How to Get Rid of Hiking Boot Odor (And Prevent It)

From our experience, neglecting the hygiene of your hiking boots could result in persistent odors and minor foot irritations.

According to a study conducted by PubMed Central, sanitizing footwear plays a crucial role in reducing bacterial and fungal infections, which can lead to unpleasant odors.

In this article, we will delve into methods that proved effective for us in eliminating hiking boot odors and provide preventive measures to keep your feet fresh during your adventures.

Quick Summary 

  • To permanently get rid of bad smells in hiking boots, wash them with a mild detergent, allow them to air dry, use a deodorizing spray, consider odor-absorbing inserts, and store them properly when not in use.
  • Use natural odor absorbers like baking soda, vinegar or activated charcoal to eliminate the smell.
  • Store your boots properly and use odor-absorbing inserts as a preventative measure to keep them smelling fresh.

Why Do My Hiking Boots Stink?

When you don’t let your boots dry thoroughly after they get wet (usually sweat), moisture becomes trapped in the shoe’s material. This damp environment is ideal for bacteria, yeast, and fungus to flourish, resulting in an unpleasant odor.

4 Different Ways to Get the Smell Out of Hiking Boots 

1. Using Old Newspaper 

adding newspaper in my hiking boots

Instead of discarding yesterday’s newspaper, consider recycling it to eliminate odors.

Take old newspaper pages, crumple them into balls, and place them inside the boot. Leave them in a dry location for 24 hours.

Over time, the newspaper will absorb lingering odors and moisture from inside the shoe.

2. Baking Soda 

Eliminating unpleasant odors from hiking footwear can often be achieved using a simple kitchen ingredient.

Baking soda, a natural deodorizer, is effective at absorbing bacteria and neutralizing bad smells.

The duration for baking soda to deodorize shoes may vary depending on the severity of the odor. Leaving it in the shoes overnight or for up to 24 hours is typically sufficient, but for strong odors, you may need to repeat the process over several consecutive days.

Here are three methods we’ve employed to tackle the smell using baking soda:

  1. The basic method involves sprinkling baking soda over your boots and leaving it overnight.
  2. Another approach is to mix a quarter cup of baking soda, a quarter cup of baking powder, and half a cup of cornstarch. Dust this mixture over your shoes and let it sit overnight. You can enhance the freshness by adding a few drops of essential oils to the mix.
  3. If you don’t plan to wear your hiking boots in the near future, fill two socks with baking soda, secure them with rubber bands, and place one in each boot. Let them sit for several days, replenishing the socks with fresh baking soda as needed until the odor subsides.

3. Vinegar 

Look no further than your kitchen pantry for another effective solution. Vinegar, an enzyme-based odor eliminator, can effectively combat stubborn smells. Create a mixture by combining equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

Spritz this solution over your hiking boots and allow them to dry.

4. Essential Oils 

Tea tree, lavender or cedarwood essential oils are all effective ways to naturally deodorize your shoes. Studies have also suggested essential oils have antifungal properties which help fight bacteria growth and eliminate odors. 

Add a few drops of essential oil pour directly into your hiking boot and let it dry out.

What’s the Most Effective Method to Remove the Bad Smell From My Shoes?

dirty keen hiking shoes

Clean the boots using a mild detergent, rinse them thoroughly, and then soak them in warm salt water for a duration of 10-20 minutes.

Afterward, dry the boots using a towel, stuff them with newspaper, and allow them to air out.

Once they are completely dry, apply antibacterial talc and take care of the leather exterior to address any potential damage resulting from the cleaning process.

The objective here is to eliminate inactive microorganisms within the boots that become active when exposed to moisture. This method has proven highly effective in our experience.

4 Tips to Prevent Foot Odor in Hiking Footwear

a person hiking through the mud

Although a good clean can briefly dispel the odor from your hiking boots, there are ways to keep it at bay. This is what has consistently worked for us.

1. Treat Your Feet

To maintain odor-free shoes, it’s essential to address the source of the problem. Various remedies can effectively reduce foot odor or mildew, such as foot soaks, moisture-absorbing foot powders, and the use of deodorant or antiperspirant.

Addressing the underlying cause of the unpleasant smell is a proactive approach to preventing lingering odors from developing within your boots.

2. Keep Your Footwear Dry During Your Hike

Keep your boots dry when walking on wet ground to stop bacteria from growing inside. Make sure your boots are fully dry after they get wet before you wear them again.

3. Get Some Moisture-Wicking Socks

With walking fabrics continually improving, there are many hiking socks now available that help keep sweat at bay. If you find this is not enough, try changing your socks halfway through the day. Many other hikers have also vouched for the effectiveness of this method.

Best way to prevent the stench from ever starting is wearing wool socks and more importantly is making sure shoes have a chance to dry between uses.

Suellen Hintz, Hiker

4. Cover Up Smells With Sprays and Deodorants

From our experience, ensuring surfaces are clean before using odor-neutralizing sprays or deodorants maximizes their effectiveness. We’ve found that applying them evenly and allowing proper ventilation helps in effectively masking and reducing unwanted odors.

We’ve tested out a bunch of products, and many did the trick. But, you know, the one from 10 Seconds just seemed to click with us a bit more.

Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he tests, analyzes, and reviews hiking, and other outdoor gear and accessories.
E-mail: [email protected]

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