Deodorizing shoes is tough. It can make you just want to completely give up the offending shoes, and buy a new pair before even trying to make the shoes stop stinking.
But believe me– you don’t have to give up your favorite shoes. Seriously, don’t feel like you have to move on just because they’re smelly.
When I was in seventh grade, for the first time ever, I earned a set of straight A's. I had worked relentlessly toward it– my parents had promised a car for my older sibling who got all A's in their classes, and in my 12-year-old mind, I was imagining a similar level of awesomeness.
And I had one solid idea in the running– cowboy boots. Or “cowgirl boots” as I insisted on calling them.
I was going to be like Felicity Merriman from the American Girl series, Squire Gordan in Black Beauty, or Annie Oakley and her horse Target. Me and my cowgirl boots were about to join the innumerable legions of supremely cool horse-lovers.
Was it the equivalent of my older sibling’s car? No, but I certainly felt like it was just as cool.
Indeed, my face was simply glowing when my dad took me to Murdoch’s– the local horse and feed, general all-western store. I sped past the stacks of livestock food, rakes and other metal tool thingies, and right on into the shoe section-- what immediately caught my youthful eyes were these BRIGHT red boots.
These were they– the cowgirl boots that would rock my world.
I promptly pointed them out to my dad, who had just managed to catch up with me, and we soon found a size that would work for me.
I proceeded to use the florid red boots for a YMCA camp for horseback riding, and believe me when I tell you that I insisted on using these boots for nearly every single activity. Hikes? Oh yeah, these things had great ankle support. Canoeing? I mean, as long as I wasn’t going to dive into the drink, I could safely bring ‘em along. And the horses— anything to do with horses, even if it was only mucking out stalls, I would make sure that I’d be wearing the beloved boots.
The shoes lasted that summer, and a few more after that until something changed. From all of the hours of sweating it out whilst wearing the boots a certain… odor began wafting up.
I was quite literally devastated. I mean, I had been planning on going to prom, graduating, getting married, dying, and being buried in these boots. I quite literally pictured myself in Heaven, angelically garbed in long white robes, carrying a harp, and then having my little red cowgirl boots poking out.
I quickly learned that there is a literal plethora of ways and methods to deodorize shoes. For realsies– with a little extra help, I saved my shoes, and you totally can too!
1. Routinely Clean
Um, yes, this may come off as a little obvious, and subsequently too dumb of an option to include on this list, but I simply cannot stress this enough: CLEAN YOUR FREAKIN’ SHOES DUDE!
Ya’ know, honestly we get so used to the horsey smell of the stables that sometimes we forget that we (and our boots) smell like sweat and the horses’… ahem, leftovers.
After a long day of work and riding, we become super accustomed to the regular smells that come from horseback riding and caretaking. There’s that sweet, grassy smell that comes from the hay. The warm scent of dirt and dust kicked up by the horses’ hooves, and of course the lovely (depending on who you talk to) smell of the steeds themselves.
The problem is… most other people are not so jaded. If they’re able to catch even just one whiff of the scents wafting off of ya’ post-ride, then we’re liable to get an earful.
And so consistency is key, here! We can’t just leave the cleaning of our boots to once a year or so (and by that, I mean decade, because whoops procrastination day is always postponed until tomorrow).
Make sure that each and every time you get those boots mucked up (as in, there is visible mud or “other” on the boots) make sure to get a damp rag, wipe it all off, and then pat dry.
Don’t submerge your boots in soapy water, or even just plain water. This goes for all shoe materials (bonafide leather or otherwise)– seriously, unless your boots have a tag on them saying that they’re durable enough for an actual trip through the washing machine, then just make sure to coddle your boots with plain water and elbow grease.
This should take care of the external muck, and ought to definitively lower the potency of stank brought in by your boots.
2. Baking soda
But what about the insides of the boots? As in, the place where your sweaty feet actually go?
I mean, like the horse may be doing all of the work when we’re riding together, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work up a good sweat before or after. For real, taking care of horses is an actual cardio workout.
But the water and rag aren’t going to really help you here, my stinky equestrian friend. There’s a reason for this, just bare with me for a sec.
SO, it’s not your feet or even your sweat that stink. Oh no– it’s bacteria that like eating your sweat and dead skin cells (both of which are in abundant supply on your feet) and then they’re the ones who stink up our practical boots.
As a result, introducing MORE water to the inside environment can make it all musty, and unlike the memes, we should try to avoid making our shoes dank, because the bacteria will LOVE that, and make your shoes even stinkier.
Our goal here is, then, to reduce the amount of total moisture present in our riding boots.
While we can obviously see that our shoes aren’t exactly sopping with sweat the majority of the time, there are still typically microscopic pockets of moisture leftover in our shoes that just won’t dry up quickly– at least fast enough that the smelly bacteria won’t have time to get at it.
Baking soda is a real lifesaver here. It’s super good at absorbing moisture, and even odor. It doesn’t even take a lot.
You’ll want to add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into your shoes, and then give the boots a quick shake just to make sure that the baking soda is coating all of the surfaces (particularly the more sweat-prone areas– obvs the sole of your feet and toes, but less so the calf).
3. Fresh Socks
But it sure would be nice if we could do something a bit more preventative, right? Well let’s take a look at the actual feet, shall we?
Of course your feet are just naturally going to sweat– it’s just kind of part of the whole “being human” thing, and we don’t mind it in the slightest.
We can make sure, however, that the feet are showing up as they’re best selves to our horseback riding seshes. Socks are particularly guilty culprits, because we typically don’t even think about changing them unless the situation seems rather dire.
Even if you’re just changing out the socks for your horseback riding, I say go for it. Here I am, giving you explicit permission to add to your weekly laundry load. It’s going to be so much easier to switch out socks than it will be to part with the boots and somehow find another pair that’s just as good and that you love just as much.
So right before you put your boots on, let your feet go bare, and air ‘em out for a little bit– this will help to reduce the moisture you’ll be trapping in after you put on the fresh pair of socks.
Make sure it’s a clean set of socks, and then repeat this routine every time you go for the boots. Pretty simple and straightford, and it seriously makes a world of difference when it comes to keeping your shoes stank-free.
Bonus points, of course, if your fresh set of socks has horses on them– triple the points if they’re unicorns;)
Exfoliating will totally help us to keep your feet and your boots smelling their best. Alrighty, so do we all remember the two things the smelly bacteria need to thrive and jive? Yes, you in the back!
Water! Great job, yes, water, which we’ve chatted about– dry boots are awesome-smelling boots. Okay, and then what was the second one?
If you answered “dead skin cells” then you’re spot-on, and I’m literally so proud of you. Gold star, cue the “We are the Champions” song, etc, etc.
But, like the sweat, there is little you can do in order to cause your body to not have extra dead skin cells.
The problem, you see, is actually not a problem at all, and is simply a very natural process of your body. The skin just kind of keeps producing more skin, like a really slow paintbrush, adding layer after layer of new skin cells as the old ones get damaged or just complete their life cycle and die off.
This really isn’t a *problem* per se– more just that unless we know for sure that the old skin is properly taken care of, the bacteria is going to come for ya’ with a vengeance.
You see, not only does that bacteria really love to eat the dead skin cells found on the feet, but it also loves to hide out in the cracks and crevices found between and around the dead skin cells. In actuality, your feet, on the microscopic level, are a veritable maze– nay, a labyrinth– for the bacteria to hide out in.
Even if you feel like there aren’t a lot of dead skin cells to slough off, there is a strong chance that there are a bunch that you can’t see.
That’s where pumice stones come in. They’re these small rocks made up of volcanic glass, but they don’t have a crystalline structure so it won’t be rough on your skin.
Get yourself a pumice stone, and gently rub your feet with it 2-3 times a week. Tons of the dead skin cells will be sloughed off painlessly, and won’t be hanging around for the stinky bacteria to hang around and hide in, or worse, eat, and then stink up your boots!
5. Coffee Grounds in a Sock
If you’re quite sure that your feet aren’t contributing to the smelly bacteria’s evil cause of stinking up your boots, then we can put a pin in that, and circle back to socks.
These socks won't be going on your feet– we’ve been there and kind of already done that, so onward and upward, I say.
Oh yes, we’ll be taking a fresh set of socks, and then fill them up with… coffee grounds!!
Be excited, because this actually isn’t just some wild internet trend. Seriously, let me just explain it real quick.
So coffee has caffeine (a mind-blowing fact right there, I’m sure), coffee has nitrogen, and nitrogen is able to do this really rad thing called “adsorption.”
No, no you read that right. NOT “absorption,” which is where a substance is like taken into another. For example, “I literally absorb spicy hot Cheetos at the end of the day”.
“ADsorption” is rather different. It makes something ADhere (IOW stick) to another thing.
For instance, your sweat and all the smell it brings can adhere to the nitrogen. Pretty cool, right?
So before you use your coffee for… well, making a good ol’ cup of joe, maybe you should consider using it to save your smelly shoes!
Simply fill up two socks with dry coffee grounds, and leave them in your boots! For best possible effect (*read* totally do this if at all possible, seriously, don’t be a donut and just do this halfway), stick the coffee-filled socks into your boots promptly after horseback riding, and then leave overnight.
Repeat this all as necessary (with a NEW SET of coffee-filled socks), or just consistently, because an ounce of prevention is totally worth a pound of cure.
Cinnamon is also a super awesome thing we can go around putting into socks, and then sticking into boots.
Ok, I can literally feel your confusion through the internet. Food? In socks? I mean, dry coffee grounds were one thing, I mean those aren’t precisely edible in that form, but cinnamon?
Couldn’t we just like, save that for actually cooking? Or baking? I mean, I’m sure we all like clean-smelling boots as much as the next person, but come on– gingerbread cookies, French toast, churros, or even actual cinnamon rolls. Like why can’t we go for those instead of *reads notes* ah yes, sticking the cinnamon into the smelly shoes!?
I know it sounds wild, and utterly wasteful, but truly, this stuff actually helps with the stank. Your sweat, horse sweat, all the sweat, even those horsey mud pies (you know what I mean) faces an uphill climb when we use cinnamon.
The gist is simple: go and procure yourself some cinnamon.
Cinnamon sticks, btw, are like uber pricy (as in “They want your soul and half of your firstborn” kind of pricey), so I’d steer ya’ away from that, but if you already have some you’re not using, I mean go on ahead. If not, powdered cinnamon will work just fine.
Stock up your (CLEAN) socks with your cinnamon, secure with a rubber band– this is especially important if you go for the powdered stuff. I mean, coffee grounds and cinnamon sticks are pretty easy to clean up, but cinnamon powder? Literally, spill that stuff on the carpet, and I swear, even a good vacuum can’t get it all out. Rubber-band it all, and thank me later, alright?
Leave overnight, but if you’re able, just stick your cinnamon-stuffed socks into your boots right after you’re done riding. Supes easy and supes effective, because now your boots will smell like a bakery, and you’re quite welcome;)
But maybe you don’t want your boots to smell like cinnamon or coffee. That’s totally alright, because there’s one final option I’m going to run through today, and I think that you’re going to like it.
LUMI’S Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is totally simple to use, effective, and smells absolutely lovely.
This company uses simple, high quality, and natural ingredients in order to fend off the foot funk found in our stinky shoes. LUMI is a small, family-owned business that makes all of their products in the US. They’re products are made cruelty-free and are never tested on animals (a total win for us horse-lovers). Plus, it’s somehow maximum strength!
Did I mention that it’s also a SUPER good value? There are like 700+ sprays per bottle (honestly, you could do a cross-country ride in the time it would take for you to use up a bottle), and it’s also multipurpose! Got a stinky car? LUMI has got ya’ there. Funky bathroom, garbage can, or kitchen? Grab some LUMI, and fix it ASAP.
How about a smelly stable? Oh yeah, LUMI still has your back.
LUMI’S Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is unbelievably simple and easy to use. After you take your shoes off, simply spray right into your riding boots, and you get to call it a day! No additional steps, no frills, nothing! Just spray and your boots are saved!
Alrighty, my (hopefully) previously funky folks! Let’s run through everything we’ve got.
First up is routinely cleaning your boots! Nothing else can really substitute mucking off the muck after you’re done in the stables. It can be really easy to skip over this one, but trust me, you and your boots will totally thank me if you’re able to consistently make sure to keep the worst of the dirt at bay.
Next up we’ve got baking soda! Dash a little into your boots after you’re done with ‘em, and let it dry up the sweat and deodorize the stank. It’s real easy and convenient because you probs already have it in your cupboard.
Another convenient one that you literally have no excuse to skip over: fresh socks. Seriously, you simply get fresh socks before you put on the boots, and then you’re golden– golden, and smelling awesome, ma’ friend.
Or you could treat yo’self with a foot exfoliation 2-3 times a week, and keep those dead skin cells out of the bacteria’s buffet. Do we want baby-soft skin, AND great-smelling boots? Um, yes please!
Dry coffee grounds will also do the trick– stick it all into two socks, and then into your boots! Same thing with cinnamon (powered or sticks)!
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, we’ve got LUMI’S Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer. Spray the insides of your riding boots, and literally you’re done. Go, ride off into the sunset, roll the credits, because it’s that easy.