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How to fix smelly hiking boots


My hiking boots smell terrible. Is there anything I can do to take care of that?
– Smelly Steve, Knoxville, Tenn.

A. Try taking a shower, Steve. No, seriously, keeping your feet clean is key. And wear only socks made of a wool and polyester blend that will wick moisture away from your feet. Powders like cornstarch and baking soda can also help keep your feet dry and less sweaty.

As for your boots, we asked Peter Sachs of LOWA Boots for some advice. Here’s what he had to say:

“Most hiking boots have removable insoles. Take those out and wash them with a mild detergent, but rinse them really well so you don’t get suds the next time you hike in the rain. Let them air dry. It’s also O.K. to fill your shoes with water and rinse them out. This will actually enhance the boot’s life by getting rid of the salts from your body’s sweat. To dry them out, stick newspaper inside. That’ll help pull moisture from the lining. Finally, borrow some dryer sheets from your mom and stuff those inside your boots overnight.”

Check out the BL Essentials guide for more hiking boot tips.

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23 Comments on How to fix smelly hiking boots

  1. I have massive problems with sweaty feet and smelly hiking boots. I have tried several treatments. My personal recommendation is wearing cedar wood insoles (for instance zederna insoles). It is naturally anti-bacterial and works very well.

    • Lay your boots on their sides to get dried out inside. Fresh air can circulate into your boots to dry them out and eliminate the odors from the sweat that builds up inside.

  2. I met a thru-hiker on the A.T. He said to wear taller socks because they wick more moisture out of your boots than shorter socks do.

  3. Buy new boots.

  4. jimmy farter // November 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm // Reply

    battery-operated blowdryer once a day

  5. Off-Trail-Monkey // November 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm // Reply

    Try washing your feet more often!

  6. You should buy anti-bacterial spray often used for hockey gear at a sports store. Smells like oranges and eliminates the problem; not cover it up. This is by far the best stuff around. Hockey skates are the worst smelling things ever; ask the guy who sharpens them.

  7. I have found that drying boots using a blow dryer and then sprinkling some powder (cornstarch) in them works to prevent the insoles from getting saturated in sweat.

  8. Walking Everywhere I may travel 750 // January 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm // Reply

    If your foot doesn’t become cramped with the cotton socks and wool socks–and your hiking boot will permit them to fit snugly in your boots, Dr. Scholl’s “Odor Eater” foam shoe insert fitted into your hiking boot may help eliminate the hiking boot odor by trapping it in the foam and activated charcoal liner of the boot. Just be careful to not cramp your foot so as to permit a heel blister to form while hiking in your hiking boots. Dr. Scholl’s “Odor Eater” foam inserts really work hard to eliminate odor from sweating feet. Smelly hiking boots also are formed when the boot leather doesn’t “breathe” such as in acrylic plastic “water-resistant” hiking boots.

  9. camper 101 // June 26, 2008 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    i like internal packs, because i like to go on more rugged trails, the packs are also very confortable on the trail. they are very good for a center of balance and they pack a lot.

  10. camper 101 // June 26, 2008 at 9:48 pm // Reply

    thanks for the tips, this has happened to me before, i just put some lysol in my shoes to make them smell better, that did the trick for a while, but now i know the real answer.

  11. boyscout45 // May 28, 2008 at 3:23 pm // Reply

    hey i read that that an thats good info

  12. Running in the back country // October 15, 2007 at 4:51 pm // Reply

    Internal frames usually have a greater volume to carry more stuff (cubic inches). They are designed to hug the body better giving you a better center of gravity. Weight is packed closer to the back. This is ideal for cross country skiing, climbing, etc.

    External frames provide better support from the hips which allows more weight to be carried higher in the pack making trail hiking easier. External have a place to strap the sleeping bag to the frame where the internals have a section you stuff the bag into. Some people prefer one type to the other, I will switch between the 2 depending on the type of activity I am doing.

  13. Pedro's Keeper // August 28, 2007 at 12:03 pm // Reply

    Thanks. I’ve been looking for an answer to my smelly sneaks and work moccassins. This should do the trick.

  14. boyscout66 // June 11, 2007 at 9:25 pm // Reply

    what type of knife is best for camping?

  15. Try looking online, or better yet, go to REI or your local sporting goods store and ask an employee. there are many adjustable packs that can fit you now and be adjusted as you grow. I also had a hard time finding a pack because I was only 4′ 5″ when I started backpacking. I bought a kelty yukon 2900 cu. in. that fit real nice.

  16. what is the best fish stimulator?

  17. joe scout // May 23, 2007 at 5:52 pm // Reply

    Whats better:Internal vs. External Frame backpacks?????

  18. I need a frame backpack but I’m to small what should I do.

  19. Would you know the best way to survive a rafting trip on rapids?

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