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Smelly Five Fingers

by Tyler Hurst » on Dec 20, 2010 8

I’d like to tell you that the stories about Vibram Five Fingers slowly developing a bit of an aroma aren’t true. I’d like to tell you that this aroma is so light that it’s unnoticeable unless you’re really sniffing for it. I’d like to tell you that the footpads of the Five Fingers are guaranteed against smelliness for the life of the shoes.

But I’d be oh so wrong if I did. As a full-time Five Fingers guy, the somewhat unpleasant aroma my Five Fingers have developed have three major causes: moisture, dirt and lack of proper ventilation. While I haven’t been able to completely eradicate the aroma, I have been able to make my shoes wearable to even the fanciest of parties. Here are a few tips to keep your Five Fingers from turning up noses:

Definitely more than one way to clean Five Fingers.

1. Air them out when you’re not wearing them
Leave them outside if it’s nice, or on a vent of some kind if it’s not. The Vibram Five Fingers company will tell you not to dry them with heat or in the sun, but I’ve done it more than once with zero repercussions, and all of my shoes are now 10+ months old. Don’t be afraid to get some sun or warmth on those puppies, unless they’re almost too small. If so, well…good luck!

2. Use OxiClean or something similar (We miss you, Billy!)
I spray on OxiClean an hour or so before I wash my Five Fingers. Does the best job I’ve found in getting and keeping the aroma out for a few days. Just be sure to air dry them for a while before you toss them in the dryer WITHOUT HEAT. Also, don’t use fabric softener, as it seems to make the problem worse for me.

3. Keep your feet clean
Most of the aroma stems from the dirt your track in with YOUR dirty feet, so they cleaner your feet are when you put your Five Fingers on, the less grime you’ll produce.

If you look really closely just past the bottom of this pic you can see my KSOs.

4. Shower with your Five Fingers
Best way to clean my Five Fingers is to scrub them with a washcloth, and the easiest time to do that is in the shower. I’d recommend you either use a separate washcloth or start on your Five Fingers AFTER you’ve used it on yourself. You’ll know why.

5. Wear socks
I wore my Injinji socks on the cold streets of NYC, and they kept my feet warm AND non-smelly. I was the only person at the party in Five Fingers and I got more than a few questions about them, none of which had to do with the cold.

Anything you’ve tried that’s worked better?


  1. brian k

    December 20th, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    They are machine washable…

    air dry.


    • Tyler Hurst

      December 20th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

      I’ve done that. Doesn’t get the smell out completely, and never for more than a day or two. Wash them too often and they start to fall apart.


      • joey

        April 01st, 2011 at 8:24 pm

        You should just buy new ones after they start smelling because that stench is mighty strong. I bike, run, and lift weights in my KSO’s. The smell starts to compound despite the multiple washes. I am curious about the baking soda and will be giving it a try. The shoes take so long to air dry, so I decided to throw mine in the dryer with no heat (air fluff). Will let you know how it works.


  2. brian k

    December 20th, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    uv wand or uv shoe sanitizer? Maybe you can get the company to send you one to test it out ;D


  3. Teri

    January 27th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I have had some success reducing odor by sprinkling baking soda in my shoes before and after wearing them.


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  6. Crazy barefoot runner

    May 20th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Why can’t they just make a shoe WITH ventilation? So sick of them smelling and making my feet smell worse because of no ventilation on the Lontra LS… What other models of the shoe do you recommend that have a little bit more ventilation now going into the summer?


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