The Vibram Stench

October 11, 2012

Back in June (I think?), I took the plunge and finally got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

So new. So fresh-smelling.

I mean, the purple ones were on sale, you guys. It was a match made in shoe heaven. I was so excited, I wore them around work the day I got them.

(Not one of my prouder moments.)

Anyway, I had a feeling that these shoes would probably smell a little worse and require a few more washings than typical shoes, since you don’t wear socks with them.

Boy. Hoh boy. I was wrong.

To say I was woefully unprepared to how bad these bad boys started smelling wouldn’t do it justice.

It started off as just a little odor. A slight whiff that would make me wrinkle my nose. A quick run through the washing machine seemed to cure it.

But as time went on, it got worse. And even worse. So bad, that eventually the washing machine stopped helping. They came back out smelling just as bad as they did going in.

I half expected them to grow legs and sharp pointy teeth. And I swear, they growled at me once.

Others noticed, too.

My mother almost gagged when I tricked her into smelling them.

I left them in our back hall overnight once, and when I woke up, my shoes were nowhere to be found. A box of baking powder had taken their place.

Turns out, my boyfriend had put the shoes in the basement because the stench attacked him when he came home.

I stopped wearing them to the gym because they made me so self-conscious that it hindered my workout. I saved them strictly for outdoor running. Even then, the smell trailed me my entire route.

I was on the verge of just tossing them, but I figured before I did that, I’d take to the Internet to see if there was anyone else out there with this problem, and how they’ve dealt with it.

Turns out, there are forums and forums worth of people who apparently have Vibrams that smell just as bad (if not worse) than mine. There’s even a term dubbed the VFF Stench.

Phew! I’m not sure why, but I was feeling very nervous that I somehow had inherited the world’s worse smelling shoes and that nobody could help me.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon researching solutions to my Awful Shoes Syndrome.

Cleaning methods ranged from sticking dryer sheets into them (tried it. Did not work. I was left with shoes that still smelled like rotten cheese, only with a slight, albeit nauseating, floral scent.), to baking soda concoctions, to pet shampoo, to denture tablets.

I decided to try some. Since I didn’t feel like taking a trip to a pet supply store, or the geriatric section of the pharmacy, I tried a homemade solution first.

And you know what? I think it worked! Granted, my shoes are still drying, but from first whiff, it seems they may have been cured. Here’s what I did.

1.) Soaked my shoes in warm to hot water.

2.) Made a paste consisting of baking soda, liquid dish detergent, and water.

3.) Used an old toothbrush to scrub my shoes inside and out with the paste, making sure to get in the toes and paying special attention to the sole of the foot pad.

4.) Rinsed thoroughly with warm water.

5.) Filled the sink with fresh hot water and a cup of vinegar. Let the shoes soak for about an hour, hour and a half.

6.) Rinsed thoroughly and hung them to dry. Since you are supposed to hang them up, toes down, to dry, I had to get creative.

No clothes lines? Doorknobs work.

And check out the reflective gear!

I basically glow in the dark!

They’ve been drying since last night. My sniff test this morning revealed a slightly vinegar-y, but not offensive smell. Fingers crossed they stay that way after my run tomorrow! In the meantime, I’ll be wearing my old Puma’s to the gym today. Those trusty shoes have never given me Stench Foot Paranoia.

Any other readers out there wear Vibrams? How do you keep the smell at bay? While I think my solution worked, I’d be willing to try others!

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7 Responses to “The Vibram Stench”


  1. Besides the stench, how do you like running in Vibrams? I wear Nike Frees but haven’t tried Vibrams yet.

    • lindsayhutton Says:

      LOVE them. They definitely take some getting used to, but I’ll never go back to regular shoes. I know a lot of people who love the Frees, too!

  2. Mom Says:

    Ohhh Lindsay They sure did stink!!! Hopefully you have a solution to the problem, but I will never smell them again!

  3. Brian Says:

    I was rockin the vibrams for a long while. I used to just spray the crap out of them with oxyclean and then wash them and it used to keep the smell at bay (but not completely eliminate it).

    I got a pair of the Brooks Pure Connect (kinda like the Frees but not some much the Nike nonsense). They were phenomenal, my favorite shoe ever, but were worn out really quickly.

    • lindsayhutton Says:

      So what are you wearing now, Sly? I think I’m going to stick with the Vibrams but I might get a second pair so I can alternate and make them last longer.


  4. […] Don’t worry. I left the Vibrams at home and will be rocking the Puma’s for this run. I don’t want to offend my fellow treadmillers with the stench. (Yes. It has returned.) […]


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