Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Solutions for Dirty Stinky Shoes

Any tips for de-gunking shoes worn barefoot? Dirt and sweat seem to combine the footbed kinda icky. 


Nothing is more disgusting than a woman wearing sandals coated in a thick layer of black goo from all of the sweat, dirt and dead skin cells that accumulate.  Especially when they take the shoes off and you can clearly see the outline of their foot imprinted in the filth.

If you spend a good amount of money on your shoes, you want them to look good and you want them to last.  So let’s give them a cleaning, shall we?

You will need the following: white vinegar, warm water, an old toothbrush and a dish sponge.

Mix 5 parts water with one part vinegar.  Dampen the sponge, but do not soak it.  Wipe the insole and straps vigorously.  If there are areas that are particularly gunky (under the toes is usually the worst), dampen the toothbrush and give it a scrub.  (I use and electric toothbrush, it seems to help.)  Then, leave the shoes out to dry overnight.

Obviously, this works best on synthetic materials, leather and fabric.  However, you’ll want to test a small area to make sure the vinegar won’t discolor it before you proceed.  This will not work on suede.  For that you need suede cleaner and a suede brush.

If it’s odor that you’re concerned with, take two black or herbal tea bags and leave them in the shoes overnight.  This works especially well with Keds, TOMS, ballet flats and the like.  The tea bags absorb dampness and odor.  For really smelly shoes, change the bags each day and leave them until the smell is gone.

Cursed with sweaty feet?  A friend has had good luck soaking her feet in vodka to kill bacteria and spraying them with Burt’s Bees Deodorant Spray.

Any other tips?  Share them in the comments.



  1. Johanna says:

    If your shoe can accommodate it, I’ve found that washable cotton liners (like this one my ballet flats from becoming stinky and sticky. They’re about $8 per pair and are machine washable.

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  2. Julie says:

    This is perfect! I particularly like the tea bag idea–I have a pair of suede flats that smell particularly bad that I’ll have to try it on. ::embarrassed::

    Style by Joules

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  3. Denise B says:

    Your timing on this is amazing. Having just gotten the last of my summer shoes out of storage, I was just thinking about submitting an Ask Belle to this extent. I’ll have to give it a try!

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  4. Becca says:

    Woolite fabric and upholstery cleaner works wonders on my Keds!

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  5. Angela says:

    I have a pair of Coach wedges that are 3 years old and amazing but starting to get the footprint…I was just thinking how gross it was and wishing I had a way to clean them. This post was right on point for me today!

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  6. strin012 says:

    Bunched up newspaper can also help with stinky shoes.

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  7. Anon says:

    Bags/sachets filled with cat litter and put into shoes after wearing will absorb moisture and odour. (After allm that’s what cat litter does in its original purpose, right?). The bags can be made very simply from the undamaged parts of laddered pantyhose (double-layered)- the advantage is that it is quick to do and the material is fine enough for the contents to be in contact with the shoes.

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  8. DD says:

    I throw cheaper, synthetic or cloth flats, Keds, and Toms right into the washer on gentle cycle in cold water and let air dry with clean, dry clothes stuffed into the toe box to help absorb moisture faster.

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  9. Claire says:

    The best inserts I have tried are these ( which have absolutely saved my shoes. They last around a month, and run about $3 per pair.

    June 5, 2013/Reply
  10. Katy says:

    Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work wonders for getting the black footprints off the inside of sandals. Start in an inconspicuous spot and don’t scrub too hard, because they can remove they dye from the shoe too.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  11. Edward says:

    The best stuff I have used is called Sweet Feet Spray. All the Celebrities use it in Hollywood for their toms. Their website is The stuff is amazing and it’s just a few dollars.

    June 7, 2013/Reply