Hiking boots are quite an expensive investment and you want them to last as long as possible. I find there is also an emotional connection to a great pair of hiking boots that fit, protect your feet, and are super comfy to wear.
You have taken the time to find them, break them in, and love going hiking in them. They add something special to every hike as you know, no matter what peak you’re summiting or long walk you’re going on, your feet are going to be comfy and happy every time.
It’s always a bummer when they start to smell, which inevitably will happen, especially when you’re hiking in damp conditions which is pretty much always the case. So, how do you clean smelly hiking boots so that they stay fresh for longer?
In order to remove the odor from your smelly boots, you need to reset them and this required three stages of cleaning.
Wash your boots with warm soapy water, focussing on the insoles as much as possible. Your insoles will hold the most odor as this is where your sweat or any outside moisture will have been soaked up more than anywhere else, and it’s likely the main colony of the smelly bacteria and fungus.
Remove your insoles and run them through the warm soapy water ensuring that the soap goes right through them. The same goes for hiking boots. Make sure to rinse them all thoroughly so that there is zero soap left behind, or you’ll be hiking in soapy boots.
Now that your hiking boots are washed and rinsed, it’s time to dry them out thoroughly. Bacteria and fungus need moisture to survive and create horrid smells, so drying your boots and insoles thoroughly is the best way to ensure they do not return.
Leave your insoles out in the sun, by a fire or a radiator to ensure they are fully dry. You can do the same with your boots, and putting some newspaper in there will help wick the moisture from the inside.
Once your boots and insoles are fully dry it’s time to cover them in baking soda. Baking soda will actively absorb and remove any lingering odors not removed by the washing and drying process. Be sure to fully cover the inside of your boots with it, and your insoles too.
Leave them to soak in the baking soda overnight and in the morning dust them off and remove the baking soda. Your hiking boots should now be odor-free.
This is the final step and should be the nail in the coffin for any lingering bacteria or fungus that might be causing bad odors. Take some disinfectant spray, homemade with vinegar or alcohol, or one bought from the store, and fully spray your boots and insoles.
Once sprayed, leave them to dry fully again. Once dried, you should have fresh clean non-smelly hiking boots to head out on the trail with. This doesn’t always quite do the job though and if your boots still smell, you might need to call in some heavy artillery and use some Gear Aid Revivex Odor Eliminator.
This is an enzyme-based odor eliminator that removes and kills the bacteria and fungi causing the bad smells without masking them. You can use it on all your hiking gear from rain jackets to backpacks and of course, your smelly hiking boots.
All you need to do is mix the GEAR AID Revivex Odor Eliminator in with some water as per the instructions and then soak your boots, fully submerged in the solution. Leave them for 5 minutes, remove them and fully dry them and that’s it. It’s super easy and you can use the rest of the solution for any other smelly gear.
Unfortunately, covering up bad odors doesn’t work even when using odors balls, spays, and things like febreeze. The bacteria or fungi causing the smell will still survive and always prevail, therefore you have to kill them to remove the odors, not just cover it up.
There are quite a few tricks and tactics to not getting smelly boots, they might not stop odors from ever appearing, but they certainly will slow them down.
The bacteria in your hiking boots probably came from your feet and having clean and dry feet before you go hiking is going to stop the bacteria from getting into your hiking boots so quickly. It’s not always possible when you’re camping but giving your feet a good rinse, clean, and dry at the beginning and end of each day will make a big difference.
Smelly bacteria and fungi thrive in damp environments, usually caused by sweat or outside moisture in your hiking boots. If you wear socks made from merino wool and polyester, they will actively remove the moisture from your feet and away from your hiking boots so that the bacteria doesn’t grow as fast.
Regularly adding baking soda to your hiking boots is going to remove and neutralize any bad odors inside them. If you do this actively from the get-go when you have a new pair of hiking boots, they could be odor-free for years. A light sprinkling inside the hiking boots after every hike will do the trick, just remember to pour it out before the next hike.
If you take out your insoles and thoroughly dry your boots after every single hike, the smelly bacteria will have less of a chance to grow and therefore your hiking boots will take way longer to smell. This is hard to do every time you’re on a camping trip, but even just drying them out at home afterward will make a big difference.
There you have it, everything you need to know about How To Clean Smelly Hiking Boots, and how to try to ensure that they never get smelly again. It’s quite a simple process to clean and remove the smell, but actively blocking the odors from appearing takes some effort. Either way, you’ll have your favorite hiking boots smelling fresh again.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.