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How do I get the smell out of my cycling/running shoes?


My cycling shoes and running shoes have been living outside for the last couple of days. Following the rain last week, both got wet a few times and never quite dried out and started to whiff a little.

If your shoes get wet and don’t dry out in time (or slowly) it’s the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive and multiply. It’s the bacteria that produce the smell.

As cycling shoes are rigid and made of hard wearing material the drying process is also not helped.

Here are a number of ways that you can try and get your cycling cleats/running shoes smelling nice, or maybe just not smelling.

Dry Ways

Wear socks – The first way is to try and reduce the amount of bacteria accumulation in your shoes (once they are fully cleaned/deodorised). Wearing clean socks whenever you ride/run will do this. If you’re a triathlete, this can obviously be tricky, but when you’re training it shouldn’t be a problem.

Sprays – There are anti-bacterial sprays for your feet and shoes that you can spray in the shoes daily or whenever you use them.

Freezer – Put your shoes in a ziplock bag or plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours. This kills the bacteria and removes the smell. Take them out and leave to thaw! I believe this one is a bit hit and miss.

Sunlight – UV light kills bacteria so take your insoles out and put your shoes in the sun, obviously on a sunny day, if you come across one. Best combined with one of the wet options below.

Baking Powder/Soda bicarbonate – Sprinkle some baking powder/soda bicarb in your shoes and leave them overnight. Shake the powder out the next day. Baking powder and soda bicarb is the same thing and is antibacterial and good odour absorber. You can also try adding two tablespoons of either to inside an old sock or tights. Tie the end up and stick it in your shoes for a few days.

Cat Litter – You can try the same thing with cat litter. It absorbs water and odours. Fill and tie up a sock or the end of some old tights, and stick them in your shoes overnight. You can keep these and pops them in your shoes/cleats each time after a run/ride.

Wet Ways

Smell shoes

If you use your shoes every day, these may not be the best methods for you, but I would suggest they are a little more intensive. If your shoes are really ponging, these may be the way to go.

Dishwasher – A very common remedy for stinky shoes/cleats is to stick them on the top shelf of a dishwasher and put it on a low-temperature wash. Obviously, give it a go when your other half is out.

Washing machine – A similar method is the washing machine. Again, be very careful. This can easily damage your washing machine and possibly your cleats. If you are going to try it, stuff your machine with old towels so your shoes don’t bang around too much. I take no responsibility for broken washing machines. Do not put it on a high temperature as this can damage the glue and your shoes could fall apart.

Antibacterial cleaner – Get some disinfectant such as Dettol or similar and add some to a bucket of hot water (follow the instructions on the bottle). They kill 99.9% of all bacteria, so why should it not work on shoes. Leave overnight or a few hours, rinse and leave out to dry, in the sun preferably. Beware, there is potential for your shoes to be discoloured. Try the scented versions, not the original (antiseptic) for beautiful flowers smells.

When drying your footwear, stuff them with newspaper to help them dry out. Replace the newspaper every few hours.

I tried the antibacterial cleaner method and it worked quite well. The smell has gone and are still giving off the smell of sea minerals and water lilies! Lovely!

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