If you’re thinking of buying a pair of Birkenstocks, you may be wondering whether Birkenstocks smell. Nobody likes embarassing odours right? If you’ve not had the chance to get your hands on a pair in person, be aware you may get a whiff of cork when opening your new Birkenstock box.
Is this just a new shoe smell or something more serious? Then there’s the touchy topic of whether your shoes will smell in different ways after they are worn in. The good news is that the corked smell will disappear, but what about long-term smells that come with normal use?
Expect Birkenstocks to smell after long term use. The suede lining absorbs moisture which breeds bacteria and causes a bad odor if your birks aren’t cleaned. Rectify this by cleaning the footbed lining with a shoe cleaning product, gentle liquid detergent, or a baking soda or white vinegar mixture. Deodorize your shoes to help keep your feet clean and dry and to make them last longer.
In my experience I find my Birkenstocks tend to smell after a few weeks of heavy use in summer.
No one wants smelly shoes, but it’s a fact of life. Walking around all day in a pair of shoes makes your feet hot and sweaty. If you don’t take the time to deodourise your Birks they’ll build up a stink. I like to sprinkle mine with baking soda every few days in the hot months to keep the odour at bay.
Fortunately, the benefits of wearing Birks far outweigh the footbed smell. Here’s the lowdown on why Birkenstocks smell and how to solve the issue!
Despite all the health benefits of Birkenstocks, there is a lingering problem; Birkenstocks smell.
But don’t just take my word for it! Looking at comments and reviews on various forums and chat groups, the one complaint that regularly raises its head is that Birkenstocks smell. This challenge is easily dealt with.
Many comments directed at the Birkenstock ‘smell’ are about the clogs in the vegan range. Because they are not leather or an entirely waterproof material, the synthetic material they are made from limits airflow in the shoe. The lining on the footbed is made from microfiber and is not standard suede lining. Microfiber traps heat which in turn causes bad odors.
You may also like: Why Do Birkenstocks Turn Black? (My Experience & Fixes)
Another smelly Birkenstock range is the shearling range. Shearling is a warm material and traps heat, making feet sweat. The shearling range is not designed for walking distances, but as a stay-at-home shoe, it should be easier to keep smelling clean.
Even though the vegan and shearling Birks are not the best smelling at times, the entire Birkenstock range is prone to smelling if the shoes aren’t kept clean and deodorized.
On the flip side, the EVA and Professional ranges, made from ethylene and vinyl acetate, are easy to clean, and shoes can be wiped or washed at the end of the day to eliminate sweat and dirt. The only time you’ll smell anything strange from EVA shoes is the 1st time you open the shoe box and are greeted with a once-off chemical smell.
Blame It On Moisture
As awful as it sounds, bacteria forms in moist environments, and this causes your shoes to smell bad. The root cause of Birkenstock’s smell is that your feet sweat. Sweat soaks into the footbed lining and gets trapped there. Some wearers even report that the suede lining gets slimy and black.
Heat traps moisture, and closed shoes such as clogs, sneakers, and lace-ups are hotter and more humid. Sandals, however, are airy, and your feet and the shoe lining get a chance to breathe.
Friction on the footbed is also a culprit, which is one of the reasons that even Birkenstock open-toe shoes smell. Walking around in open shoes allows dirt to sneak into your sandals. With your feet constantly rubbing up and down the dirt, it gets ingrained in the footbed lining and adds to the bad bacteria smell.
Another culprit is cork. Cork is naturally not waterproof; it gets a slightly funky, moldy smell when wet and doesn’t dry quickly enough. Strangely, too much moisture in the cork heel causes the cork to dry out and crumble. To avoid this, use a cork sealant regularly. As a side note, cork dries out when it isn’t sealed.
How To Stop Birkenstocks Smelling
Suppose your Birks smell; there are many solutions to get them smelling good and fresh. Birkenstocks sell as a shoe cleaning kit, but if you can’t get your hands on it, there are 11 effective ways to keep smells at bay. Smells stick to the Birkenstock footbed lining. The longer you take to clean your Birks, the more difficult it will be to rid them of odor.
1. Teabags Work A Charm
The thing about teabags is that they absorb moisture. Leave dry tea bags in your shoes for 24 hours. This will do the trick. Depending on how bad your shoes smell, you may need to leave them in for another 24 hours.
2. Clean In Between
If your Birki doesn’t smell too bad, clean it with a damp cloth. Wipe off any visible dirt and gently brush the lining with a soft suede shoe brush, like the one in the Birkenstock shoe cleaning kit.
3. Baking Soda Beats Odor
Make a baking soda cleaning solution. Mix a bit of water with a 2/4 cup of baking soda until it forms a smooth paste. Add more water or baking soda if the mixture is too runny or dry.
Put the mixture on a soft scrubbing brush and gently clean your shoes. When you are done, wipe them to remove the loosened dirt. Leave them to dry in a cool indoor area.
4. Freeze Your Birks
Freezing your Birks removes trapped smells. Sprinkle baking soda on your shoes and put them in a Ziploc bag. Pop them into the freezer and leave them for a few days. Baking soda lifts dirt from the footbed. Remove them from the freezer and dust them with a suede brush or microfiber cloth. Your shoes will be dirt and odor free.
5. Lay On The Lather
Mix leather shampoo with a small amount of water. Lather this up and gently scrub it with a soft, bristled toothbrush. Give your footbed a wipe with a damp (not wet) cloth, and leave your shoes to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area.
6. Mix Things Up
Mix ½ teaspoon of gentle liquid detergent, two cups of warm (not hot) water, and two teaspoons of vinegar as an effective solution to clean Birkenstock footbeds. Dip a toothbrush in the solution and scrub the footbed. Avoid getting the footbed too wet. Wipe the mixture off with a clean damp cloth and allow your Birks to dry in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
7. Gently Does It
If you aren’t keen on using vinegar on your shoes, mix a teaspoon of gentle liquid detergent and two cups of warm water. Clean your shoes with a soft toothbrush or brush, wipe them with a damp cloth, and let them dry in a cool, airy place. Dishwashing liquid works well.
8. Rub Them Around
Remove odor from Vegan, synthetic, and EVA shoe footbeds with rubbing alcohol. Put a little rubbing alcohol, not a generous amount, on a slightly damp cloth and clean the footbed lining. Use a damp cloth to remove residual alcohol, and let them dry naturally in a cool area. Do not clean the suede lining this way; it will ruin the suede.
9. Slip On Socks
Wear socks with your closed Birkis. The most effective socks are either cotton socks or moisture-wicking socks.
10. Change Things Up
If all else fails, replace your Birks’ footbed. The Birkenstock online store sells a variety of footbeds so that you can take your pick.
11. Buy More Birks
There is another appealing solution; rotate your Birkenstocks to allow them to air and dry out. To do this, you need multiple pairs. Isn’t this just the most genius solution of all?
Deodorize Your Birks Before They Smell
You’ll want your Birks to keep smelling fresh; luckily, this is highly doable. Your best option is to deodorize your shoes. So many deodorizing options are on the market so you will be spoilt for choice. Deodorizers come in sprays, powders, wipes, and pouches that work similarly to teabags and anti-odor insoles.
It’s also a great idea to deodorize your feet. Use an antiperspirant or deodorizing foot spray to keep your feet clean and dry. Birkenstock sells a foot-cooling cream that uses menthol to keep your feet cool and fresh. There are hundreds on the market, and they are readily available.
Frequently Asked Questions
If The Birkenstock Suede Footbed Lining Smells, Why Does Birkenstock Use It?
Birkenstocks are made for comfort, and the suede lining on most Birkenstocks reduces friction between your foot and the shoe.
Must I Clean The Uppers Of My Birkenstocks?
Yes, it is a good idea to clean them. Cleaning the insides of the uppers in closed shoes can be quite time-consuming, but keeping your shoes smelling fresh is worth the effort.
Do Birkenstocks Smell When They Are New?
You may notice a strange smell when you open the box of your new Birkenstocks. The smell is attributed to the materials the shoe is made from but disappears when you have removed your Birks from their box.
Birkenstocks smell. Your feet sweat, and the Birkenstock footbed lining absorbs this moisture. Moisture in the lining breeds bacteria and makes your shoes smell bad. To rectify this, keep your Birks clean, deodorize them, keep your feet clean and dry, and wear socks with your closed-toe Birkis. Birkenstock footbeds are replaceable if cleaning no longer removes the odor from your shoes.
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Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).