Footwear in need of a refresh? Here's how to deodorize your kicks. 

By Real Simple Editors
Updated September 20, 2019
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If you have a go-to pair of running shoes or some comfy sneakers you sport day after day, there's a good chance your favorite footwear will start to smell. The combination of sweat and heat in a confined space makes it the ideal environment for bacteria to grow—yuck! To freshen up your footwear, start with the pro-approved method below for how to clean smelly sneakers, then follow the tips to keep them smelling fresh for longer. Armed with this advice, you can avoid the embarrassing odor—and spare yourself the side-eye from your workout buddies.

How to Clean Smelly Sneakers

What You'll Need:

  • Detergent
  • White vinegar

Follow These Steps:

1. If the shoes are machine washable, launder them in warm water with a small amount of detergent and a cup of white vinegar, says Katie Berry, author of 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House. (Don't add fabric softener, as it could harm the shoes' moisture-wicking abilities.)

2. After the wash, place the shoes in the sun to dry. Never put sneakers in the dryer, as it could damage the adhesive.

How to Prevent Smelly Shoes in the First Place

  • Help avoid shoe odor by wearing athletic socks made from a blend of synthetic fabrics (like Balega Silver Antimicrobial Running Socks, from $13.50; amazon.com), which will help keep feet dry, says Kathy Gates, owner of the Running Well Stores in the Kansas City, Missouri area.
  • Don't wear the same shoes day after day. If you can, alternate between shoes so each pair has a chance to air out.
  • If you're storing sneakers away for the season, clean them first. Then stuff them with newspaper to absorb moisture or sprinkle the inside of the shoe with a deodorizing powder, such as baking soda. Vacuum up any excess powder before wearing.