Smelly Boots – Causes and Cures

There is nothing worse than having a pair of smelly hiking boots or walking shoes, but what causes this and what can you do about it?

Smelly walking boots - source: net_efekt - flickr
Smelly walking boots in the bin - source: °Florian - Flickr

What causes smelly boots?

The reason for boots and feet smelling is that feet sweat a lot, they have more sweat glands per cm of skin than anywhere else on the body. This causes them to sweat an awful lot and as your feet are normally encased inside boots and socks the sweat can’t evaporate and has nowhere to go.

The sweat is then fed on by bacteria on our skin, which thrive on the dark and moist conditions inside boots. The bacteria then produce isovaleric acid as a by product which is generally believed to be the main chemical responsible for smelly feet and boots.

Removing the smell from boots

There are lots of different ways that people try to combat the issue of smelly walking boots here are some of my favourites:

Baking Soda
Sprinkle some Baking soda inside your hiking boots after you’ve taken them off and the magic of baking soda will remove all traces of bad odours.

Cat Litter
Get a pair of tights or something similar, fill them up with cat litter tie them up and put them in your shoes. If you leave it overnight then hopefully the cat litter will ‘absorb’ most of the bad smells from your shoes. Just make sure that no cats mistake your boots for a toilet!

Probably a waste of good alcohol but spaying some inside your boots should get rid of any bacteria.

Not only great on chips, vinegar is great for smelly boots too! Put some vinegar inside your hiking boots and the acid should help kill any bacteria.

Tea Tree Oil
Is there anything tea tree oil can’t do? Many people recommend adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your boots to kill any bacteria and leave them smelling fresh.

Tumble Dryer Sheets
Pop a few tumble dryer sheets into your walking boots and you’ll have boots smelling of “summer breeze” or “mountain fresh” in no time.

Some active charcoal placed inside a pair of boots can be a great way to absorb any bad smells, just be sure to wrap the charcoal up in something first so you don’t dirty the inside of your boot.

Black tea
If its your feet that smell rather than your boots why not try soaking them in strong black tea to help get rid of any nasty smells.

Preventing smelly boots

Well as they say prevention is better than cure, but what can you do to stop your boots from smelling in the first place?

  • Dry boots out properly after use, this will stop bacteria from having a chance to build up – I’m sure everyone knows someone who has left a pair of shoes in the boot of their car after a weekend away and lived to regret it.
  • Wear good hiking socks which will help wick away sweat, also make sure to change them often.
  • Breathable boots will help let the sweat evaporate and prevent it from building up.
  • Clean your feet regularly.

Well we’ve covered some of our favourite ways to stop smelly hiking boots from smelling why not leave a comment and share any tips you have.


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