materials; like plastics, synthetic rubbers, polyurethane do not transport moist very well. They do not allow your feet to cool down because they are designed to tightly close off the foot for better fit. They for the perfect breeding place for smelly bacteria and fungi.

Sneakers and trainers usually have a thick synthetic lining material as padding and glued soles preventing them to ventilate and breathe. Add cotton socks to the mix, and this makes you heat up and sweat even more and you have the ideal breeding place for fungi and bacteria!

Moist is the most important cause for shoes to start smelling. It is important that shoes are allowed to fully dry. Therefore never wear shoes for 2 days in a row!

Home remedies against stinky shoes

On the internet, you can find several home remedies to remove the smell from your smelly shoes. Many of these tips & tricks work only temporarily for your shoe and do not treat the cause of the smell. Some of these tips even destroy your smelly shoes, be careful if you feel inclinded to test them.

Shoe deodorant for footwear

Shoe deodorant

Only masks the smell. Doesn't work very long and you are left with smelly shoes.


  • Very convenient to use
  • Cheap


  • Only masks the smell
  • Aersoles are bad for the environment
  • Needs to be applied daily
Cat litter

Cat litter

Meow! Cat litter absorbs the moist from your smelly shoes. We don't see ourselves remove all the catlitter from our shoe in the morning. Our recommendation: just don't even try.


  • Absorbs moist
  • Cheap


  • Very messy
  • Who does this?
Coffee filters with washing powder

Coffee filters with washing powder or baking soda

Same principle as the cat litter, removes moist and with that part of the smell. It leaves your shoes smelling like... well, washing powder. Since this remedy only works on the surface, it will not be able to absorb the smelly moist deeper in the shoes.

The cause of the smell however, is not resolved. Which means your stinky shoes are still smelling bad, but less noticeable.

The effect of this home remedy will not keep your shoes smelling fresh very long.


  • Masks smell, leave a nice odour
  • Convenient


  • Messy
  • Doesn't eliminate the cause
Smelly shoes in the washing machince

Washing machine

A great way to remove the smell from your shoes! Also a great way to destroy them. If you fancy new shoes quickly, put the old ones in the washing machine. The water, temperature and tumbling will literally beat your shoes until they give up.
Yes, the water and detergent will reach deep into the shoes, but to kill bacteria and fungi, you need to wash them at least at 60°C. or more. Your shoes will not like those temperatures.


  • Really works at 60°C.
  • Penetrates all the fabrics


  • Destroys shoes
  • Not suitable for leather
Smelly shoes in the freezer

Footwear in the freezer

This tip does kill most of the fungi and bacteria and thus removes the smell. It leaves your shoes smelling neutral. It also destroy your shoes and you might end of with a stinky fridge.

The freezing temperatures are very harhs on the materials your shoes are made of and most of the glue (which holds your shoes together) is not made to resist these extreme temperatures: after a couple of times, your soles will probably start falling apart.

For leather shoes, dress shoes, high heels and leather boots, putting them in the fridge is an absolute no-go. Shoes made from natural materials tend to smell less bad anyway. Don't do it.


  • Really works
  • Kills bacteria and fungi


  • Destroys shoes
  • Makes your outsole come off

Smelly shoes

Foot infection caused by footwear

Unhygienic shoes cause more than just bad smell. The fungi and bacteria causing the smell, are also the ones responsible for athlete's foot and nail fungus infections. If contaminated shoes are left untreated, you are increasing the risk of such an infection.

Fungi occur naturally on your skin and with proper hygiene and precautions, rarely cause any problems. When 'bad' fungi start to overgrow and feet are in closed shoes on a daily basis, sweat can easily transport the fungi spores into your shoes.

The warmth and moist from your feet create the ideal environment for them to thrive. Not only causing smelly shoes, but also forming a risk to skin and nails. Warm, moist skin is easier to damage and once your skin is susceptible to infection, fungi spores can penetrate the skin and cause foot fungus infection. Making your stinky shoes not just the perfect home for unwanted organisms, but a real source of infection.

In turn, foot fungus can develop fungal nail infections, which are extremely difficult to treat and can take up to 1 year to heal. Think twice before putting your smelly shoes on next time!

"Keep them hygenic and safe"


High risk groups, like people suffering from diabetic foot, should be extra careful when wearing unhygenic shoes. They should make sure to wear clean, disinfected and fresh shoes.

The solution against shoe odour

Shoe spray against melly shoes
ProtectAir medical shoe spray disinfects your smelly shoes for up to 10 days.

The spray creates an environment in which fungi and bacteria cannot survive. It ensures safe and hygenic shoes for up to 10 days with 1 treatment! Get rid of smelly shoes for good with ProtectAir

Unlike shoe deodorants, ProtectAir spray does not mask smell, it eliminates it! ProtectAir is a medical grade shoe spray that disinfects your shoe. What does this mean? ProtectAir shoe spray creates and environment in which bacteria and fungi cannot survive and protects your shoes for up to 10 days.

The patented solution leaves nano-particles in your shoes that defend your shoe against bacteria and fungi nesting on the fabric, in the seams and liner of your shoe.

Sounds scientific? It is! But application is very easy and only requires to be repeated once every 10 days (or with intense use, every couple of days).

Here is how it works:
  1. Remove insoles if possible
  2. Spray 5-10x in each shoe, ensure the entire inside of the shoe is covered
  3. Allow the shoes to dry for up to 10 minutes
  4. Repeat if necessary, until the odour is gone
  5. You are now protected for up to 10 days against fungi and bacteria

"ProtectAir keeps your shoes hygenic and fresh for up to 10 days!"

Frequently asked question (FAQ)

  1. What causes smelly shoes?

    Smelly shoes are caused by fungi and bacteria! Sweat transports them from your skin into your shoes, where they can nest and multiply. Warm and moist in your shoes form the ideal environment for them to thrive. Once your shoes are infected, it is hard to make them hygenic and safe again.

  2. Do home remedies work against shoe smell?

    Home remedies, like shoe deodorant, cat litter, odour eaters, newspapers in shoes only reduce or mask the smell. They do not remove the source of the smell. To really treat the source of the smell, you need a special shoe spray.

  3. Can I machine wash my smelly shoes?

    Beware! Not all shoes are suitable for a machine wash. To properly clean your shoes and kill fungi and bacteria. You need to wash your shoes at least at more than 60°C. At these temperatures, most shoes will deteriorate quickly!

  4. Can I put my smelly shoes in the freezer?

    Beware! The extreme low temperatures in your freezer will shorten the lifespan of your shoes. The materials and glues that keep your shoes together are not going to be able to resist the cold. As a result, your shoes will start falling apart.

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