Dealing with Squash Shoe Odor

By Pierre Bastien, squash equipment blogger at

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” —Sun Tzu

You may think your faithful squash equipment correspondent is prone to wandering aimlessly. In one issue I’m talking about squash racquets. In another it’s shoes, or goggles, or whatever. Pages of ink have been spilled meandering through all the equipment options available to the modern squash player.

There is one subject, however, where I never wander or waver, and in fact I maintain CONTINUOUS RELENTLESS FOCUS day in and day out, namely: keeping my squash shoes from getting stinky.

It happens so fast. One day you come home from playing squash and forget to take your shoes out of your bag. No big deal, right? WRONG. Stinky. Game over. It doesn’t matter whether you won the match, because you have just lost the war.

Consider the dread enemy, shoe stank. The first thing to know is your enemy loves a moist environment. This is because bacteria, the enemy’s foot soldiers, thrive in that type of place. (Ew.) As long as you keep using your shoes and working up a sweat, the bacteria that are living there will be happy—and the problem can resurface.

The most important thing you can do to defeat your enemy is let your shoes dry completely after playing squash. Try never to leave them sitting, damp, in your squash bag or your locker or in any space with poor ventilation. If you have removable insoles, remove them after playing and let them dry separately.

I have tried several remedies in the war against stank. My first solution was baking soda. I poured a bit of it into each shoe, shook it around, and let it sit overnight. I knocked the excess out of the shoes before using them again. This was a quick solution, and it seemed to have a positive effect, but it left a thin residue of baking soda on the shoes.

I’ve used Sneaker Balls, which are scented balls you put in your shoes. I’ve even tried putting dryer sheets in my shoes, a suggestion from my friend Jeremy. But I’m not sure if these approaches are actually removing the smell at the source—in other words removing the bacteria—or just masking the smell with fragrance.

The best solution I’ve come across is a product called Active Spray from a company named Defunkify, which was formed by a bunch of chemists from the University of Oregon. They set out to create products that would attack smells at the source, by actually fighting the bacteria as opposed to merely masking the odors with fragrance. They were kind enough to provide your correspondent with some products to test out, which I have done over several weeks.

Active Spray has a nice peppermint scent, which delivers an immediate blast of freshness. But the spray goes further, working to destroy the nasty bacteria down to the microscopic level without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Since starting to use Defunkify on my squash shoes, I’ve had nothing but smooth smelling. I’ve been treating my shoes with the spray after every time I play squash, which is more often than needed, but what can I say—the peppermint smell is nice. And the Defunkify Active Spray comes in a satisfyingly large and easy-to-spray bottle that can reach into all the crevasses of your shoes. Stink, be gone.