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How do I get rid of bad smell of mountaineering boots / skiing boots which comes from sweaty feet?

I know the best way is preventing that smell by putting them in a ventilated area, but sometimes it is not possible or too late, e.g., you are on a glacier trip which takes more than 12 hours.

If possible, I would like to avoid chemicals.

  • mountaineers are rough tough and dirty..! I would let it stink as a part of mountaineering! – eirenaios Feb 4 at 4:42
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I use lysol disinfectant spray on my climbing shoes every once in a while. It works quite well.

However, since you say you want to avoid chemicals, you may want to try cedar shoe / boot trees. The 'natural' chemicals in cedar wood are antifungal / antibacterial and it emits it's own aroma to help cut through the smell. I wouldn't say this is the 'best way', but it's a way.

Another option would be a cloth sack (a sock) filled with baking soda stuffed into the boot. Baking soda is of course, a chemical.

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  • The particles in baking soda are much smaller than the spaces between sock threads. A sock stuffed with baking soda will leak baking soda into your boots. It helps if you first wrap the baking soda in multiple layers of tissue paper. It can be used tissue paper that came with a wrapped present (make sure it's not the plasticized kind of tissue paper). – csk Feb 3 at 17:52
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You are right that leaving the boots to air out periodically is the best solution, but not always doable.

Changing sweaty socks is a good way to get boots to smell less. Socks are easier to carry multiple pairs of, and to clean and dry out. Since socks are the first layer in contact with sweaty feet, clean socks usually imply less-smelly boots.

On longer trips in bad winter conditions, however, most measures are insufficient, and one gets used to it (not by choice, but by compulsion). But taking these measures is still a whole lot better than doing nothing at all. Using a small amount some form of anti-fungal powder on the feet is a good step too.

Post-trip: most good hiking boots are fine with water and can be cleaned with a small amount of very gentle detergent (it is important to use a gentle detergent, so that the leather doesn't get ruined, and more importantly so that the glue doesn't come off).

I first wash all the dirt/mud/etc. off the boots, and then leave them dunked in a bucket of water (with a small amount of gentle detergent) for a couple hours or so, rinse thoroughly repeatedly and leave it to dry out in the shade for a couple days, and leave it to air out for a few more days, and then store it back with something lodged inside to preserve the shape.

Also bear in mind that leaving boots idle in storage for long durations is not the best (especially for the PU in the midsole, which can start to rot). It is best to wear them from time to time, even when not actually hiking.

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