Smelly Shoes and Shoe Odor: Ten Reasons to Spare the Wear on Every Pair

, Health

Calling all shoe collectors! Here’s a list of ten serious reasons, medical and financial, why collecting a nice variety of shoes is actually one of the healthier hobbies you might have. Rotating among different kinds of shoes can be good for your physical health, your social life, your business image, and your pocketbook.

Fair disclosure: A lot of frugal-minded people are looking for the one, simple, neutral pair of shoes they can wear with everything until the shoes wear out. This article was actually written by one of them. However, there are some health issues associated with wearing one pair until they wear out. I’ve got away with it for many years because I don’t wear any shoes very long; I’m a writer, so my shoes air out during most of my work day.

If you want to wear shoes in between the times when you’re actually walking, here are some reasons why you should consider changing shoes daily, even during the day if possible.

(Changing and cleaning shoes is super easy with the new trend for “interchangeable shoes.” If you can’t change shoes, at least change socks.)

  1. Feet sweat and odor

In addition to wearing cotton socks, you can buy foot powder that absorbs some of the sweat, or even foot antiperspirants that block the flow of sweat from your skin for a while. If you wear shoes for several hours, though, sweat will soak through those extra layers into the shoes. Some podiatrists offer treatments that may help people who sweat excessively.

Still, shoes that have been worn are never going to smell like brand-new shoes again. If you give shoes plenty of time to air-dry in between wearings, they will smell fresher and feel drier.

  1. Sweaty shoes send their odor all over the house.

Shoe odor can be avoided. People who want to bring their street shoes inside other people’s homes may just be embarrassed by the odor of their sweaty shoes. The way to minimize this odor is to remove shoes frequently and give them plenty of time to air-dry, while also washing the feet and letting them dry. Odor-producing bacteria thrive in a warm, dark, moist environment (as do infection-producing fungi). The insides of enclosed shoes will always be dark, but they don’t have to be warm and moist. (To remove shoe odor fast, disinfect shoes and/or feet with an alcohol rub, or place shoes in the freezer overnight)

  1. Sweaty shoes cause fungus infections.

If you wear the same shoes every day, colonies of bacteria and fungi are going to find the insides of those sweaty shoes a comfortable environment where they can grow. Usually the main effect of the bacteria will be to produce a strong odor. The fungi may actually start growing on your skin, or on the sensitive tissue under your toes. Fungus infections are contagious, disfiguring, nasty-smelling, and hard to get rid of [ ].

Some things people have tried to get rid of foot fungus (“athlete’s foot”) and toenail fungus infections include running barefoot through fresh manure (not very effective), painting their toes with Manuka honey (some people say it’s effective but it’s slow, expensive, and messy), soaking their feet in an alcohol bath (effective but slow), soaking their feet in bleach (effective but dangerous), soaking their feet in vinegar (effective but nasty), and having their toenails removed (effective but painful).

Changing your shoes is much cheaper, easier, and more pleasant than any of these techniques.

  1. Shoes stay comfortable and supportive longer when you spare the wear on every pair.

If you want your shoes to make the best impression at the office and also feel as good to your feet as they did when you bought them, rotating among different pairs may be a prudent investment

Those stinky bacteria inside shoes are not primarily the kinds that make humans ill. They’re the kind that cause the materials inside shoes to rot and break down. If you want your shoes to carry you comfortably for hundreds of miles, change them up in between trips to extend the lives of the  material.

You get more fashion mileage by having a selection of shoes that match your selection of clothes…and you also get more actual mileage per shoe. As Jim Kass observed to Yahoo Finance, this should be a win-win.

  1. You can pamper your feet by stimulating different pressure points.

Have you ever consulted a foot reflexologist? These massage therapists work from a theoretical model that claims that pressing on different points on the bottoms of your feet can relieve pain and tension in specific parts of the rest of your body [ ]. If you have a headache, they might squeeze your toes. If you have a heart condition, they might press into the ball of your foot. While there’s no scientific proof that this treatment does much (if anything) for most non-podiatric conditions, a foot reflexology treatment is a great way to relax.

When you change to a fresh pair of shoes, you get a bit of that refreshing effect. Your feet feel the difference between material that has packed down under your weight and material that may be new, or at least have had a chance to bounce back after it’s packed down.

  1. You get better performance out of new shoes.

Whether you want shoes that help you run faster, jump higher, walk farther, keep your feet warm on an icy street longer, or save a toenail if a forklift or gurney rolls over your feet…shoes that are designed for high performance are more effective before they’re broken down and worn out [ ]. Having different shoes for different uses helps keep the cushioning in each pair new as long as possible.

  1. You can avoid most or all of the damage that a less-than-perfect fit might be doing to your feet.

Must everyone swear off wearing dressy heels, floppy flats, heavy boots, or whichever brand of athletic shoes last disappointed someone you know? (If you know a lot of people who exercise for health, you probably know somebody who says a certain brand of athletic shoe is worth every bit of the $250 they cost, and somebody who says that that brand is worth less than $5 flip-flops.) Is there one ideal type of shoe that everyone should wear all the time?

There is not, and there probably will never be, one ideal shoe for every foot. The shapes of our feet vary as much as the sizes and the things we do with our feet…and they’re meant to vary. We thrive on moving and using our bodies in different ways. The best shoe for running is not the best shoe for dancing, for construction work, for fly fishing. And currently, most of the shoes on the market are a compromise fit, at best, for some types of feet, like mine.

By changing shoes often, however, you can enjoy the benefits of wearing different kinds and avoid the damage that would be done by wearing one pair too long.

  1. You can indulge in the stylish shoes that appeal to your eye if you change them often.

Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for February 2007 was all about shoe shopping

One article discussed the plight of a woman who wanted to wear 4” heels or higher, most of the time. “I never have pain,” the student argued, citing her small size (size four shoes, 93 pounds, 5’2” tall) as a possible explanation. It would be interesting to do a follow-up interview with this woman today. As a college junior, after only two years wearing extreme heels, she hadn’t had time to do serious damage to her feet. Calluses, hammer toes, and maybe an occasional bunion were probably the worst consequences of her preference for extra height. If she built up a little more self-confidence as an upperclassman, less emotional dependency on the spikes, by now her feet might have actually recovered good health.

Jaleh Hoofar, D.P.M., warned women like this one that high heels are the worst choice for their feet, although flimsy flats may be almost equally dangerous; it depends on how flimsy their flat shoes are. Hoofar recommended leather or suede shoes with “substantial” soles, gel inserts for comfort, and one-inch heels as generally the best type of dress shoe for the majority of women [ ].

At the local Foot Center, clinical manager John Warren agreed that the young woman’s small size might have minimized the damage those spike heels were doing to her feet, even over two years. The more weight feet carry, the more vulnerable to injuries from bearing weight those feet will be.

Still, sometimes a woman  whose knees are 13” off the floor wants to sit in a chair whose seat is 18” off the floor. Obviously a 5” heel or platform under her feet can actually help reduce the pressure on the backs of her legs. Why shouldn’t she wear supportive power-walking shoes for walking to and from work, wear high heels in the office while she’s doing very little walking anyway, and slip into cute little flats when she goes out to lunch? By wearing each type of shoe for only one to four hours at a time, she can enjoy the best features of each style. Winfrey says she organizes her shoes by a “Personal Pain-O-Meter” of how long she can stand to wear them [ ].

  1. You can have fun with shoes.

Probably there are people who have never felt an urge to buy a pair of athletic shoes in team colors, or a pair of slippers that perfectly matched a dress. Do you know one of them? If you don’t have to wear the same old pair every day, you can go ahead and indulge in the footwear with the colors that begged “Buy me.” They don’t have to match everything you wear. They’ll go with some of the other things you wear, anyway.

  1. You save money on health care by changing shoes often enough that you’re never injured by wearing the same pair too long.

Yes, it’s possible for extreme heels to cause headaches, as Michele Bachmann claimed. Yes, it’s possible for flip-flops to “blow out,” as Jimmy Buffett sang. Yes, it’s possible for a machine at work to slice right through a flimsy shoe, and the foot inside it, which is why some employers require employees to wear heavy shoes or boots. And yes, it’s possible for sweaty shoes to foster festering, fetid fungi…

The good news is that it’s also possible for many people to walk, cycle, run, dance, and work out, all through their lives, without ever having to pay a podiatrist for treatments for any condition caused by wearing the wrong shoes. Even if your feet are a minority shape that most shoes will never really fit, you can enjoy all kinds of shoes as long as you don’t have to wear the same pair for too long at one time.

If you want or need to be ultra-frugal, and you spend large parts of each day indoors, you can give your feet and shoes a rest by going barefoot. If that’s not the case, changing shoes and socks often is the next best thing.

So shoes may be a healthy thing to collect, after all!

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