Why Ski Boots Stink, and How You Can Fight the Stench!

boots
Some possibly smelly ski boot liners. Photo: M. Lavery

Today was without a doubt one of the best days of skiing you have ever had. Conditions were perfect to rip long radius carved turns, and the lift lines were short. You must have gotten in 20+ runs. And boy did you work up a sweat doing it, especially your feet. When you got home you threw those wet ski boots in the closet by the front door in anticipation for tomorrow. But the next morning you discovered that those ski boots had ripened considerably over night, and you are left wondering why your ski boots stink so much.

The reason behind stinky ski boots, and stinky shoes and socks for that matter, is pretty simple. Your boot liners, and, or socks, trap heat and moisture and provide a large volumetric surface area on which bacteria can grow. If your feet sweat a lot, you give those bacteria plenty of food. Bacteria feed on the amino acids in your sweat and on your dead skin cells. The byproduct of this feeding frenzy is chemicals like propanoic acid, isovaleric acid, and methanethiol which produce sulphuric, cheesy, and rancid vinegar like scents.

So, how do you prevent your ski boots from becoming stinky?

  • Always wear dry socks. Put on a dry pair mid-day if you have really sweaty feet.
  • Remove your boot liners from your boots and allow them to dry thoroughly at the end of the day.
  • Do not put your ski boots away in a cool dark place if the liners are still wet.
  • Wash your boot liners according to manufacturer guidelines and allow them to dry completely before using them again.
  • Try not to use your boots multiple days in a row if the liners haven’t dried out.
  • Use deodorant or antiperspirant on your feet if your feet sweat heavily.
  • Wash your feet with antibacterial soap.

Credit: American Chemical Society