For my elementary P.E. class, we used to play a game called “H.O.R.S.E.” where the primary goal was shooting enough hoops and earning enough points to spell out the name of the game, with each scored point amounting to one letter. I was really quite terrible at it. In all honest fact, I probably couldn’t even spell out “G.O.A.T.” or even a measly “P.I.G.” if I tried.
But my best friend was rather tall and had been playing basketball since before even kindergarten. I watched on in wonder as she won game after game of “H.O.R.S.E.” Point after point sank into the netted hoop with a solid swoosh, followed by the deafening ecstatic cheers from her teammates.
But being great at basketball did come with its own drawbacks. Almost daily, my poor tall bestie had to listen to the same question over and over again: “Oh, so you’re tall– you must play basketball!” Well, yes, she did, but that didn’t make the question any less tiresome.
On top of that, lots of long Saturday tournaments were endured, paired with increasing pressure to try out for some more exclusive private teams. Then beyond those things, basketball just by itself was hard!
It came with all kinds of downsides, like sore feet, scratched skin from over-zealous opponents at games (elementary-aged kids can be really competitive), crazy bruises from falling, and then there are the stinky shoes.
ACK no matter what she did, she always felt like her shoes were heckin’ bent on being noxious little monsters, and that there was literally nothing she could do to fix ‘em.
But there’s no need to let all of that stop you from playing the game that you love (at least the stinky shoes– for everything else you may need some more nuanced research). Here are all the ways to fix stinky basketball shoes easily and successfully:
1. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is the first item up on our list of simple ways to get rid of smelly shoes, and I know that it sounds like an odd one, but first let me explain, alright? It isn’t simply a magic wand we can use to smack the footwear funk into yesterday with a quick bibbity-bobbity-boop, BUT with a little science, everything becomes a little clearer (and definitely a whole lot less stinky).
So you know your smelly basketball shoes? Turns out that it’s not your sweaty feet that are making them rank, okay? Well, maybe it's a little bit your feet, but it’s totally not directly your poor pungent peds’ fault.
It’s actually the fault of bad-smelling bacteria that like to live on your feet, and also thus in all of your shoes! And socks, and slippers, and basically anywhere that they can get their microbial little hands on the moisture from your sweat and the dead skin cells (usually from your feet)-- all of that is their preferred format of nutrition.
Ya, we’re basically involuntarily feeding the bacteria that make our shoes smell– not great, I know– which is where something like rubbing alcohol can be super helpful! Soak a few cotton rounds or pads with it, and then simply layer the sole of your shoes with ‘em. For best results, leave the soaked cotton rounds in overnight, but if it’s not the middle of the basketball season and you won’t be needing your shoes for a bit then go for longer, that way the rubbing alcohol can really help us to clean up the musty mess with ease.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda can also help us out here, making it super easy to fix stinky shoes by absorbing the moisture (*read: your sweat) before it has a chance to become chow for the stank-producing bacteria. It just slurps it up like a sponge and keeps it from the wee little grubbers, and in turn allows you to go be a basketball-pro sans footwear funk.
Oh yes, baking soda, AKA the magical ingredient that’s always good for helping to give your baked goods a little extra oomph in the oven when your culinary masterpieces are trying to reach for the sky with their delicate and fluffy crumb. I mean, certainly, baking soda can help our baked goods rise, but trust me when I say that they’re also game for a little extra something.
It’s actually super easy to deodorize your stinky basketball shoes with baking soda, and the method is pretty hands-off as well (thank goodness, because with multiple sport practices and long tournaments seemingly every other week, I’m sure that time is sort of a precious commodity).
Simply dust the insides of your shoes with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda, give ‘em a good shake to evenly coat everything, and then leave overnight. Just clap out the shoes when you need them again, and you’re done! For easier clean-up, you could also put the baking soda into a sock, tie it off with a rubber band or something, and then leave that sock in your stinky shoe overnight– or longer, just to give the baking soda a little extra time to work its shoe deodorizing magic.
3. Clean Socks
Another quick and simple way to go about deodorizing stinky basketball shoes is simply making sure that you’re always wearing clean socks. Now, I totally know that this option might come across as a bit obvious, and perhaps even just a little trite, but believe me when I say that it’s totally one of the most successful strategies for combating footwear funk.
You know how your feet and shoes are (an unwitting) home to all of that stinky bacteria? Plenty of it gets transferred to your daily set of socks, which means that those socks, which have direct contact with both the source of the moisture the bacteria so love to eat, and your poor shoes, are a practically perfect conduit for the bacteria and its preferred food source. *le sigh*
BUT the key to stopping that funky freeflow is making sure that you’re always wearing dry and fresh socks! Socks sans moisture can actually act as barriers between your natural sweat and your basketball shoes, helping to prevent pungent peds!
Simply make sure to always be wearing dry and clean socks, even if that means switching out throughout the day– keeping a spare set in your gym bag really isn’t going to be much trouble, I pinkie promise, especially compared with having to lug around a stinky set of shoes.
Sweat-wicking socks are especially useful to us with this, as they’ll be better able to keep the sweat/moisture away from your shoes, although any kind of sock will do, just so long as you remember to switch out sweaty socks for dry socks throughout the day, as needed.
Salt can also help us to combat sweaty (and thus rank) moisture in your stinky basketball shoes. I want you to think back to the last time that you had the chance to visit the ocean. Lush, rolling waves crashing into the shoreline. Seagulls squawking indignantly at passersby. The salty wind chapping your lips– remember all of that now?
Salt is notorious for not just seasoning our tangy potato chips and favorite beef jerky, but also for being able to draw moisture out of things (like from our skin at the beach– hence the chapped lips at the beach). This is great news for our basketball shoes that are naturally going to get exposed to just a little bit of sweat after practice or games, and would otherwise also have to deal with the bacteria chowing down on said sweat, and producing their notorious stank.
Just like with the baking soda option, in order to use salt to deodorize stinky basketball shoes all we have to do is dust in a few tablespoons and give ‘em a good shake to evenly coat everything. If you’re worried about cleanup (which is totally understandable– there’s literally no spare time when the sports season is well underway) then simply put the salt into socks instead, and then put the socks into your pungent peds.
Leave the salt in there for at least overnight, but if you haven’t got any practices or games coming up, you can totally feel free to leave the salt in there for longer. A good approach is also just to put the salt in there immediately after you use the shoes, as the quicker you can deprive the bacteria of their food, the less funk you’ll have to counter.
5. White Vinegar Foot Soak
A white vinegar foot soak will help to directly counter the bacteria on your feet (thus saving your shoes from olfactory oblivion). Now, I know that you’re thinking about how vinegar is just a tangy pantry staple that’ll every so often show up in giving foods a bright, sour kick, but that tang is precisely what we need to give that stinky bacteria a swift and effective kick (if you will) all of its own!
Now, there’s no need to go about using your most expensive bottle of vinegar for this option– I know that personally, you could pry my favorite balsamic vinegar (GREAT for bruschetta and flavoring roasted vegetables, if your curious self wanted to know) out of my cold dead hands– and even then, as zombie a ghost I would come back simply to fight you for it (a fantastic balsamic is absolutely that good).
Apple cider vinegar, too, can also just seem kind of expensive to be (literally) poured down the drain afterward, which is why for this one we’re just going to recommend that you go for plain old white vinegar.
And due to how naturally acidic white vinegar is, those stinky bacteria won’t be able to stand a chance!
So get yourself a tub, fill it with one part white vinegar and then two parts water (hot or cold totally works just fine, and to be honest, I’d just go with whatever makes you most comfortable), mix it all together (because you know that it’s the best of both worlds;) ), and then dip your feet in to soak for at least 30 minutes. Make sure to rinse everything off afterward (no need for sour feet to replace the previous cheese-like stank) and then you’re good to go!
The bacteria ought to then be swimming down the drain, bemoaning their terrible, acidic doom, and you ought to be high-fiving yourself because you just did it! Ya’ deodorized those basketball shoes with vinegar and finally get to call it a day.
6. Black Tea
Steering back to directly going after those stinky basketball shoes themselves, our next option involves black tea. Now, I know this probs sounds just a little bit funky to ya’ but believe me when I say that black tea is totally good for more than just a simple, toasty beverage.
You see, black tea naturally has these things known as “tannins” that the bacteria simply hate. They’re like siblings right before dinner, screaming and shouting and making you question why you ever thought it’d be fun to not just stick with having a cute dog and maybe a couple of minimalistic house plants (at least those wouldn’t ever complain about leftovers).
But if you’re determined to stay the course (of learning how to deodorize stinky shoes, not parenting) then get yourself a couple of black tea bags, boil ‘em, and then simply place them inside of the olfactory offenders (*read: those stinky basketball shoes of yours), leaving the tea bags in for about an hour. Afterward, just wipe off any remaining liquid from your shoes, then let them sit to air-dry for a hot minute.
If you’ll care to recall, moisture and our shoes simply ought not mix, given as how the stinky bacteria (of which there may or may not be a few hearty and hale stragglers) simply love moisture to munch on, and if you stick your feet in before the shoes have completely and most definitely dried out then you’re in for an extra double-whammy of stank. So let the shoes dry out, overnight if you’d like, but def long enough to ensure that the stank won’t be making any kind of comeback.
Our final and perhaps most simple option for how to quickly fix stinky basketball shoes is LUMI’s Lavender Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer. For real, this stuff can successfully deodorize shoes and it also literally only takes a second to do so.
But you’re kind of on the line? Totally understandable, I mean, I swear that before I buy something I simply have to read at least ten million reviews, ask for a demonstration, and then get a free trial for like six months before I’m even halfway convinced of anything.
Take it from over 800 perfect 5-star reviews on Amazon though, with a well-earned average of 4.4 stars overall. Reviewer Sheila here talks about how all it took was one spray from LUMI’s Lavender Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer to fix the funk in her daughter’s basketball shoes:
LUMI is also actually a pretty rad company. They don’t test on animals (for the win), are a small, family-owned business (heck to the frik-frakin’ yeah), they source all of the natural products from high quality ingredients (woot-woot!), and all of their products are made in the US!
LUMI’s Lavender Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is absolutely one of the easiest methods one can use to get rid of that dreaded funk from your footwear. All it takes is a spritz or two directly into each of your shoes, and that’s all you’ve got to do!
Plus, LUMI can totally work wonders in other smelly areas of the house as well. Does your kitchen sink make you want to barf? Spray it with LUMI! Got a gag-worthy garbage can? Couldn’t hurt to hit it up with a quick spray of LUMI!
LUMI’s Lavender Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is GREAT for all of those, and makes it super easy for us to fix stinky shoes! One spray, and smelly basketball shoes shall be a problem no longer!
But let’s run through all of our shoe deodorizing options one more time, just because there were seven of them, and I’ve already honestly forgotten number 6 (and I wrote about it, so don’t you go feeling bad, alright? We’ve all got the memory span of a goldfish, and that’s absolutely alright).
First up, we have rubbing alcohol– it can help to fix stinky basketball shoes with ease, leaving the bacteria to skedaddle and never set the stage for that dreaded foot funk ever again. Soak some cotton pads or rounds in the rubbing alcohol, and then leave ‘em in your shoes for at least overnight, but overnight if you think you can spare the time and your shoes.
Baking soda works to absorb the moisture from your sweat, meaning that the stinky bacteria won’t have anything to chow down on and in turn produce that footwear funk none of us want making a comeback. Dash a few tablespoons of baking soda into your footwear and leave overnight to get rid of that bad shoe smell. You can also feel free to put the baking soda into a sock, tie it off with a rubber band, and then put that into your pungent peds– once again leaving overnight (or longer!) to deodorize the shoes.
Clean socks basically help to make sure that the bacteria only get access to the moisture in your old, sweaty socks for so long, before getting switched out with fresh, dry socks. No sweat means no footwear funk, alright? Simply make sure that you’re wearing clean socks for the majority of the day (changing out for a second or third spare works wonders here) and you’ll have fixed your smelly shoes in no time!
Salt can directly take on the stinky bacteria as it slurps away moisture just like the baking soda was able to. Dash a couple of tablespoons inside your stinky shoes, shake ‘em up a bit to evenly coat the insides, and leave overnight. For simple cleanup, you can totally feel free to put that salt in a sock or something, tie it off with a rubber band, and then leave that sock in overnight. Also, always remember that you can go a bit longer to give the salt some more time to work its deodorizing magic– you’ll know that the salt can’t really absorb much more water when it starts to clump up.
A wee white vinegar foot soak will also show the stinky bacteria precisely what you mean when you say that you want “Clean-smelling shoes ASAP,” as you get yourself a small tub, fill it with one part white vinegar (any other type will also absolutely work for ya’ but you’ll just have to be careful that the other varieties– like apple cider vinegar, for instance– doesn’t stain anything or break the bank), then two parts water, mix it all together and finally let your feet soak for just around 30 minutes. Rinse afterward, and give yourself a pat on the back because that’s all you have to do to fix your stinky shoes for good!
Or black tea contains tannins, which stinky bacteria simply aren’t a fan of, which means that we’ll be boiling a couple of tea bags ASAP, and then sticking them right into our footwear. Dab off the remaining liquid after about an hour, and then allow the shoes to air-dry completely before using your shoes.
LUMI’s Lavender Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer can save your smelly shoes with just a wee little spritz or two directly into each of your shoes, and then you’re done. This option is GREAT if you’re running late to a game or practice (no overnighting “or longer” here), as it literally just takes seconds to fix your smelly shoes.
And that’s all seven! We’ve done it, and now you have to go ahead and pick one! Quick, simple tips for how to deodorize stinky basketball shoes for good. Pick one, or maybe double up to see which one will work for ya’ and then go ahead and enjoy the court free from that dreaded stank!