How to make climbing shoes not smell/ featured image

How To Make Climbing Shoes Not Smell (w/Tips)- 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Odor Causes: Sweat, dirt, and bacteria accumulation in climbing shoes create an ideal environment for odor.
  • Prevention:
    • Dry shoes before storage.
    • Opt for natural fiber socks over synthetic ones.
    • Use anti-odor sprays and rotate shoe usage.
  • Cleaning:
    • For Leather/Suede: Clean with gentle soap; use waterproofing agents.
    • For Synthetic: Use a mild detergent, then baking soda for odors.
  • Extra Tips:
    • Air out shoes regularly.
    • Wear socks to absorb sweat.
    • Change socks often and consider anti-odor materials.

Proper care keeps climbing shoes odor-free and extends their lifespan.

Are you one of those climbers who love the adrenaline rush of scaling a rock wall, but can’t stand the smell of your climbing shoes?

Then you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll show you some creative and simple ways to make sure your climbing shoes never have that pungent odor again.

So read on, and say goodbye to smelly climbing shoes for good!

Why do climbing shoes smell?

Climbing shoes, like any other type of shoe, accumulate a combination of sweat, dirt, and bacteria that can leave shoes smelling unpleasant.

Sweat is especially problematic because the skin inside the climbing shoe creates an ideal environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow.

Climbing shoes tend to be more susceptible to bad smells because they are often worn in close quarters with no air circulation.

These bacteria will thrive in dark and damp environments and produce offensive odors when they break down sweat molecules on the surface of the shoe.

The majority of sweat produced is odorless; however, some can smell bad if it mixes with other substances such as body oils or dirt.

Additionally, some fabrics release chemicals that react with bacteria on the surface of the shoe and create an unpleasant smell as well.

It is important to address why your climbing shoes are smelling in order to make sure they remain fresh and free from unpleasant odors over time.

How to prevent your climbing shoes from smelling

Climbing shoes are invaluable assets for any avid climber, but with prolonged use and exposure to sweat, your climbing shoes can start to stink and cause embarrassment.

To ensure your climbing shoes remain fresh and unoffensive, there are some basic steps you can take to prevent odors from developing.

  1. Always make sure that your climbing shoes are clean and dry before storing them after each use. If your shoes get wet and muddy, take the time to remove any dirt or debris using a soft bristled brush or damp cloth. Allow the shoes to air dry thoroughly at room temperature; do not use a hair dryer or other heat source as this may cause damage.
  2. It’s important that you avoid wearing synthetic or man-made fabric socks as these tend to trap in moisture which increases the chance of bacteria breeding in your shoes. Opt for natural fibers such as cotton which allow for more airflow and breathability. Always wear socks when climbing as this will help wick sweat away from your feet and reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
  3. Consider investing in an anti-odor spray specifically designed for athletic footwear; these will help keep bad smells at bay by killing off bacteria on contact. Alternatively, you could switch up how often you wear different pairs of climbing shoes so that each one gets enough time between wears for it to fully air out properly. Regularly removing insoles can also help with getting rid of bad odors as they are known culprits when it comes to shoe smelliness!

Why do climbing shoes smell?/ How to make climbing shoes not smell

How to clean your climbing shoes

Cleaning climbing shoes is an important practice that not only helps eliminate unpleasant odors but also ensures that your feet are protected from harmful substances and pathogens.

Regular cleaning can help maintain the integrity of your shoes and extend their life.

Read this Detailed Guide video on How to Clean Your Climbing Shoes.

When cleaning your climbing shoes, it is important to keep in mind the materials used to make them.

All leather or suede shoes must be handled a bit differently than synthetic materials. Here are some tips for keeping your shoes looking, performing, and smelling fresh:

  • Leather/Suede Shoes: Remove dirt with a soft brush or cloth dampened with lukewarm water mixed with gentle soap. If needed, the same cloth can then be used with a small amount of commercial leather cleaner to remove any sticky substances or filth stuck on the shoe. Let air-dry or use a blow-dryer and then apply a waterproofing agent such as beeswax or mink oil to repel water and reinforce the material’s protection against germs and bacteria.
  • Synthetic Shoes: Begin by using small amounts of mild detergent solution on them – just enough to dampen the fabric without flooding it – then use either a soft cotton cloth or nylon brush to scrub away any dirt and grime. To remove odors, sprinkle baking soda into the shoes after cleaning with detergent. Afterward, rinse out with cold water ensuring no detergent remnants remain; let dry for several hours before next use.

You may want to consider using shoe deodorizers if you want longer-lasting results against smelly feet and climbing gear!

4 Tips for preventing your climbing shoes from smelling

Climbing shoes are designed to provide comfort and grip while climbing, but if not taken care of properly they can start to smell bad.

Here are some tips on how to make climbing shoes not smell:

  1. Remove or replace inner soles: Removing or replacing the insoles can help reduce odor by allowing air to flow into the shoe. If you have removable soles, try removing them and putting them in a bag with baking soda overnight to help draw out moisture as well as absorb 1 odor.
  2. Clean the outer leather material of the shoes: Use warm water and a mild detergent such as laundry soap to spot clean any dirt or grime from the leather material of your shoe. Do not use harsh chemicals that could damage the material, even if they may be more effective at killing bacteria-causing smell. Once finished cleaning let your shoes dry naturally and away from heat sources such as radiators or hair dryers.
  3. Drying your shoes between climbing sessions: To keep the odor from occurring in the first place, you should aim to dry out your shoes after every climbing session before wearing them again – this will prevent harmful bacteria from growing which could cause odor in future sessions as well as drying out any excess sweat/moisture that would lead to a bad smell too! For faster results place a rolled-up newspaper in each shoe overnight and it should have much improved by morning time!
  4. Wear socks with boots when possible: Wearing socks with your climbing boots will help absorb sweat better than without, significantly reducing the chance of an unpleasant odor occurring in future sessions! Plus this adds another layer of warmth when needed during colder days on-site too – win-win!

Check out this article on 11 ways to treat smelly climbing shoe

Other ways to prevent your climbing shoes from smelling

In addition to cleaning your climbing shoes regularly, here are some other measures you can take to help prevent foul-smelling shoes:

Let them air out

After a climb, take your shoes off and let them air out in an open area away from direct sunlight.

Airing your climbing shoes periodically helps eliminate any accumulated moisture that could lead to bacteria growth, which causes a bad smell.

Stuff them when not in use

To help keep their shape and avoid compressing the material that makes up the shoe, stuff them with newspaper or another stuffing material when you’re not using them.

Change socks regularly

The sweat and bacteria that arise from wearing the same pair of socks for multiple days can cause odors in your climbing shoes.

If you don’t have an extra sock pair handy or if you don’t want to keep buying extra socks every couple of months, try wearing sweat-wicking socks with anti-odor materials such as bamboo or merino wool instead of cotton.

Use shoe sprays and rubber fresheners on a regular basis

These types of products may help reduce bad smells, but they are best used as a complement to regular maintenance rather than a substitute for it.

Make sure to spray both inside and out before each climb, paying particular attention to areas with excessive friction.

Other ways to prevent your climbing shoes from smelling/ How to make climbing shoes not smell


In conclusion, making your climbing shoes smell better and last longer requires some diligence.

Cleaning them on a regular basis, airing them out after use, and considering using odor-proof sprays or deodorizers are effective ways to reduce the smell of your shoes without sacrificing performance.

Taking the time to properly care for your shoes will result in cleaner and fresher-smelling gear, which is worth the extra effort.


Can climbing shoes be washed?

Yes, climbing shoes can be washed but it’s important to use a gentle detergent and avoid harsh chemicals that may damage the rubber. It’s also recommended to air dry the shoes instead of using a dryer to preserve the shape and integrity of the shoe.

How do I deep clean my shoes so it doesn’t smell?

To deep clean shoes, remove any dirt or debris, wash with soap and water, and let air dry. Sprinkle baking soda inside to absorb odors, or use a shoe deodorizer spray. Store shoes in a well-ventilated area to prevent the buildup of moisture and odor.

Can I soak my climbing shoes in vinegar?

es, you can soak climbing shoes in vinegar to remove odors. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar, soak for 30 minutes, then rinse and air dry. Avoid soaking for too long or using too much vinegar as it can weaken the material of the shoes.

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