how to keep climbing shoes from smelling

How to Keep Climbing Shoes From Smelling?

Climbing shoes are essential for any climber. They provide firm grips to overcome challenging paths. But these shoes come with a drawback. The combination of sweat, bacteria, and moisture can turn your climbing shoes into a breeding ground for unwanted smells.

This drawback is quite disappointing but it can be fixed. And in this article, we will be finding out why climbing shoes smell and provide you with ways how you can prevent your favorite climbing shoes from smelling bad. 

So without further ado, let’s hop on to it!

Why Do Climbing Shoes Smell Bad?

So basically, climbing shoes were specifically made to provide maximum grips and sensitivity on rocky surfaces. But for their unique construction and ways of using it, these climbing shoes tend to develop a bad smell over time. There are several reasons behind this: 

Why Do Climbing Shoes Smell Bad

  1. Sweating: Climbing is a physical activity that makes a person sweat a lot. So when your feet sweat, moisture is trapped inside the climbing shoes which creates a damp environment. This moisture which is combined with the warmth inside the shoe creates an ideal place for bacteria and fungi to grow.
  2. Bacteria and Fungi: The growth of bacteria and fungi mainly takes place in damp and dark environments and one such environment is inside the climbing shoes. These microorganisms depend on sweat and dead skin cells left in the shoes. When they multiply, they produce a bad smell in the climbing shoes. 
  3. Lack of Ventilation: Climbing shoes are made in such a way that there is no room for any airflow or ventilation because they provide better control and precision over challenging paths. The moisture and odor-causing bacteria get trapped inside the shoes without proper airflow which causes the bad smell.

Why Maintaining Fresh Climbing Shoes is Important

It is very important to maintain fresh climbing shoes for comfort and hygiene purposes and to have a prolonged shoe lifespan. 


Since climbing shoes can emit bad smells, this thing can be very distracting and very uncomfortable. The unpleasant smell can ruin the climbing experience which can potentially lead you to have less focus and deteriorate your climbing performance. So, if you are able to maintain the freshness of the climbing shoes then you can enjoy more and have a comfortable climbing experience. 


Bacteria and fungi living in your climbing shoes can potentially cause infections such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. These infections can be itchy, and painful which takes a plenty amount of time to heal. Regularly cleaning and deodorizing your climbing shoes helps prevent the buildup of harmful microorganisms, maintaining better foot hygiene.

Prolonged Shoe Lifespan

Proper maintenance of climbing shoes, including controlling the bad smell, can extend their lifespan. Bacteria and fungi can deteriorate the shoe’s materials and affect its overall structural integrity. By preventing the growth of odor-causing microorganisms, you can help preserve the quality and durability of your climbing shoes.

Steps to Consider For Maintaining A Pair of Fresh-Smelling Climbing Shoes 

If you are looking to maintain the freshness of your favorite pair of climbing shoes then we would suggest you consider these steps: 

  • Drying: After every climbing session, make sure you dry up your shoes completely. Remove the insoles and keep them outside in a ventilated area to dry well. Always remember that damp shoes and closed containers or bags do not compliment them at all. 
  • Cleaning:  It is very important to regularly clean your climbing shoes to remove any sweat, bacteria, or dirt. Use a bar of soap or a climbing shoe cleaner and gently scrub the inside and outside of the shoes. Rinse them thoroughly and let them dry completely before using them again.
  • Odor Control: Spraying antibacterial or deodorants inside the shoes. This can remove the bacteria causing the bad smell. Plus, using an odor-absorbing product like activated charcoal or baking soda can absorb moisture and neutralize bad smells. 

Preventive Measures for Fresh-Smelling Climbing Shoes 

Preventive measures have an important role in keeping climbing shoes smelling fresh. By adopting the following measures we have gathered for you, you can effectively reduce odor-causing factors and maintain a pleasant climbing experience.

Here are some techniques for reducing sweat and preventing odors:

  • Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks: Moisture-wicking socks are specifically designed to pull moisture away from your feet, keeping them dry and reducing the amount of sweat that accumulates inside your climbing shoes. These socks are made from synthetic materials like polyester or merino wool, which are excellent at wicking away moisture.
  • Use Foot Powders: Foot powders can help absorb excess moisture and keep your feet dry. Look for powders that contain ingredients like talcum powder, cornstarch, or baking soda, as they have absorbent properties. Apply foot powder to your feet before putting on your climbing socks to help minimize sweating and bad smells.
  • Apply Antiperspirants: Antiperspirants can be used on your feet to reduce sweating. Look for antiperspirants specifically formulated for feet or use a regular antiperspirant. Apply it to your clean and dry feet before putting on your climbing socks. They work by temporarily blocking sweat glands, reducing the amount of sweat produced.
  • Rotate Your Climbing Shoes: Rotating your climbing shoes can give them time to dry thoroughly between uses. If you have multiple pairs of climbing shoes, alternate them during your climbing sessions. Doing this lets each pair air out and prevents moisture from building up inside.
  • Allow Shoes to Air Dry: After each climbing session, remove your climbing shoes and let them air dry completely before storing them. Place them in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources. This helps evaporate any moisture trapped inside the shoes, preventing the growth of bacteria.
  • Store Shoes Properly: When not in use, store your climbing shoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid keeping them in sealed bags or containers, as this can trap moisture and develop a bad smell. Instead, opt for breathable shoe bags or simply leave them exposed in a well-ventilated area.

Washing Methods of Climbing Shoes

In the table below we have differentiated the two ways of washing your favorite climbing shoes which are the hand-washing method and the other, machine-washing method. 

Washing Methods of Climbing Shoes

Hand-Washing Method

Machine-Washing Method

Start by removing any excess dirt or debris from the shoes using a soft brush or cloth. Check the manufacturer’s instructions or guidelines regarding machine washing. If machine-washing is suitable for your specific climbing shoes, proceed with caution.
Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Remove any loose dirt or debris from the shoes before placing them in the washing machine.
Gently submerge the climbing shoes in soapy water and agitate them with your hands. Use a gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent designed for delicate fabrics.
Pay attention to the interior and exterior surfaces, as well as any areas with visible stains or buildup. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as these can damage the shoes.
Use a soft brush or cloth to scrub stubborn stains or spots. Be gentle to avoid damaging the shoes’ materials. Once the washing cycle is complete, remove the shoes from the machine.
Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water to remove all traces of soap. Gently squeeze out any excess water and place them in a well-ventilated area to air dry, following the same guidelines as for hand-washed shoes.
Squeeze out any excess water from the shoes gently. Avoid wringing or twisting them, as this can deform their shape. Place climbing shoes in a mesh bag for machine-washing to prevent damage.
Place the climbing shoes in a well-ventilated area to air dry. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or high heat sources, as this can cause the materials to warp or deteriorate. Clean insoles and laces separately from climbing shoes.

Frequency of Cleaning and Drying

The frequency of cleaning climbing shoes depends on several factors, including how often you use them, the intensity of your climbing activities, and your personal preference. 

  • Spot Cleaning: It’s good practice to spot-clean your climbing shoes after each use. This involves removing visible dirt, wiping away excess moisture, and allowing them to air dry.
  • Deep Cleaning: Perform a more thorough cleaning periodically, especially if your climbing shoes are noticeably dirty or have developed an odor. Deep cleaning can be done every few weeks or as needed.
  • Drying: After each use, ensure your climbing shoes dry completely before storing them. This helps prevent odor buildup and the growth of bacteria and fungi. Air drying can take anywhere from a few hours to a day or two, depending on the climate and ventilation.

Proper Storage of Climbing Shoes

Proper storage plays a significant role in preventing odor buildup in climbing shoes. There are plenty of reasons why it is important such as: 

  • Ventilation: Storing climbing shoes in a well-ventilated area allows air to circulate, facilitating the evaporation of moisture trapped inside the shoes. Proper airflow helps prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria and fungi that thrive in damp environments. Avoid storing climbing shoes in closed spaces like gym bags or tightly sealed containers, as these can trap moisture and promote odor development.
  • Drying: Allowing climbing shoes to dry thoroughly before storage is crucial in preventing odor. Moisture creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which creates unpleasant odors. After each use, ensure that your climbing shoes are completely dry before putting them away. This can be achieved by leaving them in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, until they are moisture-free.
  • Cleanliness: Storing clean climbing shoes helps maintain their freshness. If climbing shoes are not cleaned regularly, dirt, sweat, and other residues can accumulate, leading to odor buildup over time. Therefore, it is essential to clean climbing shoes periodically, following appropriate cleaning techniques, before storing them. Clean shoes are less likely to harbor bacteria and fungi that cause unpleasant smells.
  • Separation: It is advisable to store climbing shoes separately from other gear or items to prevent cross-contamination and the transfer of odors. Keep them in a designated area or a shoe-specific storage bag to maintain cleanliness and avoid contact with potentially smelly objects. This helps preserve the fresh scent of climbing shoes and prevents the absorption of unwanted odors.
  • Moisture Absorption: To further prevent odor, consider using moisture-absorbing products or inserts designed to combat moisture and odor buildup. Items, like activated charcoal pouches or silica gel packets, can help absorb excess moisture and keep climbing shoes fresh. Place these products inside the shoes during storage to minimize moisture-related odor issues.

Tips For Travelling With Climbing Shoes

It takes some planning to ensure the comfort and safety of climbing shoes while traveling. Here are five suggestions for packing climbing shoes for a trip:

  1. Carry-On or Hand Luggage: Whenever possible, bring your climbing shoes as carry-on or hand luggage. This way, you can keep them with you and ensure they are kept from being lost or damaged in checked baggage. This allows you to have them readily available for climbing at your destination.
  2. Use a Dedicated Shoe Bag: Invest in a dedicated shoe bag or a small drawstring bag specifically designed for climbing shoes. These bags keep your shoes protected from other items in your luggage and help contain any dirt or odor. Some shoe bags even have ventilation features to allow air circulation and aid in drying.
  3. Stuff with Soft Items: To maintain the shape of your climbing shoes during travel, stuff them with soft items like socks, underwear, or small clothing items. This helps preserve the shape of the shoes and protects them from potential crushing or deformations.
  4. Protect the Soles: To prevent the soles of your climbing shoes from dirtying other items in your luggage, use rubber sole protectors or slip them into plastic bags. This creates a barrier between the soles and other items, keeping everything clean.
  5. Separate from Other Gear: If you’re traveling with climbing gear, it’s a good idea to separate your climbing shoes from other equipment. This prevents any sharp objects or hard gear from damaging or puncturing the shoes. You can use individual compartments in your backpack or a separate bag to keep your climbing shoes isolated.

Bottom Line

We all know that bacteria develop from the sweating of the foot which eventually causes a bad smell and ruins the whole experience of climbing and later on, gives a dissatisfying feeling of keeping the smelly climbing shoes. 

By following the measures we have mentioned in the article, you can now live stress-free with smelly climbing shoes.

So, embrace these tips and extend the lifespan of your climbing shoes. Enjoy every ascent with confidence and odor-free satisfaction. Climb on!

Popular Posts

Behind Best Darn Product is Kevin Pena, a passionate blogger and e-commerce enthusiast based in Atlanta, Georgia. With his finger on the pulse of the ever-growing online marketplace, Kevin is dedicated to sharing his extensive knowledge and genuine enthusiasm for the products and services that shape our modern lives.

Scroll to Top