Smelly Shoes: How Dirty ARE They?

Sure, everyone has smelly shoes after a full work day… right? The surprising truth is that shoe odor is not merely caused by natural foot sweat and lack of aeration — but, rather, by a tremendous amount of bacteria that builds up on the outside and the inside of your shoes. Gross! It may not be pleasant, but we’ve got the plain truth for you in today’s blog.

The Outside of Smelly Shoes…

In the United States, most people don’t even think twice about walking through their home with shoes on. Yet, shoes indoors are strictly forbidden in countries like Sweden and Japan. “Good Morning America” discovered why when they tested the bottom of eight people’s shoes and two dogs’ paws for bacteria. The worst offender had 66 million organisms on the bottom of her shoes! When you compare that to the 1,000 organisms on the average toilet seat, it’s pretty significant. Out of 10 tests they ran on the show, nine revealed the presence of coliform bacteria, which is present in human and animal excrement. YUCK!

A study led by Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria living on people’s shoes. They were bad ones, too — the sort that infect the eyes, lungs and stomachs. They also found that bacteria can live much longer on our shoes than other places, as we pick up new food sources for the culture with every step we take. Furthermore, the researchers found that bacteria transferred from shoe to floor tile more than 90 percent of the time! You don’t even want to know about carpets.

smelly shoes

The Inside of Smelly Shoes…

In 2011, San Francisco’s 99.7 radio station conducted a study of bacteria in their studio. “The inside of Greg’s shoe is much dirtier than the outside,” they concluded. (And, as you recall, the “outside” of your shoe could harbor 66 million organisms). They added that some of the species living inside the shoe tested were:

  •  E. Coli – which can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
  • B. Serratia Ficaria which causes infections of the gall bladder, respiratory tract, bladder and blood.  
  • C. Klebsiella Pneumonia– which can destroy lung tissue, cause pneumonia and create infection in the blood.

Why? The hosts at 99.7 concluded: “Turns out that the inside of a shoe is much like a petri dish. It harbors bacteria/mold because it’s a dark, warm, moist environment which allows several different species of bacteria to thrive. There’s a party going on in Greg’s shoes!”

It’s not so much a reflection of poor Greg himself — but, rather, this germ-filled world we  live in. So keep in mind… there’s a party going on inside YOUR shoes too! Yet, there are some ways for you to remove foot odor (and the bacteria that causes it!)

smelly shoe

Each vertical bar represents one shoe or cell phone. Each color is a different species of bacteria. View in depth here.

How To Get Stink Out of Shoes

Researchers from the University of Arizona study found that it was helpful to wash shoes in the washing machine for 12 minutes on cold with detergent and then air-drying for at least 24 hours. This killed 90 percent of the bacteria. However, this solution is not feasible for everyone.

First of all, shoes are not designed for wash. They can only withstand a few washes before they become misshapen and ruined. In order to truly keep your shoes cleaned, you would need to wash them daily.

Secondly, the 24-hour drying time is not very convenient. Many people may have just one pair of shoes they rely on to get them around every day. Putting a foot into a damp shoe would only encourage more bacteria to thrive!

Lastly, does anyone really think that 90 percent is the best we can do??

The SteriShoe® UV shoe sanitizer uses UVC light to kill up to 99.9 percent of the germs that cause foot infections and shoe odor. Best of all, there is no need to get your shoes wet. Every night, you stick the device into your shoes and turn it on to start the disinfection process. The same type of UV light they use for sterilization in hospitals and toothbrush sanitization kills off the microbes harbored in your shoes.

smelly shoes

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