When our two sons were teenagers, they shared a bedroom for a few years. Walking past their room on a Saturday afternoon after they had returned from football, soccer or basketball practice was an unforgettable experience, and not in a good way. Their laundry hamper was kept in their closet, and to say that the smell emanating from their sweaty jerseys, socks, jock straps and shoes was overwhelming would be a major understatement. This is the olfactory memory that came to me every time I caught a whiff of my old trekking shoes.
Those shoes could get pretty odoriferous. If we were out for a day hike, I could spray them when we returned home and they weren't too bad, but if we were backpacking or trekking for a few days, the smell was awful. At night, they were relegated to the far end of the tent, or outside the window if we were staying in a hotel.
I've always had a problem with smelly feet - something I apparently passed on to our sons. There are, of course, always positives to any problem and I can think of two in my case: I fit right in with the younger guys at some of the hostals we've stayed at, and it does help keep the flies away from the food. All in all, however, I'd rather do without the smell, and I've found that washing my feet frequently, changing socks once or twice a day, along with good shoes helps immensely.
My mistake with the last pair of trekking shoes was buying the waterproof version. While they were supposedly breathable and did a pretty good job of keeping my feet dry in rainy and muddy conditions, they didn't breathe well enough to prevent developing that funky smell. My current shoes, Hoka trail runners, have a mesh top, which are not only lighter, but very breathable. Marcie has the women's version, and while we both really like them, the downside to the breathability is that our feet start squishing whenever it rains for any length of time or we step in a puddle. In my estimation, anyway, that's a reasonable tradeoff.
Even my Hokas begin to develop a slight but noticeable odor after a week or so on the trail, however, and something that seems to help is a product called Zorpads. These are very thin pads that attach to the insides of the shoes under the insoles. They consist of three layers - a moisture wicking layer, a carbon odor absorbing layer and an adhesive layer that sticks the pad to the shoe. I ordered some for my old, stinky trekking shoes, and while they didn't totally overcome the smell, they helped considerably. With my Hokas, the smell is totally gone. And, no, I’m not getting any remuneration from Zorpads for writing this.
So, now I feel right at home in polite company and no one seems offended by my presence - at least because of foot odor. My shoes no longer smell … but unfortunately, my jokes are just as lame as ever, for which, it seems, there is no remedy.
When Plan A is no longer viable and Plan B becomes difficult, it’s time for Plan C. Come join us next week as we figure out yet another alternative plan…