How to Clean Smelly Climbing Shoes: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated Jul 31, 2023
How to Clean Smelly Climbing Shoes A Comprehensive Guide

Climbing shoes are a must-have for rock climbers. But, they can get smelly due to sweat, skin cells, and dirt. Here’s a guide to combat the smell.

Prevention is better than cure. Wear socks when using climbing shoes to reduce odors. Also, synthetic shoes are less likely to trap odors and bacteria.

To clean smelly climbing shoes, there are several approaches. Sprinkle baking soda after each climb and let it sit overnight. This absorbs moisture and reduces odors.

Hand-washing with lukewarm water and a mild detergent is also effective. Start by removing debris from shoes with a brush or toothbrush. Then, mix detergent with water and scrub the inside and outside of shoes. Rinse with clean water afterwards.

Let shoes air dry completely before using again. Avoid direct sunlight and dry in a shaded area or indoors. Stuff crumpled newspaper or dryer sheets into shoes to speed up drying.

There are products designed to combat smelly climbing shoes, like activated charcoal inserts. These are lightweight and can be placed inside shoes after each climb.

Combat stench and odor with these tips!

Preparing for the cleaning process

Prepping for cleaning smelly climbing shoes? Follow these steps for an effective clean and freshness that lasts!

  1. Sweep off dirt & debris: Gently brush the surface of your shoes to remove any dirt or debris. This stops further contamination whilst cleaning.
  2. Wash your feet: Before handling your shoes, make sure to wash your feet. Washing off sweat and bacteria will help reduce the smell.
  3. Let them air out: After washing your feet, let your shoes air out for a few hours. This removes excess moisture and aids in the cleaning process.

Bear in mind: The material of your shoes affects the cleaning method. Synthetic shoes can be machine washed on a gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent. Leather shoes need to be hand washed with lukewarm water and a soft brush.

Pro Tip: To prevent future odors, always wear socks with your climbing shoes and clean them regularly with these steps. Get rid of the funk and enjoy fresh sends with these tips for cleaning smelly climbing shoes!

Cleaning synthetic climbing shoes

  1. Gently brush off dirt and debris with a soft brush. Pay attention to the soles so you won’t feel uncomfortable while climbing.
  2. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Soak the shoes and scrub away stains with an old toothbrush. Clean interior and exterior of the shoes.
  3. Rinse the shoes with clean water. Squeeze out excess water, but don’t wring or twist the shoes. Put them in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat. Let them air dry.
  4. Preventive measures, like wearing socks and cleaning feet before each climb, can help keep your shoes smelling fresh.
  5. Synthetic shoes are prone to bacteria. Use activated charcoal inserts or “boot bananas” to absorb moisture and eliminate odors.

Cleaning leather climbing shoes

Steps for cleaning leather climbing shoes:

  1. Gently brush dirt and debris off your shoes using a soft brush. Pay attention to crevices where dirt may hide.
  2. Wipe the exterior of the shoes with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Don’t use too much water, as it may damage the leather.
  3. For pesky stains, an old toothbrush and circular motion will come in handy.
  4. Let the shoes air dry in a well-ventilated area. Keep it away from direct sunlight or extreme heat, as it could crack or shrink the leather.

For an optimal climbing experience, remember these steps for cleaning leather climbing shoes. Get rid of smelly shoes and enjoy a refreshing ascent!

Drying and deodorizing climbing shoes

To keep your climbing shoes smelling fresh, here are some tips:

  1. Clean off dirt and debris with a soft brush after each session. Let them air dry in a ventilated area, away from direct sunlight.
  2. For odors, sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit for hours. Or use activated charcoal inserts or boot bananas.
  3. Hand wash synthetic shoes with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Scrub with an old toothbrush; rinse and air dry.
  4. Leather shoes require special care. Check manufacturer’s guidelines or seek professional advice.
  5. Wear moisture-wicking socks to absorb sweat.
  6. Wash feet before putting on climbing shoes.
  7. Clean soles of shoes regularly.
  8. Rotate shoes to allow each pair to fully dry.

Follow these steps and you’ll be ready for your next climbing session without any distractions!

Preventing climbing shoe odor

  1. Air out your shoes after each climb. Wipe them with a damp cloth to remove excess moisture, and avoid keeping them in a plastic bag.
  2. Use baking soda or activated charcoal inserts to absorb odors and sweat.
  3. Before you climb, wash and dry your feet to reduce bacteria.
  4. Wear moisture-wicking socks, or thin liner socks made for rock climbing.
  5. Brush dirt and debris off the soles of your shoes after use.
  6. Rotate between pairs to let them fully dry.
  7. Synthetic materials hold onto odors more than leather.
  8. Follow the manufacturer’s specific care instructions.
  9. Unorthodox methods like dryer sheets and freezing shoes overnight are used by climbers to keep their shoes fresh.

Additional tips and tricks

Say goodbye to smelly climbing shoes and hello to happy noses and odorless toes with these easy cleaning tips:

  1. Remove the insoles first
  2. Avoid extreme heat
  3. Place activated charcoal inserts or boot bananas in when not in use
  4. Wash your feet with mild detergent and lukewarm water before putting on shoes
  5. Lastly, store them in a dry area with good ventilation – not a closed bag or container


Stinky climbing shoes can be a pain for climbers. Thankfully, there are several ways to keep them smelling fresh! Regularly clean and treat your shoes to stop odors and preserve their condition.

Start by gently brushing off any dirt or debris. Wear socks while climbing to avoid sweat and dead skin building up.

Sprinkle baking soda into the shoes to absorb moisture and odor. Leave it in overnight or a few hours before shaking out.

Another method is to wash your shoes with lukewarm water and mild detergent, but don’t machine wash or use heat.

For synthetic shoes, use activated charcoal inserts or boot bananas to absorb sweat and stop bacteria from reeking havoc.

Climbers have fought stinky feet and shoes for centuries. They’ve tried dryer sheets and airing in the sun, but the only real solution is cleaning and treating.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for How to Clean Smelly Climbing Shoes: A Comprehensive Guide

1. How often should I clean my climbing shoes?

You should clean your climbing shoes regularly, especially if they start to smell. It is recommended to clean them after every climbing session to prevent the buildup of bacteria and odor.

2. Can I wash my climbing shoes in a washing machine?

No, it is not recommended to machine wash your climbing shoes, especially if they are made of leather. Instead, hand washing is the best method to preserve the shoe’s quality.

3. What is the best way to clean synthetic climbing shoes?

To clean synthetic climbing shoes, start by gently brushing off any dirt or debris. Then, hand wash them using lukewarm water and a mild detergent. Let them air dry in a well-ventilated area.

4. How can I prevent my climbing shoes from smelling?

To prevent the unpleasant smell in climbing shoes, wear socks while climbing to absorb moisture and sweat. After each climbing session, let your shoes air dry and store them in a dry place.

5. How can I eliminate the smell from my climbing shoes?

To treat smelly climbing shoes, you can try placing baking soda or activated charcoal inserts inside them overnight. These will absorb moisture and odors, leaving your shoes smelling fresh.

6. Can I use rubbing alcohol to clean my climbing shoes?

Yes, rubbing alcohol can be used to clean climbing shoes. Dampen a cloth or an old toothbrush with rubbing alcohol and gently scrub the inside and outside of the shoes. Allow them to air dry completely before using them again.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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