There is nothing worse than smelly climbing shoes. Let me know if this sounds familiar. You take a much-needed break from climbing. Maybe you go on a family vacation or are out of town for work for several days; regardless, you are away from the climbing gym. When the break finally comes to an end, you rush to the gym, eagerly find a cubby for your things, and get ready to rip open your bag to put on your shoes. After all, you haven't climbed in what feels like ages. But as you unzip your climbing bag, you are accosted by a sudden wave. It's so bad you can almost see the cartoon stink lines coming out of your bag.
Many of us become nose blind to the many interesting smells that come with climbing, including foot stink! But after a couple of days away, that first encounter with your shoes can be a bit jarring. If you follow these simple steps, you will never have to deal with smelly climbing shoes again.
Store your shoes properly! All too often, climbers simply leave their climbing shoes in the same bag they bring to the gym. Make sure to leave your climbing shoes out in the open or in a breathable bag between climbing sessions. The hall closet or the mudroom is excellent for this. If you live in a temperate climate, the garage may work, but be sure not to expose your climbing shoes to the heat or cold for an extended period. It is also vital that you store your shoes somewhere dry. It is not your feet or shoes that are smelly, but the waste from the bacteria accumulated by the filth in your shoes. That bacteria thrives in wet environments, so it is crucial to keep your shoes as dry as possible in between sessions.
Clean Those Shoes
Now that you are storing your shoes properly let's talk about cleaning them once in a while! You don't need to give them a full scrub down every time you get back from the gym. Cleaning your shoes too often may loosen the stitching and deteriorate the shoe faster. Instead, soak your shoes in some warm, soapy water once or twice a season and let them air dry. If they are filthy, gently rub the grime with a soft-bristled toothbrush after they soak. Remember what we just discussed about wet shoes and make sure they dry all the way through!
Wash Your Dang Feet!
This one sounds obvious but wash your dang feet. The cleaner your feet are when you put on your shoes, the better. You don't need to go overboard and wash your feet five times a day to avoid smelly climbing shoes. Just be sure you are washing your feet thoroughly at least once a day to ensure all the dead skin cells end up down the drain and not in your shoes. Use a ped-egg or sandpaper if you want to go to town.
Smelly climbing shoes are a natural part of rock climbing. But if you take these precautions, you won't have to deal with smelly climbing shoes ever again!