3 Easy Steps to Get Rid of Running Shoe Odor Completely and Stay Odor-Free

Is your running shoe gaining a lot of attention for the wrong reasons? Is the smell of it starting to become offensive? If so, this is the right time to deodorize your smelly running shoe. 

Like you, I once found myself in an embarrassing spot when one of my friends noticed the lingering smell of my running shoe. 

I have been running for quite some time with one pair of shoes without washing them or taking the necessary steps to prevent them from smelling. As a result, I got what I deserved – a stinking shoe. 

I have tried all sorts of stuff from using shoe deodorizer to putting them under the sun (which can damage the shoe, by the way) and though they all worked, I found that the best way to remove the odor completely takes 3 easy steps. 

  • Wash it
  • Spray vinegar + water
  • Air dry

Ahead, we will find out what causes your shoes to smell, go into detail as to how to deodorize your running shoe completely, and look at common ways to keep them smelling fresh. 

Why Your Running Shoe Stinks

The smell in your running shoes is caused by the same reason why other things smell – bacteria. 

Your running shoe smells faster than your casual shoes because you sweat a lot when you’re running and moisture gets trapped into the cushions of the upper and the sock liner. 

Moisture is the breeding ground for bacteria. That is why your running shoe stinks, especially when you live in a hot and humid country where you sweat a lot more.

In addition, your running shoe also gets the smell from the environment you’re running in. From mud to a pool of water to animal waste, your running shoes are never gonna be as clean as any other shoes. 

Here’s a list of the most common reasons why your running shoe stinks

  • You’ve never washed them
  • You keep them in a closed environment
  • You don’t rotate your running shoes
  • You have poor hygiene
  • You keep used socks inside the shoe
  • You reuse your running socks
  • You sweat a lot
  • Your shoe needs changing

3 Easy Steps To Deodorize Your Running Shoes

You’ve probably tried a couple of tricks here and there like sprinkling baking soda or using coffee grounds, but if the smell of your shoe is in a bad condition, no ‘’simple tricks’’ will work. 

The steps I’m about to mention are easy, but it takes time. So if you’re looking for something you can do in a minute to get odor-free shoes, the only thing you can do is to replace your shoes. 

Here are the 3 steps to get the smell out of your running shoes:

Step 1: Wash Them

This may seem obvious but you’re not gonna believe me when I tell you that a lot of runners don’t even bother to wash their running shoes. 

Partly because most professional runners have a running shoe rotation so their shoes don’t get to stink that bad, but for most, it’s just laziness. They just don’t want to take the time to wash them. 

Washing your running shoes is simple. Here’s a quick rundown of how you should do it. 

  • Remove loose dirt by clapping them together
  • Remove the sock liner and laces
  • Rinse your shoes with water and brush off dirt
  • Brush it with soap and warm water inside and outside
  • Rinse it thoroughly with water, make sure to get all the soap out
  • Dry them

If you want a more thorough guide on how to wash your running shoes, I made an article that will teach you how in detail.

Step 2: Spray Water + Vinegar

It’s surprising how simple products you can find right in the comfort of your home work wonders for the odor of your shoes. 

In this case, a product that I guarantee you have at home – vinegar. 

Vinegar has natural antimicrobial properties and has been used in all kinds of home remedies such as deodorizing the kitchen and the bathroom. 

To do this, simply mix white vinegar and water with a 1:1 ratio. That means, if you’re making 50 ml of the solution, you have to mix 25 ml of white vinegar and 25 ml of water. 

Next, put the mixture in a sprayer and generously spray inside the shoes. Try to get every spot inside the shoe to make sure you don’t miss a spot. Also, make sure you spray on both surfaces of the insole as well. It is best to remove the insoles while doing this. 

Spraying vinegar and water in the insole

The purpose of this step is simply to remove as much bacteria as you can. Washing alone may leave out bacteria that can easily multiply once you use your shoes again. 

Alternatively, if you don’t mind your running shoes smelling like vodka, you can spray some alcohol instead.

If you want to add scent to your shoes, you can do so by adding a few drops of essential oils into the mixture. I like the scent of lemon for my shoes so I add a few drops into the mixture every now and then. 

Sometimes, I take lemon peels and stuff them inside my running shoes overnight just to add a little scent to them…

Step 3: Air Dry Them Completely

Air drying my newly-washed Brooks Cascadia

Last and definitely not least is to air dry them completely. Using your running shoes before they dry out can only make the problem worse. 

For this step, you want to avoid placing your shoes under the direct heat of the sun or in the dryer. That will damage the shoe and even reshape them. 

The best way to do this is by hanging your running shoes outdoors but under a shaded area. 

Drying them inside your house will only delay the drying process and potentially cause bacterial growth that will lead back to bad odor again. 

You can also stuff old newspapers that will help absorb the moisture out of the shoe. It will also help retain the shape of the shoe. About 2-3 newspapers per shoe should do it. 

Drying your shoes should take about 1 to 2 days in good weather conditions. In humid and or cool places, it may take up to 3 days. 

This is why I highly recommend having a running shoe rotation. Not only will it keep your running shoes less beat up and less smelly, but it will also make sure that you have another pair of running shoes when you need to wash your other pair. 

Alternatively, you can speed up the process with the help of the fan. 

How to Prevent Your Running Shoes From Smelling Bad

Now that you’ve washed your running shoes, sprayed some disinfectant, and dried them out completely, your shoes should be smelling good again. 

But how can you keep them smelling good? After all, you don’t want to repeat the same process every week.

Here are a few good practices you can do to delay bacterial build-up and keep your running shoe smelling good.

Have a Proper Hygiene

While having a foul odor is a natural course of any athletic shoe, having improper hygiene will only speed up the process. Plus, it can also negatively impact your health such as developing ringworms on your feet. 

So before you put on your shoes, make sure you:

  • Wash your feet with soap and water before and after putting on your shoes
  • Apply foot deodorant powder to your feet
  • Use breathable running socks on humid days
  • Immediately remove your running shoes and socks after every run
  • Do not reuse your socks (always wear a fresh one)

Don’t Just Leave Your Running Shoe After You Run

After you run, don’t just leave your shoes and let the course of nature do its thing. It usually doesn’t dry out completely without your help. 

Here are a few running shoe care tips that will keep it odor-free after each run.

  • Remove the sock liner and open the laces loosely so you can pull the tongue out before air-drying them
  • Stuff old newspapers inside the shoe overnight
  • Sprinkle baking soda inside the shoe and leave them overnight
  • Spray some alcohol to kill bacteria before air-drying them
  • Put charcoal inside the shoe to help absorb moisture
  • Spray with shoe disinfectant
  • Spray with vinegar and water

Wash Your Shoes Regularly

As a runner, washing your running shoes should be a part of your life. Not only that it will keep your running shoes looking good on the road, but it will also prevent bacterial buildup that causes odor and skin diseases. 

If you run 2-3 times a week, you should wash your running shoes at least once a month. If you run 4 or more days a week, then you should at least wash your shoes every 2 weeks. 

If you don’t want to always be washing your running shoes, you’re gonna love the next step I’m going to give you. Though, you may have to spend a little more to buy a second pair of running shoes. 

Alternate Your Running Shoes

While there’s no question about the effectiveness of washing your running shoes regularly to keep the odor out, having a running shoe rotation still has a huge impact on keeping your running shoe fresh especially if you run regularly.

Have at least 2 pairs of running shoes in your rotation if you run for 4 days a week or more. This will allow your running shoe to dry out completely and it will also help extend the life of both of your running shoes. 

If you need help with your running shoe rotation, I made an entire article discussing that.

The Wrap Up

A huge part of an athlete’s hygiene is clean and odor-free running shoes. Not only will it keep you from being the subject matter of your running buddies, but it will also protect you from skin disorders brought about by bacterial build-up. 

Washing your running shoes and following the other steps is easy, but it takes time. However, with a little patience and discipline, you can keep your running shoes odor-free. 

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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