Some shoes are better to wear without any socks, especially in the summer months. Whether you like to wear flats, boat shoes, sandals or loafers, here are some tips to help you keep your shoes from smelling nasty when you strut your stuff sockless. Image by Iveta Angelova (Shutterstock), and remixed by Nick Criscuolo.
Keep Your Feet Dry with Dedicated Foot Powders
Your shoes are subject to a lot of heat and moisture, and when you don't wear socks, there's nothing to catch and wick that moisture away. You can't do much about the heat, but you can keep things dry with some foot powder. For around $10 you can get a bottle of medicated foot powder, and it should last you the whole summer.
Other powders, like baby powder, help keep things dry as well, but they may not fight odour as well. The downside to using foot powders is that they can clump if your feet sweat a lot, and they leave the inside of your shoes speckled white and it may never go away. Nobody is going to look in your shoes (hopefully), but it's still something to consider.
Seriously, Wash Your Feet
When it comes to foot odour, a little extra washing can go a long way. The reason your shoes get so stinky is because the odour-causing bacteria that like to live on your feet spread to the inside of your shoes. They live off of your sweat and dead skin, which makes the inside of your sockless shoes prime real estate for those little guys. The Art of Manliness explains:
Once you have plenty of sweat going, the bacteria that live on your feet start growing and producing smelly stuff. The main culprit for your stinky feet is brevibacteria. These suckers eat the dead skin that sloughs off your feet every day. After digesting your microscopic skin particles, the brevibacteria expel methanethiol, a gas that smells sort of like rotten cabbage.
To combat the stink, start with a foot washing regimen. Lather your feet with soap to help reduce bacteria and scrub them clean with a loofah or wash cloth to remove as much dead skin as you can. Simply standing in the shower and letting the soap wash down your body on to your feet doesn't count! If you don't have time to wash, alcohol-based products like antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer can also work in a pinch.
Use Foot Spray (Or Even Underarm Deodorant)
Foot odour is very similar to armpit odour, so it makes sense that products designed for the underside of your arms could work for other high-sweat areas of the body as well. Dr Benabio at The Derm Blog suggests using an antiperspirant spray:
Use a spray antiperspirant such as Gold Bond Maximum Strength Foot Spray. Your regular underarm antiperspirant will work as well, but the aluminium chloride concentration is much lower, so it is less effective.
The spray variety gives more coverage for your foot and can get in the nooks and crannies between your toes. Regular deodorant can help too because they are alcohol based. Deodorants won't keep your feet dry, but in a pinch, sweaty feet is better than sweaty and smelly feet.
Use Activated Charcoal Insoles
If your shoes aren't too cramped, insoles can be a quick and easy odour prevention method. You can find insoles made of terrycloth, designed to absorb and wick the sweat away, but your best bet are insoles with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is very porous and incredibly absorbent. Insoles like Footcare Extra Tough Odour Stop are a safe bet. These aren't ideal for sandals, but they work great for boat shoes, flats, and loafers.
You personally cut each insole to size, so you know it will fit almost any shoe size or type, and each pair can last more than a month of regular wear. Your mileage may vary, but these types of insoles can prevent odour from building up in your shoes right from the start.
Wear Discreet Socks
Yes, we're talking about going sockless, but you can just as easily make it look like you're not wearing socks. These socks go by many names (such as Liners, No-Shows, Loafer Socks, Boat Shoe Socks), but they all do the same thing: they absorb and wick sweat from your feet so it doesn't absorb into your shoes.
They ride really low on your feet, usually wrapping around your toes and barely hooking around the base of your heel, but they give you the advantage of socks while still being fashionable. If you decide to go the sock route, you can usually find packs of two for $15 or less. Keep in mind, however, that socks don't combine very well with any of the other methods mentioned here. You don't want powdery socks or scrunched toes from your insole and sock combo, but it's still good to wash your feet.
Absorb Moisture In Your Shoes When You're Not Wearing Them
Preventing shoe odour is just as much about what you do when you're not wearing your shoes as when you do wear them. Just because you've pulled your sweaty feet out of your shoes doesn't mean they're instantly dry inside. In fact, that moisture can linger for a while and contribute to the growth of more odour-causing bacteria. Black Lapel suggests springing for some cedar shoe trees. They will absorb moisture, make your shoes smell heavenly, and they will help you maintain the shape of your shoes. These can run you anywhere from $14 to $40 each, so they're not exactly the cheapest option either.
Of course, you can always go with the classics as well. Stuffing your shoes with newspaper can also absorb moisture and odour, and a sock or stocking filled with cat litter can do the same. A coffee filter filled with baking soda is always a strong deodoriser as well.
Have Multiple Pairs of the Same Style of Shoe
Last, but not least, the less time you spend sweating in your shoes, the less chance odour-causing bacteria will thrive. Having multiple pairs of the same style of shoe makes it easy for you to wear the shoes you want everyday without overdoing the sweat output. You can have different colours of the same shoe or mix it up with different styles of the same shoe type. Make an effort to alternate between them every day and you'll save yourself some work in the long run.