The best way to fix your smelly climbing shoes is to wash your climbing shoes, add shoe inserts into your shoe when you’re not climbing, and store your climbing shoes in open air where they can breathe. Charcoal inserts and other shoe inserts will help keep new climbing shoes smelling fresh.
Check out our list of the best climbing shoes and use this guide to keep them clean for a long time.
Keeping climbing shoes clean and smelling fresh can be a chore. Even just walking into my local climbing gym I’m greeted by a wave of smelly sweat. One of the worst things you can do is to toss your gym shoes in your backpack and leave them in there until the next time you climb.
If you want to keep your shoes smelling good and avoid cleaning climbing shoes after every time you wear them, try one of our 17 methods that will address the elephant in the room: your shoe stench.
How To Stop Climbing Shoes from Smelling
- Treat the smell with lysol or other sprays
- Wash your feet before climbing
- Wear clean socks when rock climbing
- Place an activated charcoal shoe insert inside your shoes
- Reduce foot sweat with climbing chalk or talcum powder
Spray Shoes with Lysol
There’s a reason why guiding services and climbing gyms will spray rental shoes with lysol. This kills germs in the smelly climbing shoes as well as giving them a fresh sterile smell. If you’re running a guide service or providing shoes to a large number of people at a family climbing day, bringing along some lysol isn’t a bad idea.
Not only does it help with the smell, but it does get rid of any leftover foot germs. If you’re taking guests out climbing, they’ll appreciate seeing you douse the shoes with a bit of disinfectant before their climbing session.
Use a Shoe Deodorizer Spray
If you’re looking for a spray that gives a more friendly scent than the sterile, hospital smell of Lysol, look into ordering a shoe deodorizer spray off of amazon.
These sprays smell good and they’ll be pumped full of natural ingredients and essential oils. But they won’t do as good as a job as a disinfectant spray killing any bacterial growth.
These sprays will be branded well and make a great gift for the climber in your life. It can also be a helpful nudge for your partner or roommate who has smelly climbing shoes that stink up the whole house.
Wash your Climbing Shoes
Throwing your climbing shoe into the washing machine can be a gamble. You may get a quick clean with little effort on your part, or you might ruin your shoes. In my research, I’ve heard that it’s okay to wash synthetic climbing shoes but not leather.
One climber did some experiments putting their leather shoes in a machine wash and said that it came out fine. But there’s still some risk that your shoes might not fit the same as before or that they will deteriorate.
Soak your Climbing Shoes
A simpler way to wash climbing shoes is to run a sudsy soapy bath for them and let them soak for an hour. After you’ve soaked them air dry them until they are totally dry. If you leave any moisture you’re asking for mold and other nasty smelling bacteria.
Scrub your Climbing Shoes
If your smelly climbing shoes are dirty and maybe have some remnants of crag dog doo, then a gentle scrub is the perfect antidote. Get an old toothbrush or soft brush and rinse your shoes under running water. Gently scrub your shoes to get any lingering dirt out of there.
Once you’re done, set them out to air dry but not in direct sunlight. This is a great way to clean climbing shoes and remove any unwanted odors.
Wearing socks with your climbing shoes is a surprisingly controversial topic. It really doesn’t matter if you wear socks or don’t wear socks with your climbing shoes. I like to wear them with mine to prevent blisters and keep my shoes smelling fresh.
Wearing clean socks will prevent your sweat and dead skin cells from absorbing into the shoe material and keep your shoes smelling good for longer.
Freeze your Climbing Shoes
Freezing a pair of shoes may be a bit overboard, but if you haven’t had any other luck then it’s worth a shot. I always freeze my protein shaker bottle because after a while it begins to smell so bad. When you freeze it, you are killing the molecules that reek.
Some people say that this is only a myth, but if you’re desperate you’re willing to pull out any punches. A good freeze and then a gentle scrub could be exactly what the doctor ordered to get your climbing shoes smelling like spring roses.
Take Them Off While Climbing
Now we don’t mean to take them off while you’re actively climbing, but if you have a break in your climbing session then that is a perfect opportunity to let them air out. My feet get drenched in sweat when I’m climbing.
Whether it’s from hot air or because I’m getting a little scared above the last bolt, I’m guaranteed to leave sweaty footprints everywhere I walk.
I started taking my shoes off during sessions to give my feet a break from aggressive shoes. But I realized this was the perfect opportunity to loosen the laces and open the tongue.
Getting my sweaty dogs out of the shoes and allowing them to breathe for a few minutes helps prevent the odor from taking over.
Use Activated Charcoal Shoe Inserts
Activated charcoal is a sneaky foe for smelly climbing shoes. When I first picked these up, I gave them a few sniffs. They didn’t give off a strong odor. In fact they didn’t smell like anything at all. But these activated charcoal inserts act like a vacuum cleaner to catch and absorb odor.
I always keep these inserts in my shoes now. They also help absorb moisture. And I desperately need that feature because my feet are totally greased up after climbing for a few hours.
Use Boot Bananas
Boot Bananas are made by a small company that focuses on one thing: keep your climbing shoes from stinking. This team created their own formula to treat smelly climbing shoes. They actually hand made 8,000 boot bananas one year before getting some help.
These inserts include a powerful blend of naturally deodorising salts and minerals. But the best part is that their banana shape fit perfectly into aggressive climbing shoes.
Dry with a Shoe Dryer
A quick and easy way to fight funk is to drop a shoe dryer into your shoes after a sweaty climbing session. One climber reported that this was an awesome way to sanitize your shoes after a long day of climbing. It will only run you about $17 off Amazon and they can be used for your climbing, hiking, and mountain biking shoes anytime they get a bit too damp.
When you’re done climbing, just drop these driers into your shoes and you can leave them in for an hour or overnight depending on how sweaty & smelly your shoes are.
Stuff with Tea Bags
A frugal option that also makes your shoes smell pleasing is to add some dry tea bags inside.
This is the same idea as using any other shoe insert, but you’ll get to pick your favorite tea blend for your shoes. The best part is that if you’re desperate for a cup of tea while rock climbing, you’ll just need to add hot water.
Wrap the tea bag with old newspaper and you’ll have an economical and awesome way to fight odor and moisture.
Add Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets help make our laundry soft and cuddly. And a lot of them will also come with aromatic scents. After you’ve identified the cause of your climbing shoe stank, adding a dryer sheet to your clean climbing shoes will help give them that fresh scent.
If you have mold or something gross growing in your shoe, this method isn’t going to do too much for you. Dryer sheets may cover up smells from all the sweat, but they won’t work forever. Use one of our methods to wash climbing shoes and get rid of the odor at the source.
Stuff with Old Recycled Newspaper
Climbing is an inherently sweaty activity. If you’re like me and climbing outdoor in the middle of summer at the New River Gorge, your shoe is acting more like a sponge to absorb sweat. Stuffing your synthetic shoes with old newspaper helps the shoe dry.
I actually use this method all the time when I’m out mountain biking in the rain or riding through creeks. When I get home I’ll remove the insole and stuff the shoes with newspaper.
Once the newspaper has soaked up all the moisture, I’ll open them up and set let the shoes air dry.
Use Baking Soda
Baking soda is a quick way to get your shoes smelling like a fresh pair again. In fact, even Nike recommends baking soda as a way to help.
You can create your own shoe insert by taking a sock, hopefully clean and not smelly, and adding the following:
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup baking powder
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- A few drops of your favorite essential oil
Combine the mixture in the sock or just sprinkle it directly in your shoe. And say bye bye to bad smells.
Wash Your Feet
The best offense is a good defense. And if you’re stuffing stinky feet into your climbing shoes, then you’re gonna have a bad time. Keeping your feet clean is going to help a ton. Every climbing gym I’ve been to has had a foot washing station in the bathroom. If they don’t have that, then use the shower or sink.
If you’re out at the crag on a long rock climbing trip, you probably didn’t include an emergency foot wash station in your climbing packing list. Go for a dip in the river and try to bring a few extra pairs of clean socks to wear when you’re climbing.
Air Your Shoes Out
Letting the shoes air out is a great option to do while you’re climbing. Take a break and let the shoes breathe in some fresh air. When you do this, make sure that you open up the tongue and undo the laces or velcro to allow as much air flow as possible. You want to get as much air circulating in the moist environment as possible.
If you’re shoes are totally rancid, you’ll need to employ some other tactics to address the problem.
Store Your Shoes Properly
Storing your climbing shoe properly is crucial to prevent odor and any fungus from growing inside of them. If you finish climbing for the day andthrow those sweaty, stinky shoes to the bottom of your bag. You’re going to forget about them until your next climbing session.
All the while the moist shoes are living in a perfect breeding ground to stink up and get that nice used hockey glove smell.
Loosen up the laces, open the tongue and let the shoes air out. Keep them outside of your pack and let them air dry. Once they have spent some time drying, then you can place them back in your pack. Buy a mesh bag to hold your shoes and keep them out of the bottom of your pack.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our climbing shoes are a haven for dead skin cells and moisture and since many shoes aren’t breathable, bacteria and other funk will grow in our shoes.
A hand wash or a soapy, sudsy soak and then thoroughly drying the shoes will eliminate any odor.
You can use an antiseptic spray or scented shoe inserts to help cover up any foul odors in your rock climbing shoe.
Do not spray Lysol on your climbing shoes, but spray it in side the shoe and on the insole to kill germs and bacteria growth.
Wash and gently brush the inside of your shoes, or let them soak for an hour and then dry.
Give your shoes a long soapy soak, rinse, and dry. Then wash your feet or wear clean socks when climbing.
Freezing will remove some odor but not completely eliminate it.