The Science Behind Stinky Shoes: Why They Smell and How to Fix It

The Science Behind Stinky Shoes: Why They Smell and How to Fix It

As runners, we cherish the freedom and exhilaration that comes with hitting the pavement or trails. However, there's a less glamorous side to this activity: the dreaded stench that emanates from our beloved running shoes. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a casual jogger, you've likely encountered the unpleasant aroma that seems to plague our footwear. But fear not! On this National Running Day, let's dive into the science behind why our shoes smell and explore effective strategies to keep them fresh and odor-free.

Before we can tackle the problem, it's important to understand why our shoes develop that distinctive odor. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:

  1. Sweat: During a run, our feet sweat to regulate body temperature. This moisture creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, leading to odor.
  2. Bacteria: The bacteria naturally present on our skin feed on the sweat and dead skin cells trapped inside our shoes, producing foul-smelling byproducts as they multiply.
  3. Fungus: In addition to bacteria, fungal infections like athlete's foot can also contribute to shoe odor, especially if left untreated.
  4. Materials: The materials used in modern running shoes, such as synthetic fabrics and foam cushioning, can trap moisture and odor, exacerbating the problem.

Now that we understand the root causes, let's explore some effective strategies to banish shoe odor and keep our kicks smelling fresh:

  1. Proper Ventilation: After each run, remove your shoes and allow them to air out in a well-ventilated area. This helps to dry out any moisture and prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Alternate Shoes: Rotate between multiple pairs of running shoes to give each pair ample time to dry out between wears. This reduces the buildup of odor-causing bacteria.
  3. Wash Regularly: If your shoes are machine washable, follow the manufacturer's instructions to clean them periodically. Alternatively, you can hand wash them with mild soap and water and allow them to air dry thoroughly.
  4. Use an Odor Absorber: Place an odor-absorbing product like baking soda inside your shoes overnight to neutralize odors.
  5. Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks: Invest in moisture-wicking socks made from materials like merino wool or synthetic blends to help keep your feet dry during runs.
  6. Foot Care: Practice good foot hygiene by washing your feet daily and thoroughly drying them, especially between the toes, to reduce moisture buildup.
  7. Treat your shoes: Use sprays or powders designed specifically for shoes to neutralize odors caused by bacteria and fungi. Azuna’s tea tree oil-based spray in Athlete is a natural, plant-based solution to banish foul odors for good!
Of course, you don’t need to be a runner to apply these tips - regular everyday shoes also benefit from the above! And for extra odor-eliminating power in shoe closets or mudrooms where shoe odor can spread, set out an Azuna gel pod for 24/7 odor neutralizing.

Azuna's Best Sellers


Azuna Gets Harsh Chemicals Out Of Your House (and Your Life)

Here are a few of the many harsh chemical-laden products that Azuna replaces. Naturally.

Air Freshener Spray



Car Air Freshener

Dryer Sheets

Fabric Softener

You may not know this but some of the biggest sources of indoor air pollution are the very products that you use to freshen your home, your clothes and your cars. When used, these products release phthalates and other heavy, unnatural chemicals into your air. That's why, according to the EPA, indoor air (where the average American spends 90% of their time) is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air.