My feet and therefore my cycling shoes stink. What can I do to get rid of the smell and prevent it from coming back?
Fear not, my smelly-footed friend. Foot odour affects most of us at one time or another, whether it be after wearing wellies throughout a muddy festival, getting over-excited about a recent purchase of Birkenstocks and not removing them for a fortnight, or indeed, not paying due attention to your feet and cycling shoes after a long ride.
The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists understand your pain. They explain that your feet have more sweat glands per inch than any other part of your body in order to keep your toes smooth and supple. Therefore, these glands are working hard all the time – not just when submitted to certain conditions, like your underarm sweat glands.
This sweatiness in itself doesn't smell: bacteria on the skin breaks the sweat down and creates the pong we all dread. This bacteria has a total whale of a time in damp conditions, and that's why the considerably un-breathable nature of cycling shoes is a prime breeding ground. This is worsened in the colder months when your feet get wet from the rain too. It's like a ready-made petri dish for pong.
A lot of this can be prevented, or at least mediated, with good hygiene. The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists recommend washing your toes with an anti-bacterial soap. There are many on the market including popular brands like Hibiscrub and Newtons.
It's also advised that you don't wear the same shoes every day. Unfortunately, for many cyclists, this isn't a viable option because cycling shoes are bloomin' expensive. If you're really having odour issues, consider investing in a cheap pair of cycling shoes for your commute or less important rides in order to give your top-tier pair a bit of a break.
You can also leave your shoes outside when it's sunny to let air circulate. When this isn't possible, you could try placing baking soda or charcoal inside your shoes. These substances absorb bad odours. You can either pop the materials straight inside the shoe (and then have fun using the vacuum cleaner to get all of it out), or you can fill a pair of old socks with soda and leave them in the shoes each night.
Do also bare in mind that if you've had a sudden increase in odour, you may have athletes foot. Ensure you have a proper look down there (maybe wearing a peg over your nose) and take appropriate action. Read this information from The College of Podiatry.
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