Going Sockless in the Summer

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 17, 2010 · 84 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shoes

As a teenager, flip flops were a staple for me in the summer. I would go through a pair or two each season. But as I got older,  I stopped wearing flip flops. Why? Well, for starters, I realized that men have really ugly feet and that most people probably don’t want to see my ugly man toes all the time. Additionally, flip flops just became too casual and adolescent for my maturing style sensibilities. As I started to dress more “grown-up,” flip flops didn’t seem to fit in anymore. Now I only wear them when I’m going to the pool or the beach.

Despite giving up on the flip flop, I still enjoy liberating my ankles and calves by going sockless during the summer. Apparently a lot of other men do too. I’ve noticed more and more men taking the sockless route when wearing closed toed shoes. Walker Lamond from Rules for My Unborn Son picked up the sockless habit from his dad. And many of the men in Esquire and other men’s magazines are sporting shoes without socks.

But the first time I decided to go the sockless route, I ruined a pair of shoes and almost ruined my marriage (I kid about the marriage part). I didn’t take any precautions when I decided to wear my low-top Chuck Taylors sans socks, and in a few weeks I had a biological hazard on my hands. I tried a few things to get rid of the odor, but the stink was as entrenched as the BP oil spill. Thus the shoes were sadly demoted from everyday wear to yard work use only.

This summer I bought a new pair of Sperry Top-Siders that I planned on wearing sockless. To avoid my boat shoes suffering Chuck Taylor’s stinky fate, I looked into how a man can go sockless without the smell. Here’s the lowdown on what causes smelly feet and how I’ve kept my Top-Siders smelling like petunias, or at least from overpowering toddlers and small animals.

What Causes Foot Odor

The key to preventing foot odor when you go sockless is knowing what causes your dogs to smell in the first place.

The main cause of foot odor is sweat. While sweat is odorless, every drop of it is a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes foot odor. Your feet produce copious amounts of sweat because 1) your feet are packed densely with sweat glands and 2) you stick your feet in shoes that have little or no ventilation for hours a day.

Once you have plenty of sweat going, the bacteria that live on your feet start growing and producing smelly stuff. The main culprit for your stinky feet is brevibacteria. These suckers eat the dead skin that sloughs off your feet every day. After digesting your microscopic skin particles, the brevibacteria expel methanethiol, a gas that smells sort of like rotten cabbage. That’s right. Your smelly feet are the result of millions of little bacteria letting out a huge collective fart.

How to Prevent Foot Odor When Going Sockless

To prevent smelly feet you need to prevent two things: 1) sweat and 2) bacteria. Here’s your battle plan.

1. Wash your feet more frequently and vigorously with anti-bacterial soap. I bet most men devote zero time to washing their feet while in the shower. Like me, they probably think that the suds that wash down their body are enough to clean their feet. When you decide to go sockless, that just won’t cut it. Every day you need to destroy the dead-skin-eating bacteria that causes foot odor. Scrubbing vigorously with your favorite anti-bacterial soap will do just that.

2. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day. You need to give your shoes time to dry out in-between wearings. Remember, a wet shoe is a smelly shoe. Give your shoes at least a day of rest before you put them back on. More time is better.

3. Use a cedar tree. When you’re giving your shoes a break between wearings, stick an unvarnished cedar shoe tree in them. Cedar shoe trees have several benefits. They maintain the shape of your shoe, help prevent creases and cracking, and most importantly in our case, absorb moisture from the lining of your shoes. Cedar shoe trees will also deodorize your shoes by adding a nice cedar scent to them. Beats smelling like raw cabbage.

If you don’t have a shoe tree on hand, you can use the poor man’s alternative: stick wads of newspaper in your shoes. They’ll absorb moisture as well.

4. Sprinkle foot powder in shoes before you wear them. Foot powders, like Odor Eaters, contain talcum (which absorbs sweat) and baking soda (which neutralizes odor). Before your slip your shoes on, give them a light dusting of powder. It will keep your feet dry throughout the day and will kill any bacteria that might be creeping in your shoes.

I’ve been testing out Odor Eaters Foot and Sneaker Spray and have liked the results. Instead of sprinkling a powder, you spray the stuff on your feet and in your shoes. Your feet stay dry, and you avoid the clumps you sometimes get when using powders. The sneaker spray is pretty good at removing foul smells from shoes, too.

5. Use no-show loafer socks. If you want the sockless look, but want to avoid the hassle that comes with going sockless, try wearing a no-show loafer sock. The gents at Valet Magazine suggest using Gold Toe no-show socks. They’re cut low enough that the socks won’t appear over your loafers, and they’re made of antimicrobial fibers to prevent smells. Another no-show loafer sock that’s been getting a lot of publicity lately is the Mocc Sock. Demand has been so high on these badboys that they’re on backorder right now.

How to Get Rid of Shoe Odor

Alright. We can do alot to prevent smelly shoes, but what can we do if our shoes already reek to high heaven? I’ve had success with the following tips.

Wash ‘em. Just stick your stinky gym shoes in the washing machine. Don’t put them in the dryer; stuff them with newspapers to let them dry. Obviously, this is only for durable shoes made with canvas and synthetic fibers that can take being submerged in water and knocked around your washing machine.

Spray ‘em. Use a spray like Odor Eaters to neutralize the stench in your shoes. You might try a odor-eating insole as well.

Freeze ‘em. Here’s a trick from Grandma. Place you shoes in a ziploc plastic bag and stick them in the freezer overnight. The cold temperature will kill the odor-causing bacteria. When you pull your shoes out, they’ll smell nice and fresh. And it feels really nice to stick your feet in a pair of cold shoes on a hot Oklahoma day.

Demote ‘em. Sometimes no amount of washing, spraying, and freezing will remove the stench from your shoes. In that case, take the shoes out of your daily rotation, and put them out to pasture as your yard work shoes.

What’s your advice for keeping your feet and shoes stink free? Share your tips with us in the comments!

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael June 18, 2010 at 12:26 am

Great prelude to summer! My “secret” is to wear some modern sandals – they’re mostly synthetic, so odor can’t hide from the scrubber. The loafers-with-socks look from the ’80s is making a comeback though, I agree. Perhaps a good, replaceable insole would be the best protection against “stank.”

Here in the Northwest, wearing sandals with socks is the major fashion violation (so common a local company ran ads featuring “Sandals with Socks Guy”) – it rarely gets warm enough to really need to consider going sockless, and when we do it’s probably with Birkenstocks.

2 Ben June 18, 2010 at 12:29 am

I don’t know why anyone would bother with any of the steps besides number 5. No-show socks look exactly the same as going sockless, you don’t risk blisters or stinking up your shoes, and as far as I can tell, they feel cooler and more comfortable than going completely sockless.

3 Shadowex3 June 18, 2010 at 12:32 am

Actually the issue is specifically the fat IN sweat which the bacteria feast on. That’s why the smell is so difficult to get rid of, you’re dealing with lipids (yes, lipid as in oil based). So think about how you’d get rid of a stubborn set-in grease stain and deal with it that way.

4 John R. June 18, 2010 at 12:33 am

A friend of mine told me that leaving a pair of smelly shoes in the sun for the day will take away the odor. I’ve never tried it out though, so i can’t verify the validity of this method.

That said I go with Sperry’s-no socks most days in the summer.

5 Rich.A June 18, 2010 at 1:05 am

Great article, thanks.

I cottoned onto cedar trees a few years ago, and use them in my better shoes. ..the ‘poor man’s alternative’ for other pairs…usually the original packing material out of the shoebox.

For shoes which have a) gotten wet b) been used for sport or c) all of the above, I leave my shoes on the balcony in direct sun (John R. – I believe your friend is spot-on), and never have odor problems.

If going sockless I’ll use Odor Eaters products (usually powder but may get the spray next time.. nice tip!)… not typically a fan of no-show socks as they usually still show a bit (oh the irony! :p), but the mocc socks you linked to look excellent.. bookmarked.

The anti-bacterial soap idea is solid enough.. but if you have dry-scaly skin afterward (it’s not typically skin-friendly), perhaps you’re just leaving more dead skin flakes to feed the bacteria?

..If I get a bit self-conscious of mine (hey..girls don’t like lizard feet), once in a while, I’ll use regular soap & a loofah on them.. then a bit of coconut oil rubbed in as a moisturizer. It’s not especially greasy. Pure coconut oil (go extra virgin organic) has the benefit of being antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial.

6 Shoh Ueno June 18, 2010 at 1:18 am

Freezing does not kill most bacteria. They simply enter a dormant stage, but once thawed will become active again.

7 JamesBrett June 18, 2010 at 3:00 am

i don’t wear socks at all. summer or winter. of course i live in tanzania, so winter’s not any different than summer — a little drier, that’s all. my take: socks and shoes make us weak and dependent. i don’t wear either if i can help it. but especially not the socks — useless.

i’ve even started running barefoot. and when i do sport shoes for rough terrain, it’s just a pair of those water sock things.

8 George June 18, 2010 at 6:19 am

I use a little Gold Bond foot powder on my feet before going sockless, but the most important thing I do is hit my shoes with some Lysol at the end of every day. I do this even when I wear socks. I never have to worry about stinky shoes because Lysol kills the bacteria – fungus too if you worry about athletes foot. It also keeps my closet smelling good.

9 Joseph Rogers June 18, 2010 at 6:52 am

Thanks for the tips, Brett. Ever since I waterproofed my workboots with Mink Oil, (Carolina Boots), they smell ROUGH when I come home.. If anyone else has any other tidbits, just give a shout.

10 SpenceGould June 18, 2010 at 7:22 am

An ancient family secret I’ve used is spraying Lysol or Febreeze into my shoe EVERYTIME I take them off. Lysol and Febreeze actually kill odor-causing bacteria in your shoe. After I spray them, I sprinkle baking soda inside of the shoes. I use enough to cover the entire inside of the shoes. Then, I let them dry. Doing this BEFORE your shoes start smelling bad will help ensure that they never do.

11 john June 18, 2010 at 7:32 am

Since the conversation has turned from “going sockless” to a more general discussion on foot odor, I’ll tell you what I do, and what works 100% of the time. I wear high-topped work boots all day, every day and those puppies get pretty foul by the end of the day, especially in the summer. Although I will say freezing them works pretty well, I found a much better rememedy.

Every morning before putting on your socks and shoes, Saturate your socks (especially the toe ends and lower part) with Listerine mouthwash, then wring them out so they are damp. (I use the plain but I guess you could use the “flavored” stuff too). Listerine is a very powerful germ-killer and it nails all the bacteria and fungus in no time. My feet come out not smelling at all after 10-12 hours and even avoids that sticky/gunky feeling your feet get after being cooped up and sweating all day. Works for me.

12 soc June 18, 2010 at 7:34 am

Instead of washing the shoes in the washing machine, consider washing them in the dishwasher. Seriously. Washing machines submerge and spin the shoes around which can cause damage to even the most hardy shoe.

A dishwasher basically just heats, sprays and steams. Killing off the bacteria and dirt without killing the shoe.

Just make sure you brush the shoe first to remove loose dirt or small stones and dont leave the laces hanging where they could get tangled in any spinning mechanisms inside the machine.

13 Robert June 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

In the south, wearing what we call boat shoes or driving mocs sockless isnt a trend, its a way of life. And being the south, everyone has their favorite century old backwoods way of keeping odor out. I, however, find Gold Bond foot powder to be the best remedy. Keeps your feet cool and odorless, plus it becomes fairly undetectable, like an odor eater insole or even the low cut socks can. While I think hitting your shoes with febreeze is good to restore a pair of very stinky shoes, if you do it too much your shoes will take on a very chemical, perfume like smell, which is just as bad. For me, Gold bond is just as important as deodorant during the summer. Plus, gold bond body powder is pretty good for keeping your more manly parts fresh and dry, which is necessary in the humid parts of the country.

14 Josh June 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

A safe, chemical-free method for reducing foot odor is my favorite deodorant: Crystal mineral salt spray. It’s aluminum free (likely carcinogen) and works like a charm under armpits and on your feet!!

Easily found at Walgreens or online: http://www.vitacost.com/Crystal-Body-Deodorant-Spray

(i have no financial interest – just spreading the good word)

15 Justin June 18, 2010 at 8:23 am

Going sockless is an interesting concept, but no doubt is not the only way to express your manliness. When I’m at home, I go barefoot. Not only do I avoid the odor issue, but since I spend most of my time outside in the garden, there are plenty of benefits: the ground feels good under my feet, the paths that I create in the garden become more gently compacted, my body stays cooler overall, among others. When my feet get too dirty, I scrub them with a brush and soap (Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, no less).

16 Sean June 18, 2010 at 8:29 am

Another fool proof method is to spray your shoes with standard anti-bacterial /anti-fungal foot spray such as Tinactin, Lamisil, or Dr. Scholls. As a dedidcated sock shunner and father of two boys, trust me, this is the way to go. These products are not unlike the spray that you’ve seen countless of bowling alleys use. I choose to use the ones that have a powder in the mix because they dry much faster and you can spray your shoes and put them on immediately with no cold/wet feeling.

17 John June 18, 2010 at 8:47 am

I’m not quite sure how anyone’s gotten the idea that wearing sandals is not “grown-up” and I’m pretty sure that Socrates and the rest of his Greek brethren would take issue with this posting. All this effort just to avoid showing off “ugly man toes” seems to fly in the face of more manly notions such as form following function. No?

18 Brian Escamilla June 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

When I first read RFMUBS, I thought the idea of going sockless was weird – until I tried it. Now I go sockless just about everywhere in the summer. On casual fridays at work, I replace my usual summer chukkas with a pair of boat shoes and some GTH pants, sans socks of course. I always sprinkle some Gold Bond foot powder into the shoes before hand and swirl it around to avoid any nastiness and they stay fresh throughout the day. It’s nice to kick them off when I’m at my desk too (like I am right now, as I type this). For more casual wear I don a pair of Jack Purcell’s or Vans Canvas Classics with no socks. I find them slightly less comfortable than leather shoes, believe it or not, but I definitely sweat less in them.

19 B-Doc June 18, 2010 at 8:57 am

Sandals were pretty much the only footwear available to men and women alike for thousands of years. How would wearing them, or a variation on them such as flip-flops, be less than manly? As long as they’re brown, black or gray and don’t look too chintzy, such as the 99 cent variety, there’s no problem.

20 Ryan June 18, 2010 at 9:16 am

I can’t do it. I wear socks all the time, even when I don’t have shoes on. I only slip on the flip-flops to move the water sprinkler.

21 Jeff Rogers June 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

I used to have these shoe-insert bags that resembled bean bags that I used to throw in my running shoes back in the days when I wore no socks.

The bags were filled with charcoal and as long as I used them, my shoes never smelled. After a couple of months the bags became less effective, but the directions said to leave the bags in the sun for a few hours to recharge them. It worked. I would be that if you made a couple of little bags (maybe old socks) and put plain charcoal in them, they would probably work.

22 Alex Devlin June 18, 2010 at 9:26 am

I can’t go sockless in normal shoes because it just doesn’t feel right. My feet feel trapped and sweaty and move around inside the shoe too much. I can wear sandles without socks (of course!) and they feel ok because you get the air moving around your feet. To do the sockless look I wear the low cut hidden socks, like those you mentioned in your article. They give you the benefit of looking sockless but while being comfortable on your feet.

All of the tips you gave for keeping the smell at bay are excellent, and some of them I have used myself. Although I haven’t used the freezing one, I agree that cold shoes would have been great during the long hot summers I spent in Oklahoma during the last seven years. One quick fix I used to keep my shoes smelling sweat was to liberally spray them with Febreze at night time. It kills the smell and makes them nice and fresh for the next day. I sometimes used Lysol instead as I think that actually killed the bacteria where Febreze I think just took away the smell. But either way, there are a couple more options for anyone who needs to keep their shoes smelling sweet!

Excellent article as always. AoM is quickly becoming one of my favourite sites for good reading and new information. Keep up the great work guys.

23 CoffeeZombie June 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

Last summer, I went out and bought a pair of boat shoes, to replace my sandals. According to my wife, sandals don’t look good with anything but “casual” khakis (I’m still unclear on the distinction there), and I apparently don’t have any of those. I think the boat shoes look a little nicer, to boot.

I haven’t really noticed a problem with smell so far, though. I don’t wear them all the time (Mon-Thur at work and Sunday mornings at church are more “dressy” times, so I wear normal shoes with socks), but I wear them often enough and I’ve not had any problems with foot odor so far.

Maybe I’m just a lucky guy, but I have another theory: air. I seem to get more airflow in boat shoes than in regular shoes, and I suspect that has something to do with the lack of smell. I guarantee, however, that if I were to go sockless in regular shoes, there’d be a hazmat unit out within the week.

The only downside so far is that my wife says I look “like an old man” in them. Then again, just about everything I like to wear makes me look “like an old man,” so I’ve gotten used to that. ;-)

24 gorgo June 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

You can have my socks when you peel them from my year-round dry, comfortable, odor-free feet.

25 Jack June 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

@soc – washing shoes in the dishwasher…now that’s a good idea!

26 Link June 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

This is a weird solution to bad smelling shoes (And I swear it works, just exercise caution). When I was in high school riding the bus to and from, one of the guys had foul smelling shoes and one day we devoted 30minutes of our bus ride to trying to kill it.

We tried all sorts of things ranging from cologne, spray deodorant, everything. Nothing worked, in fact, it just added to the smell. So finally, he decided to get crazy. So while the shoes were pumped full of the chemicals (colognes, etc) he held them up, took out a lighter and moved it into the shoes foot hole. With a huge pop and a little flame, the chemicals all burned out doing next to no damage to the shoes.

After that, his shoes didn’t smell anymore, period. Everything was burned off. Now, a word of explanation to this, he was planning on throwing the shoes away that night if it didn’t work, so this was a last resort on a pair of shoes that were to be demoted.

27 Tom June 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

Somehow I cannot picture my grandfather wearing shorts – I don’t believe he owned a pair, and I am certain he would not have owned sandals. Forgive me, but I think we will avoid a whole category of questions if we all just stick to full-length trousers, socks and proper shoes or boots.

“Wearing any kind of sandal is courting a certain loss of dignity.” – Russell Smith in _Men’s Style_ .

…he does not even dignify “short trousers” or “little-boy pants” with a comment.


28 Scott June 18, 2010 at 11:13 am

I can’t believe I didn’t see this on here already. I use the different-show-different-day technique *plus* I have a spray bottle of alcohol (cheap in bulk) that I spritz my shoes with EVERY time I take them off and put the in the shelf. I then hang the bottle on the shoes I just sprayed so I know to wear a different pair the next day. I resurrected a pair of leather dress shoes I was going to throw away because they stunk so bad (they were still in perfect shape) with alcohol.

29 Jake June 18, 2010 at 11:55 am

I’m going to have to go with Tom on this one. All the men in my family (myself included) never wear sandals and never wear shorts (with the exception of swimming trunks). Nomatter how hot it is.

30 Chuck June 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I always find it amusing when people take a selective example from the past to bolster their case that something is manly, for example, that wearing sandals today is manly because Roman soldiers and Jesus wore them. This of course completely ignores the fact that clothing and grooming habits don’t exist in a vacuum and are always weighted with cultural significance. Sandals don’t mean the same thing they did a couple thousand years ago and what’s appropriate in one era is not appropriate and sends a different message in another era. Roman soldiers also wore togas and Jesus ate with his hands, but I don’t see anyone doing that these days and claiming its manly. Similarly, you wouldn’t point to the fact that England’s monarchs used to wear bloomer, tights, and powdered wigs and therefore those things are manly. Today, in modern America, flip flops communicate a message of beach-going casualness and are thus appropriate for the beach and nowhere else.

31 Duane June 18, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I question the use of anti-bacterial soaps; using the soaps can result in resistant bacteria – then you are up a certain creek without a paddle. Standard soaps with water will have a very similar cleaning ability, without the concern of resistant bacteria. This applies for the hands, as well as the feet. If you really insist on killing the bacteria, use a vinegar or alcohol scrub.

I often go without socks, or shoes for that matter, I find it to be more manly than hiding myself inside a bunch of thick clothing.

32 The Natural Dan June 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Everyone has an opinion and here is mine: While I hate to disagree with Gram, Shoh is right. Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria. If freezing killed cryogenics wouldn’t be so damn popular and sperm banks would be useless. And furthermore, anti-bacterial soaps are no better than regular soap, they just cost more. Nothing kills like good old-fashioned vinegar and a vinegar foot soak.

33 Shoeless Joe June 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Great post. Now if you can write on the pros & cons of wearing undershirts in the summertime, you’ll have addressed two significant sartotrial problems of living down South.

34 Anon 1:50 June 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

A half-cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water for soaking your feet will remove even stubborn and oily deposits that can harbor germs, kill bacteria outright, and relieve odor problems for a significant period of time.

Just don’t recontaminate your feet with dirty, sweaty shoes, and don’t use this too often.

It’s skin on those feet. Not leather.

35 Willy Wonka June 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm

No-show socks don’t work for me…. they don’t stay on my ankle and constantly fall down.. I’ve tried many different brands – always the same result.

Therefore, I’m stuck having to go sockless in my Sperry’s as well. I haven’t been doing anything to prevent them smelling though… perhaps I should check them out and see how bad they stink… I haven’t noticed it yet.

36 KRG June 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thanks for the tips! I live in San Diego, so its pretty much summer-like year-round for me, so I usually wear sandals, but I like the sock-less Sperrys for the more formal occasion. I tried the gold bond foot powder in the shoe – big mistake, after a while there was just a bunch of powder sitting in the shoe that would mix with my foot sweat and make a gross mud-like talcum emulsion, put the powder on you foot, not in the shoe use it sparingly.

I also wear leather reef sandals every day, sometimes they can get a pretty good stink going so I soak them for ~10 min in a 1 to 10 bleach water mixture give them a quick scrub, throw them in the dryer and they are good as new! It’s a similar strategy to the anti-bacterial spray, but you can make a stronger mixture if you have a serious problem.

37 Joe Masterson June 18, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I can’t even begin to describe how perfect this blog is, I just bought those EXACT shoes YESTERDAY and was wondering the same thing! Thanks!

38 Allen June 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Kudos to sparking a coversation on going sockless! It’s sexy and comfortable and often sensible as well. I’m all for it…with certain limitations.

1. It’s GOT to be the right kind of shoes; truthfully, only the minority of men’s shoes are suitable for going sockless. Aside from tennis shoes/Vans, the dress-style shoe MUST be real leather (no pleather) or suede, be some shade of brown or tan, they must be butter-soft, and even more importantly, the insole MUST be leather. A real leather instep will “breathe”; suede, cotton, or terry cloth will just act like a sponge, store sweat and turn foul in no time.

Go sockless in the wrong pair of shoes, and you’ll look like a mentally imbalanced homeless guy.

2. Guys who go sockless MUST pay more attention to their feet than their socked colleagues. First, when sockless you’re only a step away from exposing your bare feet–and NO ONE wants to see crusty, dirty or fungus-addled bare feet. As mentioned here, the sockless dude needs to scrub mercilessly in the shower (use a nail or tile brush as well as a good soap) and dry thoroughly before putting the shoes on. Keep your nails trimmed short. Also, while going sockless all day, it’s perfectly all right (preferable, actually) to take a foot-wash break mid day. Think about it: how many times a day do you wash your hands? And your hands are out in the sun and air all day. The idea that feeet can and should only be washed when bathing is quite incorrect.

3. One bummer about going sockless in leather shoes is that, regardless of how much or litlle you actually perspire, with each step, dead skin is sloughing off the bottoms of your feet (esepcially noticeable on the ball of the foot) and sticking to the insole of the shoe. If you go sockless a lot in the same pair of shoes, you’ll start to notice a gray/beige, waxy material begin to build up. That dead-skin-and-dried-sweat cake is brimming with bacteria, that of course will produce odor. A hint: for those shoes, take an old washcloth dipped in warm soapy water and wrung out, and wipe the insoles of your shoes thoroughly every few days, and then let the shoes dry (in the sun is best).

4. I know a lot of guys here have recommended atinfungal sprays and powders for wearing shoes without socks. Maybe I’m a heretic, but I find that disgusting. If your feet perspire so much that you need to introduce products into your shoes, then sadly, going sockless isn’t for you. I’ve found it’s much nicer and sexier to simply wash and dry your feet frequently while sockless.

39 Charlotte K June 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Hey whatever, all I can think about are Papa H’s shapely calves in that great photo!

40 JP June 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm

How about no shoes and just go barefoot? A wise man once said that a man who wears moccasins all day thinks the world is covered in leather

41 Rey June 19, 2010 at 2:34 am

I don’t think I’ve seen this suggested yet, but the easiest way I’ve found to keep that odor away is by using shoe inserts. They sell inserts that are made of a thick, sock-like material. They really help in absorbing/keeping your feet from sweating. Then you can take them out and wash them. Best and most hygienic method in my opinion.

42 James M June 19, 2010 at 3:44 am

I totally agree with wearing different shoes all the time. While it costs a lot to buy lots of shoes they all last longer as a multiple of how many pair you own. One pair last 6 months, six pair last 3 years. If I get atheletes foot I immediately go to the ocean and walk in the salt water. One or two times and atheletes foot is history.

43 MIKE June 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

Sinky feet solution
I’ve tried everything from repeated washing to open-toed shoes, but the smell is still horrible. What can I do about my stinky feet?

It’s no surprise that so many people’s feet smell. After all, Dr. Oz says, there are a quarter-million sweat glands on your feet. “You can generate about a half a liter of sweat from your foot in a day. It really does make a lot of juice.”

But that sweaty foot is not the direct cause of the stink. After all, sweat is sterile. That pungent smell is actually caused by fungus or bacteria—such as athlete’s foot. “Take your shoes off and look to see if you’ve got a little bit of a pitting on the bottom of your foot, on the sole. The pitting is … almost like little pinholes in the bottom of your foot, and it usually is a little bit white. That’s an example of a fungus infection,” Dr. Oz says.

So how can you get rid of the bacteria? Dr. Oz’s remedy has a cure in the bag. Brew up some mild iced tea and put your feet in it for about 30 minutes a day for a week. “The tannic acid in the tea will actually tan your foot a little bit, which will dry it out,” he says. “That’s helpful in reducing the amount of sweat, and the odor as well.”

In the same Ask Dr. Oz show, Kelsey from California shared an embarrassing problem. “My feet are super stinky,” she said. “I’ve tried wearing just open-toed shoes, and I wash my feet all the time in the shower. Nothing works.”

Dr. Oz suggested a simple home remedy for Kelsey—soaking her feet in tepid iced tea. “The tannic acid in the tea will actually tan your foot a little bit, which will dry it out,” he said. “That’s helpful in reducing the amount of sweat, and the odor as well.”

In just a few weeks, Kelsey says her smelly feet have undergone a drastic change. “Since the show, my life has totally changed. Not only did I get a haircut, but my feet don’t smell anymore,” she says. “Thank you, Dr. Oz, from the bottom of my sole!”

Dr. Oz says the secret to Kelsey’s success is the tannic acid—which dries out the skin—but a few other simple remedies can help, too. “An open-toed shoe, ideally. Wear socks that are absorbent,” he says. “But for a lot of folks, the only way to do it is to really dry it out.”

44 Paul June 19, 2010 at 11:22 am

Powder, powder, powder. It is the combination of sweat and bacteria. The latter can’t grow when dry. This works with or without socks. If your powder is clumping, you are not using enough for the local moisture content.

45 C# June 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Baking soda: I couldn’t get rid of the smell in my only pair of dress shoes, and I didn’t have the resources to replace them, so I filled two old socks with baking soda and placed them in my shoes at the end of the day. While it wasn’t a perfect fix, it made things much better.

46 Stuart June 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm

This all sounds like a huge amount of effort for a very small return – so for now I think I’ll be sticking with the flip flops!

47 Norm June 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Seems you are willing to go to a lot of trouble to prevent smelly feet. An easy way is to just spray (use spray bottle) alcohol on your feet and presto no more foot odor. Use daily once or twice. Also it is a very good deodorant for under arms. Alcohol kills the bacteria and lasts all day. I have not had a problem for years and a Doctor told me about it when I was doing some work for him. Thank You Norm

48 David B. June 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Here is the best solution. WEAR SOCKS. Boys should were shoes and socks, not sandals or flip flops.

49 Ron Goodwin June 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Good article and I am a believer……but here is one that will work. ‘Fabric Softener’…….just like your wife puts in the wash. Take one and tear it down the middle and put one in each shoe (best forward) and it will kill the oder for several days.

Ron G

50 Dan June 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

Topsiders can be kept odor free using Wing boot oil, or so I was told when I was sold the stuff with my latest pair of Topsiders. In sailing circles, however, oiled Topsiders obviously don’t have that just-walked-off-the-boat look and would be less than useless for your faux man, like wearing them with black dress socks or those women’s tennis socks they make for men.

Seems to me there’s normal foot odor and then there’s pathological foot odor. I was trapped with some guy in a tent for a few days on Denali whose socks and boot liners could have made a dog puke. You’d think the cold would keep it down, but during the late afternoon, when it can get near 90 deg in a closed tent, this guy would change his socks and hang them on the interior utility line. Sick, really sick, and finally no one would share a tent with him. I could get sick just recalling it ten years later.

51 Philip June 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

I will admit to slipping on my pair of tassled loafers sans socks when running out to do a quick errand about town but not before applying a light dusting on Gold Bond Foot Powder.

“I take good care of what belongs to me.” Bob Dylan

52 gorgo June 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Seriously, am I the only one here who wears socks with all the aforementioned footwear that’s usually intended for the sockless, and doesn’t give a crap what others think? I don’t wear shorts in public so I guess that helps some. But still…just me? I disbelieve it.

53 Men's t-shirts June 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I recently invested (not a massive financial investment admittedly) in a pumice stone and scrubbing brush. That seems to have cured any problems I had with unpleasant odours etc. Regularly trimming your nails is a massive thing too. Not only does is improve the look of your feet – human’s shouldn’t possess ‘talons’! – but I’ve found it a massive help with hygiene.

Really useful piece guys. Keep ‘em coming. ;)

54 Mike L June 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

If you got through all that, then congratulations! You now have obsessive compulsive disorder.

55 Derek June 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Usually in the summer, I’m completely shoeless as much as I can be.

56 Brett McKay June 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I’m surprised that people seem to think that this is a long or elaborate process. You wash your feet well in the shower and then spray them with Odor Eaters or wear no-show socks. That’s it. It takes less than 5 minutes. No OCD required.

57 john June 21, 2010 at 7:23 am

The sandal question is a pretty significant one with both sides fiercely entrenched. Yes, Jesus and the Romans wore sandals, but then again, Red Wing work boots hadn’t been invented yet. Jesus was a carpenter and the Romans were soldiers. Most carpenters I know wear steel toed work boots when on the job. Most guys I know in the service wear combat-type boots that somewhat resemble high-topped work boots. “off duty” wear for either tradesmen or soldiers is basically whatever makes you comfortable. Sandals… barefoot….flip flops…tennis shoes… or the same shoes you work in (my case…. flat feet and rolled ankles tend to feel better when supported in a snugly laced work boot that supports the old arches and ankles).

When it comes down to it, “manliness” is far more about attitude and behaviour than about what you may or may not wear on your feet.

58 Dustin June 21, 2010 at 9:27 am

Here is a link to journeys for another “true” no show sock. They actually are cheaper too.

59 bonneroo June 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Nice article BUT don’t use anti-bacterial soap! It does nothing more to clean you than regular soap however studies show it’s a big problem for us down the road. Google it. Throw it all out, don’t be a sissy, use regular soap like your parents did.

60 thestyleexpress.com June 21, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I’m new to your site and have enjoyed very much reading. Will be back to read up on different topics as I work with my male clients. Thanks!

61 JAKE June 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

Hey Guys,
Vans has a no show sock wokrs great with vans and gold old Chuck’s. Keeps your feet dry and the odor down. I only recommend taking off the socks when taking off the shoes. Don’t go parading around the socks.

62 Justin June 22, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I usually just dust my shoes with some baking soda and talc if I’m going sockless for a evening or what not. Plus a good dusting helps dry the darn things out after a hard day of work. Though honestly as time progresses for casual day to day activities * anything other then working at the job site or going to a event* I tend to go barefoot. I have to make a note against the anti-bacterial soaps and what not, vinegar or old fashioned fat based soaps do the same job and dont give the bacteria anything to adapt to. I dont know too many bugs that can survive some suds but they have to keep on changing anti bacterial formulas and make them stronger as time goes on

63 James H. June 23, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I’m in concurrence with JamesBrett (comment #7) – if you’re going to go sockless, go all the way. Grandma’s claims of ringworm aren’t true (never had it and have spent more than half of my 28 years barefoot, during the spring-summer-fall, of course).
Plus, it makes your feet tougher, so breaking in a new pair of boots results in fewer to no blisters.
I do like the Listerine idea though. I may have to try that out next month during annual training….

64 Marc Papain June 24, 2010 at 1:17 am

Great tip about the freezer. The only shoes I wear barefoot at the moment are my rock climbing shoes and they smell a heap better after I tried your trick. Cheers! ;)

65 CS June 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I agree with “Allen”from the post above. Leather insoles are a must when going without socks. This will limit odors, to a point. I wore a pair of leather Timberland boat style shoes, all leather with lug soles everyday while helping out in Costa Rica. We had to wear closed-toe shoes. In doing so, after about sixth week, they started to smell. The leather insole turned dark brown with black spots. The leather was starting to rot underneath the insole which can not be removed. Costa Rica is humid so feet were always sweaty and the shoes never got to dry out.

66 Dave June 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

A zinc supplement can help. Many foot powders contain zinc. Ensuring that you have enough of the mineral in the diet can help even more. Heavy foot odor is often an indication of zinc deficiency. If in doubt, you might want to ask your doctor.

67 Greg M June 28, 2010 at 5:37 am

I went sockless once wearing some boat shoes in junior high (more than 20 yrs ago).
I kicked them off in the car on the way home from a Boy Scout meeting and my father exploded into a tirade about me not having the proper respect for the institution of Scouting, especially since the meeting was held (in the gymnasium) of a Church.
I haven’t been sockless since.

Sockless or not, if you take care of your feet, they will take care of you. My feet are in shoes all day long, so I make sure that my shoes are of high quality, fit properly and my foot hygene is above par.

68 Alan O July 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm

don’t discount a good pair of leather flops from Keen or Reef. They look good and let you feet breathe. Remember the sunscreen on your feet though. Viva la flops!

69 Tryclyde August 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Although I can appreciate this article, it’s quite ridiculous. There is nothing immature or childish about wearing flip flops. Perhaps if you’re wearing $4 ones from the drug store, but not if you have a quality pair such as Rainbows. If I have to wear shoes with no socks in the summer I’d just rather wear sneakers and socks. When it’s warm, and I’m not at work or going for a run, I live in flip flops and plan to do so until the end of my days.

70 Stephanie October 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I’ve never, ever, seen a man look good going “sockless”. Maybe it is viewed as a manly thing among you men, but it’s not going to attract many women. The only time a man should go sockless is if he is not wearing shoes or if he is wearing sandals (sandals and socks look almost as silly as shoes and no socks). Anyways, thats just a little “womanly” insight. I do like this site and tend to agree with most things here. I feel real men are an endangered species these days.

71 thebarak November 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Yes the foot smell in shoes is bacteria and yes they feed on oils and fats. So you can wash leather shoes the same way you wash your oily face. Clearasil Daily Face Wash (or similar products) will completely clean leather shoes inside and out. It will also clean leather goods, furniture, etc., and harmlessly. Just wash the leather like you wash your face. When it dries it will look and smell brand new!

72 Antome November 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I quote Stephanie, I like casual loafers with shorts in summer, but I rarely go sockless with them, I prefer to pair my favourite ankle socks with them, always varying their color (though black and dark blue are a classic) I don’t see how a pair of socks can be not manly, lol. I even expect my girl to have her own style and not be a weak minf conscious of what’s more in, so I don’t see how manly can be not wearing socks if you always liked them.Yes only sandals without socks, or slingbacks and flats if I were a woman.

73 Skully December 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I’m a blue collar stiff. And the best advice I got was that leather boots need 24 hours to dry out.

So I buy 2 pairs of boots and alternate daily.

My boots last twice as long as my Co-workers, and at the end of the day they still smell like new. Also every 3 months change the inserts(I wait 6mo b/c I’m alternating between 2 pairs)

In the summer I use the powder spray (ie: oder eaters) but I don’t like the talc powders it builds up in my boots. And it holds onto the moisture. Leaving a cream/paste of nastiness in the edges. That is sometimes still wet 2 days later. Eww.

74 Jreu February 4, 2013 at 1:10 am

This comment maybe too late, but hey Ive got a suggestion for you if you want zero to none effort of cleaning, spraying your feet and shoes.
Get a pair of Sanuk Shunamis, i wear them everyday without socks. Still smell free. It has been more than a year now, it has been my comfort shoe. Just wash them occassionally, i have never washed them stinky. Ive tried other brands and also other sanuk models but my feet stinked in em. Only the. Shunamis make the cut. Try it

75 Bert June 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I don’t ever wear my Sperry’s without first spraying my feet with Arrid XX antiperspirant/deoderant. I’ve gone all day wearing my shoes and not had bad smelling feet.

76 Dave June 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

I had a problem with foot odor for months which started when I was on tour with my band. My feet became so bad that the guys thought there was a rotting corpse in our hotel room every night. I went to Walgreens and bought every foot treatment I could: Gold Bond, pumice stone, foot soaks, Odor Eaters, etc. It helped slightly, but my feet still reeked of death.
What really did the trick was scrubbing my feet in the shower, and putting regular old hand lotion on my feet. It keeps your feet from drying out so the bacteria can’t latch onto the dead skin and cause the odor. After putting some foot powder in my shoes and lotion on my feet, the odor went away in a week or two.
Now I can go sockless in my Chucks every now and then and there is no odor later.
Another trick I took to was applying coconut oil to my feet since it’s anti-fungal. It really helps.

77 Liam June 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Good article with lots of great tips.

Another suggestion: try an all-natural foot deodorant cream like Lavilin. It’s easy to use, and you only need to apply it once a week. It’s best to use it after you shower at night. Trust me, it works!

78 Jim July 24, 2013 at 2:27 am

Liam – I’m a big fan of Lavilin too!!

For those of you looking for a great, all-natural foot deodorant – Lavilin is the best!!

79 Outerwear July 29, 2013 at 11:34 am

Great article but you look absolutely ridiculous without socks and completely unattractive as a man. I do NOT recommend going in public without socks unless you are wearing sandles. And sandles are good for the beach but not really attractive otherwise. Men have definitely lost a sense of themselves and sophistication or class that accompanies being comfortable. Don’t like wearing socks? Stay home.

80 argyris August 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I read most comments but nobody mentioned one simple thing. Vanilla powder…the type you use for baking cakes. In my country it comes in sachet-type packaging or little cylindrical plastic containers. They are available at any supermarket or grocery store. I am talking about your regular vanilla powder for baking use. Sprinkle a little inside your shoe…you’ll be surprised at the results…

81 Donna Battle September 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm

First we do need more than one pair of shoes. If the shoes are worth saving. We need to learn our feet are just like our mouth and underarms. We know if we donot use proper hygiene, we will have bad breath and smelly underarms. Therefore, we need to u derstand that the odor comes from bacteria in all three places. Man have created products for underarms and for the breath, that kill germs, but for the feet, there is nothing on the shelf that kills bacteria for the feet. They have fungal medication, but this is not the same thing. So what we have to do is take from Sam to pay Paul. So what products do we have available to kill bacteria on the feet and mouth? Afterall, this is just one organ. There is, antibacterial hand sanitizer, antibacterial handsoap, and Listerine antiseptic mouthwash and antibacterial soap. If you put the listerine in the shoes at night after work with a clean washcloth and wash them and use the handsanitizer and let them dry overnight, they will smell better and better. This only works for shoes that can go in the washer. Other shoes it depends on the material, you might have to toss them. The antibacterial handsanitizer can help kill the bacteria off the feet separately from the shoes. The key is to kill the bacteria. Donot use harsh soaps on your feet and bleach. They remove the dirt, but not the bacteria. Give yourself a good pedicure while bathing. Scraping off dead skin from the bottom of the feet and cuticles.

82 BadIdea September 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

“In that case, take the shoes out of your daily rotation, and put them out to pasture as your yard work shoes.”

No. This can cause a retched case of fungus or foot infection. Yard work = lots of sweat. Putting a shoe rife with all kind of bacteria on is the dumbest bit of shoe advice that can be given. This kills men with diabetes often, as once the foot infection starts it doesn’t get fought off by the body faster than it grows, resulting in amputation or death.

83 Goid October 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I agree with most of what Outerwear says, however I’m going to wear sandals whenever I want (even winter). You just won’t see a suit above them.
I’ve always been the guy to set my own style and not follow what’s “trendy”. My feet sweat and stink, I know this and I can’t change this, I’m a man.
I like to look good and dress well also, but sometimes function trumps form. Why risk a $200 pair of shoes when you can get socks that don’t rise above the shoe line? This fad will be over soon enough anyway, probably because we again realize not wearing socks in our shoes makes them smell. You might think it looks good, but bare skin between slacks and dress shoes looks hideous, I don’t care how “cool” it is. And shorts with a leather tassled loafers, again, looks awful. I have a nice pair of cognac leather flip flops that look just fine with any shorts I wear. The man in the photo above has no style. He’s dressed as a typical old man would dress, “Whatever’s clean and still fits!”

84 Howie November 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Here’s the thing, eventually, your feet get conditioned to not wearing socks and they sweat much less than they would if you wear socks. My feet actually smell worse WITH socks. With proper hygiene, foot poweder, air that circulates against your skin with every step, you are going to be far more hygenic than the guy wearing sponges on his feet – that is whats socks are sweat sponges, GROSS!

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