people wearing running shoes

Why do trainers smell so bad and what can you do to prevent the smell from happening? How do you keep your sneakers smelling sweet?

There’s nothing like opening the box of your new pair of running shoes. You peel back the tissue paper to reveal the vibrant colours. You gently lift one out of the box, look at it from all angles and begin to imagine the happy miles you’ll run together. You inhale the ‘new shoe smell’, it’s SO good!

Within a few weeks, or even days, the colours won’t have faded, (they might be obscured by mud if you live where I do!) but the new smell will almost certainly have drifted away and been replaced by something less pleasant. Trainers are renowned for being smelly. If you can’t find them you can usually sniff them out. Our dog is obsessed with smelly running shoes. She collects them from around the house and takes them to her dog basket. You’ll sometimes catch her dozing with her nose inside the shoe!

Why do running shoes smell?

There’s a few reasons why your runners might stink:

  • Your feet sweat and stale sweat smells
  • Running through puddles or wet grass means wet shoes, and damp shoes stink
  • You have a skin infection of your feet.

Skin always has a certain number of bacteria and fungi on it. It’s natural and normal and skin needs it for protection. In some circumstances however, they can overgrow and the waste products that these bacteria produce cause the bad smell. These bugs love warm, dark, moist places so trainers are perfect.

Tips for sweet smelling running shoes

So, what can you do to reduce the stink? If you look online you’ll find an endless array of products designed to reduce your foot smell and to deodorise your trainers. There’s clearly a need! Here are my tips:

  • Alternate between two or more pairs of running shoes so they have time to dry out and air between wearing them.
  • Always wear clean socks made of a wicking fabric.
  • Clear up any fungal infections such as athlete’s foot with good foot hygiene and anti-fungal treatments – speak to your pharmacist.
  • Consider using an anti-fungal foot powder or powder in your shoe if you get recurrent infections.
  • Wash and scrub off any mud under a tap or hose.
  • Dry your shoes as soon as possible and as quickly as possible. There are lots of ways you can do this, including:
    • Stuffing them with newspaper and changing the paper until the shoe is dry.
    • Using a shoe insert designed to absorb water these can be made of charcoal or types of wood.
    • Putting them close to a heat source such as a radiator or fire or in an airing cupboard.
    • Getting an electric shoe drier – yes, they exist.
    • Putting them outside on a warm day and even hanging them on the washing line, preferably in a sunny spot.
  • My best tip – storing them with a tumble drier sheet inside them. Not only will your shoes smell good but your shoe cupboard will too. You could also use a dry bar of soap.
  • Sprinkle baking soda or specifically designed powders into your shoes before you store them.
  • Put a drop of tea tree oil into your shoe or onto a piece of cotton wool in your shoe.

Other things I’ve read about people putting into their shoes but haven’t tried myself include tea bags, lemon peel, rice, lavender and other essential oils.

I’d love to know how you treat your trainers. Do you just put up with the smell? Maybe this isn’t even an issue for you at all – some people just don’t have smelly feet. And have you tried deodorising your shoes with any products or old wive’s tales? Let me know in the comments or on social media.

There’s more about skin infections in runners and foot care plus pretty much any running question you have(!) in my book  Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners, published by Bloomsbury and available everywhere you buy books.

Like this blog? Why not subscribe to my newsletter and get a weekly email with my running health tips.

Featured Image by RUN 4 FFWPU Other image

Similar Posts


  1. Smelly trainers.

    One thing I’ve tried, which seems to help, is putting some cat litter in a pair of old socks, tying a knot in them, and placing one in each trainer.

    1. Now there’s an idea! Great tip. I used to use cat litter in my guinea pig hutch because it was so good at reducing the pong. Top tip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *