If people stand back when you remove your shoes, there’s an obvious problem. Both embarrassing and unsanitary, shoe odor can make for an uncomfortable situation. The odor-causing bacteria that tend to reside inside shoes are nourished by sweat and dead skin, and the warm, moist conditions inside shoes provide an optimal environment for this bacteria to thrive. To counter this odor, foot hygiene is important. In addition to keeping feet clean and dry and changing socks regularly, there are steps you can take to clean your shoes and minimize shoe odor.
Wash your shoes. Read the care instructions for your shoes first. While washing in warm, soapy water can be effective, some shoes are machine washable. Let them air dry in a cool, dry place, or set them outside to dry.
Try a commercial foot powder inside your shoes, or use an insole that has antibacterial action. Products available to counter shoe and foot odor include antimicrobial sprays and even shoe sanitizers that kill microorganisms with ultraviolet light. A podiatrist can be a good resource if you need advice on shoe sanitizing products.
Disinfecting and deodorizing shoes involves killing the majority of the bacteria living inside the shoes. While a variety of methods are touted to rid the shoes of odor, not all of these will kill bacteria. Spraying perfume, sprinkling baking soda or putting a dryer sheet inside the shoes will not kill the bacteria and fix the underlying problem. Similarly, placing your shoes in the freezer, which is believed to kill the bacteria, is not known to be an effective, long-term strategy to remove the shoe odor. One strategy that may work is to fill clean socks with kitty litter and place the socks inside the shoes overnight. Kitty litter absorbs odors and can help eliminate the smell.