A Teva by any other name would smell as bad
August 4, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What kind of sandals can I buy as a non-stinky alternative to Tevas?

I love my Tevas. They're incredibly comfortable! By godDAMN do they stink, and make my feet stink. It helps for a little while each time I clean them, but not for long enough.

(It's not just a matter of needing new Tevas - the smell sets in really quickly even when they're new. No other shoe does this to me, so I'm confident that the Tevas are at fault, not my feet. And anyways, Tevas are famously stinky.)

I want to find a brand of sandals that I can buy and wear as my default warm-weather shoes that won't smell so bad. My important criteria: comfortable flats, no toe thong, minimal foot coverage (open-air toe-wiggling is essential, so no typical keens!), with a back strap so I don't feel like they're about to fall off.

(I'm female-bodied but will also happily wear men's shoes if I can find them in my size.)

What are my dream sandals?

Thank you!
posted by 168 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do Chacos have the same problem?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:50 PM on August 4, 2012

Teva smell is awful! I just Googled "Teva smell" and it's clear this is a chronic brand issue. No idea what the deal is with that, but I had to throw two pairs away while still physically intact, which is wasteful - and what's more, my feet are normally not smelly at all. THis problem never occurred with any other shoes I've had.

Keens were my alternative. They're waterproof and sporty and comfy like Tevas. The designs are a little different, but they function well and don't have that weird smell issue.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on August 4, 2012

Keens stink too.
posted by k8t at 7:54 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

This was interesting: "I work in a biological research institute. As two of us have Tevas and both have the same problem we set about finding out why."

The Keens are nowhere near as bad, ever, as my Tevas were. They still need upkeep, but it's orders of magnitude.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I buy shoes from Ecco, which don't stink and are really comfortable.
posted by jeather at 7:58 PM on August 4, 2012

I had some pretty nice Chacos that I grabbed at REI. Very similar...
posted by ph00dz at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2012

Freeze the Tevas in a ziplock bag overnight, then rinse them with a bit of vinegar and let them air dry.
posted by mhoye at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Keens stink unless given some time to dry out between wearings. In general, my Chacos seem to be made of a little less smooshy material and don't seem to have that problem. And they are awesome.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:00 PM on August 4, 2012

Chaco stink
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on August 4, 2012

Any shoes that you wear often, especially in the summer AND in bare feet are going to stink -- this isn't a brand issue. Take the time to care for your Tevas and they'll continue to care for you.
posted by Larus at 8:05 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I tend towards stinky feet, and my Keens are odor-free.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:31 PM on August 4, 2012

My kid's Keens are rank, so I've been reading up on this. Freezer didn't work for us. Washing in the machine did for a few days. Baking soda in the beds seems to help the best.

I may try vinegar next.
posted by k8t at 8:37 PM on August 4, 2012

Huh. It's possible that my slovenly ways are finally proving their merit, for I regularly take my Tevas off in the back yard and leave them there, baking in the sun, and neither of my two pairs stinks, other than the stinky rubber smell that they come with (which is actually what I thought this post was going to be about).
posted by HotToddy at 8:51 PM on August 4, 2012

I think this is likely to be a problem with any similar sandal -- I've had this problem with Tevas, with Birkenstocks, with Keens, and with Chacos. There's not much you can do -- if you wear them in bare feet and they don't always get a chance to thoroughly dry in between wearings, you're going to get some bacterial build-up. Cleaning them with soap and water will only help a little. What you need to do is disinfect them.

Vinegar is a good way to go as bacteria hate it but it's not terribly harsh on clothes. You could just as easily use rubbing alcohol but for some reason white vinegar seems like it's the go-to disinfectant for clothing. Hard ultraviolet light is great too. So what I would do is I would soak the sandals in vinegar and then set them out to dry in the sun to bake in UV for a few days. I betcha that would make a world of difference.
posted by Scientist at 8:52 PM on August 4, 2012

Maybe the best practice for any of these shoes is just to have 2 pair and alternate, so they can dry fully.
posted by Miko at 9:00 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that scientific study confirmed the habitat for the stinky bacteria, but made no mention of how or why it was there. I have worn my tevas pretty religiously for going on six years and never noticed a smell.

It seems to me that certain people are inclined to have a certain balance of bacteria on their feet which allows this Corynebacteria to take over. It's probably like how some people have cavities all the time because their mouths have a certain balance that allows bad bacteria to develop no matter how much they brush, while I went 11 years without a dentist visit (oops) and they just told me to floss more.
posted by sanka at 9:02 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They always seem fully dry when I put them on in the mornings! And seriously, I live in a NYC apartment. I can't just leave them outside in the sunlight.
posted by 168 at 9:02 PM on August 4, 2012

I wore nothing but Tevas for like 5 years, and had this same problem. Showering in them helped a little. BUT! About 2 months ago, I got a pair of Merrell Barefoot Life Wonder Gloves, and now it's the only shoe I'll wear. it's closed-toe, but it's a minimalist shoe with a wider toe box, so my toes don't feel cramped. I've been wearing them around 100+ degree Dallas, and while my feet do get a bit hot after awhile outside/driving around, they don't stink. (Yet?)
posted by hishtafel at 9:05 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never had this problem with Chacos, and I assure you, I do not have abnormally nice-smelling feet.
posted by lunasol at 9:44 PM on August 4, 2012

You should absolutely buy 2 pairs of sandals and rotate them. Wearing any pair of shoes every day (especially with bare feet) greatly increases the stinkage factor! Think of it this way, you wouldn't wear the same socks every day, even leaving them to dry overnight?
posted by Joh at 10:37 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that scientific study confirmed the habitat for the stinky bacteria, but made no mention of how or why it was there.

The ingenious scientists in Miko's link identified the cause as Corynebacteria overgrowth due to the acidic nature of the material the shoes are made of, and recommended slathering shoes and feet with slightly alkaline Marmite (!) as a treatment.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:39 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use a little corn starch to reduce the sticky feeling, and it helps the aroma. They make some tevas with antibacterial stuff; probably helps. I have 1 pair of Tevas, and a similar pair from Bass, and I try to rotate them. A day in sunshine helps, and since I often wear them in water or wet weather, they get that chance to air-dry outside or on a windowsill.
posted by theora55 at 8:48 AM on August 5, 2012

Even if you think your sandals are dry, it may not be enough. For all types of shoes (dress, sneakers, etc.), the rule is--rotate every day. Get another pair and swap them out. You will still have to deep clean them once in a while, but you will not have the severe and constant problem with the smell.
posted by imposster at 8:02 PM on August 5, 2012

Best answer: Anecdotal only, but I've owned Tevas in the past, and they eventually stunk so badly (despite all attempts to wash/clean/bleach/baking soda them) that I've thrown out two pairs. Then I got a pair of Chacos, which I've had and regularly worn for a couple of years, and haven't had an issue.
posted by seventyfour at 1:03 PM on August 6, 2012

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