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Smelly Sneakers: How to Get Rid of the Odor

Anyone who is an athlete has had a problem with smelly sneakers. This is a perfectly natural phenomenon. Sweat due to physical exertion provides a hot, moist environment for bacteria to grow. As a result of their fermentation metabolic processes, these bacteria will cause your sneakers to smell bad. Although the process might be natural, it doesn’t remove the embarrassment or irritation of a pair of smelly sneakers. So, how does one remove said odors from said pair of smelly sneakers?

The best way to eliminate odor is to eliminate the cause of the odor. Many commercial deodorizing products cover up the odor, but they don’t eliminate the bacteria that cause them. The problem with sneakers is that they contain a lot of padding material in order to cushion the feet during exercise. This padding provides numerous nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide. This means that if smelly sneakers are treated with deodorizing agents that come in spray cans or bottles, they will continue to smell because the liquid can’t permeate the padding material. Also, if one uses special deodorizing balls that they sell at sporting goods stores, he will be eliminating the smell temporarily, but once those sneakers go back on the feet they will continue to smell. So, if we really want to eliminate the odor from smelly sneakers we need to combat the bacteria.

Bacteria like to live in hot, moist, and dark conditions. These are the best conditions for their metabolism and reproduction. The first thing we want to remove is the moisture that bacteria love. This moisture comes from sweat, and sweat is best dealt with by something that can absorb it. The most common way of dealing with sweaty hands or feet is to use a medicated powder that absorbs the liquid on the skin. We’re going to use the same principle with the smelly sneakers. Take some baking soda, which has both deodorizing abilities as well as moisture absorbing tendencies. Put some inside the sneakers as well as in any crevices on the outside that you can find. The next thing we want to deal with after the moisture is the temperature. One of the best ways to kill bacteria is through temperature extremes. Since we can’t realistically heat sneakers to the point where bacteria die off without the material melting or warping, we need to go on the opposite temperature extreme. That’s right, one of the best places for treating smelly sneakers is in the freezer. The chilling cold will kill most kinds of bacteria, and the cold will permeate the thick layers of padding.

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Once you have your sneakers treated with baking soda, you’re ready to put them into the freezer. Ideally, you want to put your sneakers into a sealed, plastic bag that will prevent any contamination of the other items in your freezer as well as keep air out of the sneakers. However, if you have shoes as big as mine you’ll know that there are few plastic bags out there to fit a pair of large sneakers in. If you don’t use the bag, don’t worry, you won’t find your freezer green with odd growth the next day. Put the treated sneakers into the freezer and let them sit overnight. This should be done at least once a week to help deal with the odors of your smelly sneakers. Also, remember to take the sneakers out of the freezer at least an hour before you need to wear them to exercise in. Unless you want to chill your feet, you need to let the sneakers thaw out before wearing them.

That’s about it. I’ve used this method before and found that it’s quite effective at reducing much of the odor of smelly sneakers. Best of luck!