In short: To make your Vibrams smell better, soak them in a bucket filled with 30% OxiClean and 70% warm water for 10 minutes. Then, wash the Vibram shoes in a gentle cycle. When storing your Vibram shoes, place baking soda pockets to help neutralize bad odor.
Vibram shoes are popular among barefoot shoe enthusiasts. However, they are also notorious for producing a funky odor known as the “VFF stank”. Here’s how to make them smell better.
How to make Vibram shoes smell better
Before writing this article, I experimented with many methods to make Vibram shoes smell better. Here are the top 3 methods that produced the best results.
1. Soak in OxiClean solution
The best way to make Vibram shoes smell better is to use OxiClean. Its unique bubbling oxygen formula helps to break down protein bonds, remove odors, and decolorize harsh stains.
Out of all the methods I tried for removing the smell from my Vibrams, soaking in an OxiClean solution produced the best results. It is eco-friendly, nitrogen and phosphorus free as well.
Create a solution of 30% OxiClean and 70% warm water in a bucket. Soak your Vibram shoes for 10 minutes followed by a quick hand scrub, then a rinse with clean water.
Next, air-dry your Vibram shoes. Once they are dry, you simply need to wash them normally. If you don’t know how to wash your Vibram shoes, you can read this simple guide right here.
The best part about OxiClean is that it won’t affect the colors of your footwear. Its oxygen-based, water-activated formula gets rid of tough dirt, set-in stains, and most importantly, bad odor.
Remember, after soaking your Vibram shoes with OxiClean, you still need to wash them. OxiClean is most effective at removing odors when shoes are pre-soaked before washing.
2. Soak in water and denture tablets
The next best thing is to soak your Vibrams shoes in water and denture tablets. They work like magic because denture tablets can kill 99.99% of odor-causing bacteria in 3 minutes.
Denture tablets are mainly used to clean dentures when they are out of the mouth. However, they are also effective at getting rid of the funk from Vibram shoes, making them smell better.
For this project, I recommend buying this brand of denture tablets (they’re the best). Once you have your denture tablets, drop some in a bucket of water (large enough for your Vibrams).
You should see the tablets fizzing. Then, place your Vibram shoes in the bucket, making sure they’re fully covered by the solution. Soak for about 15 minutes for good measure.
Once the shoes have been soaked, rinse them with clean water and let them air dry. Wash your Vibram shoes according to the correct washing procedure and they should smell like new.
3. Insert baking soda pockets
Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate. Among many other uses, it is often used as a neutralizing agent that absorbs odors caused by acids (sweat is acidic).
The baking soda pockets are most effective when they are used as maintenance between washes and do not replace the cleaning process. Place them when storing your shoes.
To create a baking soda pocket, you need 2 ingredients: baking soda and the pocket itself as the container. You can buy this baking soda and this tea bag for this project.
Once you have both of the ingredients ready, add the baking soda to the tea bag, then seal it. And there you have it, you have just made yourself a baking soda pocket.
Place the baking soda pocket when storing your Vibram FiveFingers. The baking soda will keep the unpleasant smell in check. As a result, your Vibrams won’t smell like cat urine.
If you want to skip the hassle of putting baking soda in pockets, you can just sprinkle some baking soda directly into the insoles of your Vibrams. Toss them when you want to wear them.
Are there other methods?
While doing the research for this article, I came across many methods and experimented with most of them. They do a good job of removing odors, but are not as effective as the ones above.
For example, a UV light bacteria killer will kill the bacteria causing the stench but will leave all the dead bodies on the insoles. Plus, the device is quite expensive (although this one is $15).
Mouthwash, vinegar, and peroxide do work well in removing some of the bad smell from Vibram shoes, but will not kill everything. Therefore, there will still be a pesky smell remaining.
Lysol is very interesting, as it did remove the smell but the bacterias were mostly still active after treatment was applied. I also get this “slippery feeling” in the FiveFingers afterward.
So, if you’re serious about removing the smell from your Vibrams, I recommend either soaking them in an OxiClean solution or denture tablets. You can also sprinkle some baking soda too.
How to stop your Vibrams from smelling
You now know how to get rid of the funky odor and make your Vibrams smell better. However, you can follow these simple rules to stop your Vibrams from smelling in the future.
1. Wear a pair of toe socks
The best thing you can do to avoid Vibrams from smelling is to wear toe socks. While most people prefer to go sockless when wearing Vibrams, socks can help absorb moisture.
According to Medical News Today, socks can help address smelly feet. Socks, especially those made from sweat-wicking materials, can absorb sweat and reduce bad odors.
In addition to keeping bad odor in check, wearing toe socks is a great way to break Vibram’s shoes in. The socks will help stretch the material, so it’s definitely a win-win.
Provided you can stand wearing toe socks, this brand of toe socks is the premier maker of sports toe socks that work perfectly with FiveFingers. There are plenty of sock choices.
2. Wash your feet before getting into your VFFs
Make sure to wash your feet before you wear your Vibrams. It all comes down to basic hygiene. Prevention is the best thing you can do to remove odor from your pair of VFFs.
Although you are not a clean freak, you were born with only 1 pair of feet. And last time I checked, they are not replaceable so you should take good care of them.
3. Clean your Vibrams often
At the end of the day, jump in the shower and clean-rinse your VFFs with a little sud from your body wash. Then, let them air dry wherever there is air circulation without direct sunlight.
However, you should hand wash or machine wash your Vibrams every 2 or 3 days, depending on your daily activities. Use cold water with laundry detergent when using a washing machine.
After washing, make sure to air dry them thoroughly. If there is moisture inside the shoes, they can produce annoying squeaking noises. Then again, I must emphasize the following:
Never let the smell of your Vibrams shoes get out of control. The more you wait, the harder it will be to get your VFFs clean again. If the odor still lingers after washing, apply the tips above.
Now you know how to make Vibrams smell better. You can soak them in an OxiClean solution or water mixed with denture tablets. Baking soda pockets help absorb odor when storing.