Reasons Your Running Shoes Stink

Reasons Your Running Shoes Stink

There are plenty of reasons your running shoes stink. Although no one really likes to talk about it. Why is having smelly shoes embarrassing? You might be surprised to learn it’s not always a “you” problem, and it could be anything from socks, to athletes’ foot, to walking through a sprayed area.

So why do your running shoes smell bad?

What makes running shoes smell bad?

Can smelly running shoes be fixed?

Reasons Your Running Shoes Stink

Here are a few reasons your running shoes stink:

Personal Problems Your Running Shoes Stink:

Your Skin’s Natural Bacteria:

We think of bacteria being bad, but it isn’t always! We all have bacteria living on our skin (yes, even you). The same bacteria that live on our skin can also cause bad odors (anywhere). So why feet? Bacteria are more likely to live in dark places with moisture and minimal ventilation. Think your sweaty running shoes. The more they grow, the more they smell.


What does that even mean? Hyperhidrosis means you sweat profusely like more than the average person. It’s not just “during exercise,” but it’s a medical condition where you sweat all of the time, everywhere. You can find more information about it here.

This makes your shoes and bacteria even more suitable for smelly running shoes. There is no cure for Hyperhidrosis, and it is not a “bad” disease, but it means that you’ll have to put extra effort into keeping your running shoes dry.

Athlete’s Foot:

As a swimmer, we were told not to shower in locker rooms without shoes dozens of times. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that typically occurs between the toes but can happen on any part of the foot. The fungus emits a foul odor and can ruin both socks and shoes. It is easily treatable with over-the-counter medications. If I ever gave any lockerroom advice, it’s to wear flip-flops or slides. I love my Oofos for the pool deck and locker room.

Outside Factors Your Running Shoes Stink:

Consider your socks:

If you aren’t wearing moisture-wicking socks, often that plays a big role in why your running shoes stink. Many people don’t realize how much socks actually play a role in running, period. They change the fit of your shoe. If you get blisters, chafing, or rubbing, socks play a big role! You can learn more about running socks here.

Water in Your Shoes:

If you run in the rain or even the wet slushy snow, let your shoes air dry, or they will smell. There is bacteria in the water that will cause your shoes to smell. After you find your shoes wet, simply take the insole out of the shoe and let air dry in a dry location. I advise you to do this immediately as it does not take long for your running shoes to start stinking.

You Stepped in…Something:

When you are out running, you never know what you’ll step in. Animal poop or something else, but they can all lead to your running shoes smelling bad. Resist the urge to put them in the washer and dryer and simply hose your running shoes off, remove the insoles and let them air dry. This stink might be the lesser of evils because the smell is not on the inside of your shoe rather the outside.


Do not put your running shoes in the washer and dryer, no matter how much your running shoes stink. You can read about How to Clean Running Gear here.

Stinky running shoes can happen to anyone and everyone. Don’t be afraid

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Questions for you:

Do your running shoes stink?

What are some other reasons you’ve found your running shoes stink?