Stinky Shoes 101: How to Get Rid of Hiking Boot Odor
BY RACHEL CAVANAUGH
It’s times like these when you need to know how to clean smelly hiking boots—and fortunately, as makers of hiking boots, we’re experts in this subject. To help you get all the knowledge you need to successfully remove the stink from your shoes, we reached out to Columbia Sportswear Director of Footwear Shane Downey to get some insider intel. Read on for all the details.
How to get rid of hiking boot odor
Downey recommends starting with dish soap and hot water—this is often enough to remove the odor without having to buy anything special. To clean hiking boots this way, simply wet a rag and gently wipe the boots down or use a soft bristled brush, making sure to hit both the inside and the outside. “Don’t dunk the shoes,” he explains. “You want to avoid impacting the stitching.”
If the odor isn’t too intense, the soap-and-water treatment may be enough. However, if the smell persists, you may need to invest in a shoe deodorizer. These solutions are made with special enzymes that consume bacteria and other organic matter that cause the smell. There are a variety of brand names out there—just make sure that whichever one you choose, it’s an enzyme-based product. Downey recommends sticking to sprays and wipes rather than solutions where you have to submerge your boots in water.
Will baking soda or vinegar work on shoe odor?
Vinegar is similar to baking soda in that it can work in certain scenarios, but other times it can damage your shoes. It’s not always apparent what the end result will be, so it’s best to stick to shoe odor removers or soap and water whenever possible.
Don’t forget to dry your hiking boots
Can you put hiking boots in the washing machine?
Why do shoes smell?
How to prevent foot odor in hiking shoes
First, get into the habit of spraying your shoes down with odor eliminators after every hike. Second, pick the right socks. You might not think about it, but this affects how your shoes smell too. You want to select socks made from breathable, moisture-wicking materials such as polyester and rayon instead of 100% cotton, which tends to absorb moisture and trap odor.
Lastly, don’t let dirt and mud collect on your boots—wipe them down with soap and warm water each time. In addition to tackling odor, this prevents dirt from getting caked in the zippers, where it can cause damage over time or begin to erode the fabric. If you need a refresher on how to do this with your boots or other gear, check out 6 Ways to Make Your Outdoor Gear Last Longer.