How to Get the Smell Out of Hiking Boots (Prevent Foot Odor)

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Do your hiking boots smell awful? One of the main reasons hiking is such an enjoyable sport for many is due to the ability to navigate muddy trails and wide puddles without the worry that your shoes will be ruined. 

But through prolonged use, it is inevitable that your hiking boots will begin to smell bad. So, how can you reverse time and completely eliminate odor?

Our team has scoured the web for the best tips and tricks on how to get the smell out of hiking boots and keep them smelling fresh for longer.

Keep reading to find out. 

Quick Summary 

  • To get the smell out of hiking boots, you can wash them with mild detergent and air dry them.
  • Use natural odor absorbers like baking soda 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?

a person hiking through the mud

Your hiking boots smell because without drying properly after wet and muddy walks, bacteria, fungus, and other organic matter are able to grow, especially if they are not allowed to dry out completely between uses.

Warm and damp environments during hikes are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus, which are the number one cause of shoe odor.

By not allowing your boots to dry out properly after each wet walk, moisture is getting trapped in the fabric of the shoe, which causes it to smell. 

So, now we know what is causing the unpleasant odor in your hiking shoes. But, how can we get the odor out? Let’s take a look at some options. 

4 Different Methods to Get the Smell Out of Hiking Boots 

1. Using Old Newspaper 

adding newspaper in my hiking boots

Rather than throwing yesterday’s old newspaper out, recycle it with this smell-remover trick.

Bunch up any old pages into balls and stuff them into the boot, then leave them in a dry spot for 24 hours.

The newspaper will gradually absorb any lingering odors and remove moisture from inside the shoe. 

2. Baking Soda 

To get the unpleasant smell out of hiking footwear, sometimes the remedy is no further than your kitchen cupboard.

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can absorb bacteria and bad smells. Here are two ways you can get the smell out using baking soda: 

  • Mix a quarter cup of baking soda, a quarter cup of baking powder, and half a cup of cornstarch. Mix it up, dust the concoction over your shoes, then leave it to sit overnight. Add a few drops of essential oils to the mix for an extra fresh scent
  • For the basic method, simply sprinkle baking soda over your boots and leave overnight. 

3. Vinegar 

Another solution can be found in your condiments. Vinegar is a great enzyme-based odor eliminator that can be used to tackle tough smells. Simply mix equal parts of white vinegar and water into a spray bottle and spritz over your hiking boots, then leave 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 and pour directly into your hiking boot and let it dry out.

How to Clean Smelly Hiking Boots 

cleaning hiking boots

If your hiking boots are past the point of a simple freshen-up, and instead need a thorough clean to remove odors, there are many methods available to give them the deep clean they require.

  • Remove the Laces and Insoles

Similar to synthetic shoes, you want to start by removing the parts of the shoe that can be cleaned with soapy water. Rinse both the insoles and lace and set aside to dry. 

  • Remove Any Excess Mud From the Boot

Use a soft brush to remove any dried mud stuck to the boot, you do not want to use anything too abrasive or it will scratch the leather. 

  • Clean the Boot With Leather Cleaner and a Soft Cloth

Next, use a cloth with a few squirts of leather cleaner to gently remove dirt on the outer layer of the boot. If the insides also need to be cleaned, use a damp cloth to wipe the insides. 

  • Air-Dry Your Boots

In contrast to synthetic fabrics, you do not want to leave your leather hiking boots out in the sun to dry. Instead, let them air dry at room temperature, away from heat sources or direct sunlight. You may stuff your boots with newspaper to speed up the process. 

For more detailed information, see our guide on how to clean hiking boots like a pro.

Can You Put Hiking Boots in the Washing Machine?

a shoe in the washing machine

The simple answer is yes, you can put your stinky hiking boots in the washer to remove odors. However, there are some precautions you must take to preserve the life of your boots.

Firstly, remove the soles and laces from your boots, then put all the parts together into a pillowcase, then wash them on a warm or hot cycle.

You may need to do a couple of washes for extra smelly gear. If the weather allows, hang your hiking boots to dry out in the sunshine.

Exposing them to a natural flow of air will allow them to ‘air out’ much more effectively. The sun is also a natural disinfectant, making this method a double threat to odor. 

DISCLAIMER: Putting your hiking boots through the washing machine is only a viable option if your shoes cannot be damaged by water. Many hiking boots are made of leather, for instance, which will ruin and wear out if they are put through the wash.

5 Tips to Prevent Foot Odor in Hiking Footwear

dirty keen hiking shoes

Now your hiking boots are squeaky clean and ready for your next adventure, you may be thinking, “how can I prevent the odor from reoccurring?” Take a look at our tips below to keep the bad smell out of hiking boots. 

1. Treat Your Feet

To keep your shoe odor and stench free, you must first treat the source of the odor. There are many remedies you can utilize to reduce foot odor, or mildew, including soaking your feet, foot powders to absorb moisture, and deodorant or antiperspirant.

Treating the root cause of the stinky smell is a great way to prevent lingering odors from forming in your boots.

2. Keep Your Footwear Dry During Your Hike

This can be hard when you are venturing out on wet terrain, but keeping your boots from getting soaked through will prevent the moisture from sticking in your boots, which leads to bacteria growth. If your hiking boots do get wet during an outing, ensure they are thoroughly dried before you use them next. 

3. Get Some Moisture-Wicking Socks

With walking fabrics continually improving, there are many socks now available that help keeps sweat at bay. If you find this is not enough, try changing your socks halfway through the day. 

4. Cover Up Smells With Sprays and Deodorants

There is not just deodorant for your underarms that is available for purchase in health stores, many shops also supply deodorant for your feet. This is a great option if you feel like you have tried everything to no avail. Foot deodorant is kind to your skin, and keeps your boots fresher for longer. 

5. Consider Investing in New Boots

Unfortunately, the reason for your hiking boot odor may be nothing to do with your feet and everything to do with their age. Sometimes, no matter what you try to reduce the smell, the odor lingers. In this case, it may be that it is time to replace your hiking boots and find your next pair. 

Can You Permanently Get Rid of Bad Smells in Hiking Boots?

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.

To conclude, getting the bad smell out of your hiking boots can be as simple as reaching into your kitchen cupboard. Keeping your hiking boots clean and odor free is the best way to preserve the life of your boots and keep them in the best condition for your adventures. 

Sometimes, all the shoe needs is a little freshen-up with one of our tried and tested methods for eliminating odors. 

But sometimes, what your hiking boots need is a good clean to remove all the odor and bacteria that have built up inside the material. 

Here is a guide to the best hiking boots where we compared the best footwear in 2023.


What Is the Most Effective and Affordable Option for Getting the Bad Smell Out of Hiking Boots?

A cost-effective and efficient way to eliminate the bad smell in hiking boots is by using baking soda and activated charcoal inserts as natural odor absorbers, leaving them in the boots overnight for several days.

Can I Soak My Shoes in Vinegar?

While using vinegar can be a great method to combat smelly gear, we do not recommend soaking the shoe in pure vinegar. Instead, mix equal parts warm water and vinegar to create a great smell-fighting bath for your shoes. 

Can You Cover up the Bad Odor in Hiking Footwear?

Yes, you can cover up the bad odor in hiking footwear using deodorizing sprays or other scented products, but this will only be a temporary solution and will not eliminate the underlying cause of the odor.

How Long Does It Take Baking Soda to Deodorize Shoes?

The duration for baking soda to deodorize shoes may vary based on the intensity of the odor, but leaving it in the shoes overnight or for up to 24 hours usually suffices, and for strong odors, the process may need to be repeated for several consecutive days.

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 is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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