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smelly soccer cleats

Stinky soccer cleats? Here’s exactly what to do!


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Many soccer players and athletes are plagued with the same stinky problem. Their footwear can easily gain some unpleasant odors. Even if your hygiene is at a high level, your soccer cleats can still smell bad. But is this a normal thing? And why does it happen so frequently? Here is a quick breakdown of all the possible causes of this problem along with some neat solutions.

Why Do Soccer Cleats Smell?

The shortest answer to this question would be – sweat. Feet are covered with shoes for long time intervals. This means that there is almost no ventilation for your feet, and they get sweaty in no time. Each foot has around 250 thousand sweat glands. This is amplified in soccer where you have to run a lot and your body heats up. Your cleats will get drenched in sweat very quickly. But why is sweat so important when talking about smelly shoes?

Your sweat and body warmth are ideal breeding grounds for certain types of bacteria. And these bacteria can get smelly easily. They usually live on your feet, socks, and shoes. Your cleats become warm and humid, and the mentioned bacteria can rapidly reproduce. There will be more bacteria if the person is more prone to sweating. These organisms are the main cause of your soccer cleats gaining their infamous smell.

Sometimes there can be a different cause for the unexpected smell. For example, if you forget to take your soccer cleats out of a plastic bag after practice your shoes will have an even worse odor. Bacteria love humid places, and the plastic bag allows them to thrive because the moisture gets trapped. Jumping into your shoes right after taking a shower without drying your feet properly is another often overlooked cause for stinky cleats.

Some boots will smell worse than others such as Nike and Adidas. Also knitted or general leather boots will smell worse because of their construction than general synthetic boots.

But is there a solution? Can we somehow neutralize these smells? The sweating can’t be stopped as it’s a natural process, and you shouldn’t be ashamed if your shoes smell, but there are many ways to get rid of this annoying problem.

How do I prevent my soccer cleats from smelling?

There are two things that you should aim for when trying to get rid of the unpleasant soccer cleats smell. You can either strive to eliminate bacteria from your shoes or try to prevent them from developing. There are many ways to go about this and we’ll try to give a quick rundown of all the possible solutions:

Make Sure That Your Feet Are Clean

First off, we have the most simple solution.

If you keep your feet clean, the bacteria that usually live there will dwindle in numbers. Always try to rinse your feet thoroughly with some soap. Also, you can try soaking your feet in a warm salt bath. This will eliminate all the bacteria while also relaxing your muscles. You can also use talcum powder to keep your feet fresh.

Another important thing is to always make sure that your feet are dry when you finish washing them. Don’t put on your shoes if your feet are still wet from the shower. Water between toes will often cause the bacteria to multiply rapidly.

Reduce Sweating With Foot Powder

If you have sweaty feet, it may be a good idea to give foot powder a try. Sweat is the main cause of every smell problem and this powder will keep your soccer cleats and feet drier.

Sometimes prevention is the key solution, and if you don’t have any sweat problems, your cleats are very unlikely to get into some smelly trouble.

Try Wearing Wicking Socks

These socks are made to push the sweat to the fabric’s outer surface so it can evaporate. They also dry quicker than your average sock.

This will work as long as your cleats are well ventilated. When wearing wicking socks your body can regulate its temperature much more effectively. The fabric of these socks has a slick and non-sticky feel to it. Less sweating equals fewer bacteria, so this can prove to be one comfortable solution.

In any case, the socks you wear should be hot-washed and clean.

Let Your Cleats Dry

Many players will make a common mistake when they return home tired from the practice. They may go straight to the shower without taking care of their equipment. If you leave your soccer cleats in the bag and don’t take them out right away, the bacteria will keep increasing. You should always make sure to let your cleats dry out. Be careful not to put them in direct sunlight though, as it can damage your shoes.

If you let your soccer cleats rest for a day after wearing them, the majority of bacteria should be gone. They need at least some moisture to stay alive, so drying your cleats out will solve the problem.

For more info you can read my article on how to dry your soccer cleats.

It would be wise if you could use several pairs of cleats. That will give you more time to be wash and dry them properly.

How do I stop my soccer cleats from smelling?

If after all your cleats start smelling there are some things you can try to alleviate that problem.

Stuff Your Cleats and Mask the Smell

If you still have some odor problems even when you tried to dry your cleats, you can always stuff them with various materials.

  • Dry newspapers or paper towels should do the trick when you have some problems with moisture. Dryer sheets can also be used to remove light odors after a playing session.
  • You can also try to put some tea bags in your soccer cleats overnight. Tea absorbs moisture from the air and that can help to get rid of the bad smells.
  • An interesting idea would be to put some coffee grounds in your old socks or coffee filters. Then you place them in your cleats and leave them for 12 to 24 hours. Always make sure to put a rubber band on the ends of socks or filters to prevent any possible spilling.
  • Citrus peel, lavender and other herbs can also be very helpful when trying to mask the odors. Citrus oils are very effective and should easily remove the smell.
  • Another option would be to sprinkle essential oil inside your shoes. Essential oils attack the source of the smell, the bacteria.
  • You can also use a paper towel dampened with white vinegar and stuff that into your boots. Leave them inside for 12 hours and the annoying smells will go away.
  • Cat litter can be an effective solution to your smelly footy boots. Leave them inside your shoes overnight and cat litter will absorb any nasty odors.
  • Using mouthwash could be another solution to your problem. Mouthwash is alcohol-based so it attacks the source of the smell, bacteria, and fungi.
  • Finally, you can sprinkle the shoes with antifungal foot powder.  It works in the same way as on your feet killing all the microbes.

Use Some Baking Soda

Baking soda can sometimes do wonders when you battle with soccer cleats smell. Just take a coffee filter and fill it with baking soda. Put some tape or a rubber band on the end of the filter. After this, you just place this little bag in your cleats and leave them like that overnight. It’s also possible to sprinkle a teaspoon of soda directly on your shoes. Using some deodorants along with baking soda and applying this to your feet or cleats can also prove to be very effective.

But why does baking soda work so well? There are two major reasons. The first one is that the dry baking soda simply reduces humidity with ease. This will take away the conditions for the bacteria to multiply. Another great thing is that baking soda has a base (alkaline) pH. This means that it can neutralize acidic environments in which bacteria usually thrive. Your sweat also happens to be slightly acidic and this substance can help to reduce this.

Another great thing is that your skin shouldn’t have any adverse reaction to baking soda, which can happen with some other products. Also, there won’t be any other fragrances left in your soccer cleats when baking soda finishes the job. Furthermore, it’s very cheap when compared to some other odor-removing products.

Use Some Deodorant Spray

If you still have some lingering odors in your soccer cleats even after trying all of the above-mentioned tips, you can always try to mask the smell with some deodorizing sprays or odor eliminating air bags. They can be found in your average sporting goods store.

Just spray the insides of your cleats and the smell should subside. Also, take note that it’s always better to thoroughly clean your cleats than to use sprays to hide the smell. This casneaker ballsn help when you’re in a rush, though.

Sneaker balls are another very effective deodorizer for removing foot odors and other odor-causing bacteria from shoes, gym bags, and lockers.

White Vinegar

Another helpful method when trying to kill the bacteria is using a mixture of water and vinegar. The ratio of these two should be equal when making your mixture. After this, make sure to spray just the insides of your soccer cleats. If you get some of it on the outside of the shoe, the color of your cleats may be damaged. After applying this spray, leave your shoes to sit for 30 minutes before wearing them. Some alcohol and a spray bottle can also give similar results.

If you are worried about the vinegar smell, that will evaporate after airing the boots.

Give Your Cleats a Deep Cleaning

If all else fails, this is a sure way to get rid of these annoying odors completely. Washing your shoes with care should kill all the remaining bacteria. So, how to do this properly? First off, you should fill your sink or some large bucket with water and pour in some mild detergent. After this, soak your soccer cleats in this bath for around 10 minutes. By doing this, it will be much easier to scrub all the dirt. Rinse the soap and dry your shoes with a towel as much as you can. Insoles should be removed and left to dry separately. Also, try to avoid direct sunlight when drying them.

When your soccer cleats get completely dry, you should put them in a freezer bag and place them in your freezer to stay there overnight. Bacteria will have a hard time surviving in these low temperatures. When you take your shoes out of the freezer, combine this method with some baking soda bags. The smells should be gone entirely.

We recommend doing this 1 or 2 times a season. Doing this too many times will wear down your boots too much.

Final thoughts

The best way to avoid nasty smells on your soccer shoes is to try to keep a high level of hygiene. Prevention is the key and if you clean your feet and shoes properly, you should be fine.

If after all your boots start smelling by trying one of those techniques mentioned above you have a good chance to alleviate the problem. If one doesn’t work, you can always combine them together for better results.

If you have tried something else that has worked for you feel free to share it in the comment section below.


Hi, my name is Bill, owner, writer and editor at was created based solely on my love for soccer. Soccer is more than just a sport to me, it is my hobby, talent, work and more. I have been watching the sport for most of my life and played it from my teenage days up to now. The main focus of is to help professionals, players and sport lovers find information on soccer gear. The main aim is provide high quality, advanced/updated and comprehensive content on soccer cleats and other soccer gear to people all around the world.

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