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How To Keep Your FiveFingers From Smelling Like A Gangrenous Skunk

October 18, 2010

As I have said before, I highly recommend FiveFingers as a hiking option on the Camino. But leaving it at that is like recommending a dog as a good fetching/cuddling option – it completely ignores the high level of required maintenance behind said fetching/cuddling technology.

Even post-washing, Steph can't stand the smell.

And while both Fidos and FiveFingers are well worth the investment, I owe it to my readers to divulge the stinky truth: halfway through the pilgrimage my girlfriend could hardly walk behind me without gagging at the smell produced by my FiveFingers.

On the Camino I had only running water and my peppermint Dr. Bronner’s soap to work with. While Dr. Bronner’s is impressively versatile and a perfect solution for pilgrims, it lacks the industrial strength needed to tame the near-visible stink lines emanating from my shoes. Instead of relief, I got peppermint-scented foot odor.

Had I found the FiveFingers’ weakness? Was there any way stop my shoes from smelling like a skunk with gangrene had died in them?

The research began when I returned home. As I expected, the smell immediately improved once I stopped wearing my FiveFingers ALL DAY EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH. But this wasn’t enough; the smell had been downgraded to a non-gangrenous, dying skunk, but that left them still smelling like a dying skunk.

Running them through the wash made the smell somewhat more tolerable still, but had the unwanted side effect of making the rest of the clothes in the washing machine smell like they were in the vicinity of a slightly under-the-weather skunk.

I was on the verge of giving up hope. I guessed I’d have to deal with my FiveFingers being the most fun, natural, stanktacular footwear I’d ever owned.

Then, on a day not unlike any other, @VibramFiveFingers tweeted something so crazy I thought it just might work:

For those of you unfamiliar with Efferdent, it’s a denture cleansing tablet: you put your dentures in a glass of water, throw an Efferdent tablet in there and plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is (that I still have teeth and only need Efferdent for my shoes)!

I bought the Efferdent at Walmart (I figured they’re used to unusual purchases), returned home and filled the kitchen sink with water. After dunking the FiveFingers I dropped in four tablets and watched as the water turned a bubbly blue soda pop.

After fifteen minutes of soaking I removed the shoes and gave them a smell from 10 inches away. Nothing! I moved my nose closer. Still nothing! Finally I went in for a real close-encounter sniff. Skunk!

Still, I was impressed. This was a skunk that minded its manners, and the smell was something I (and my girlfriend) could live with.

And that, my friends, is how I became a regular customer of Efferdent denture cleansing tablets.

For a more thorough and detailed look at eliminating the funk from your VFFs, check out The Definitive Guide to Cleaning Vibram Five Fingers.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. abbyreph permalink
    October 19, 2010 9:50 am

    Very informative and helpful, Mr. Romero! The people around you with their olfactory sense intact thank you!

  2. September 11, 2011 3:57 pm

    Someone on the VIbrams fan site suggested to me that after running them through the washing machine, nuke them in the microwave for about 15 seconds…it worked! Maybe combine this with Efferdent cleaning, then air dry the rest of the way!

  3. Dylan Romero permalink*
    September 12, 2011 1:34 pm

    Interesting! I’m going to have to give that a shot.

  4. Chris Scott permalink
    February 20, 2012 8:13 pm

    I should put in my 2 pennies. I walked the Camino wearing my Clarks (these really nice street shoes). And it is worth noting that while they are not hiking shoes, they were really comfortable, and served me well. And I had only two occasions where I developed blisters on my feet (and those blisters were relatively minor). And, in truth, there was really only a few days when I wished I had shoes that were more of an outdoor type (such as slugging through a marshy detour).

  5. March 5, 2012 11:04 pm

    This is how I clean my five fingers, it’s my little secret and it does not smell afterwards.

    After each wear of five fingers, I always blow at it with a fan. It will help dry up the sweat much more quickly and will slow down the bacteria build up. Once it start to stink or have odor. Usually 1-2 months of wear. I do the following.

    1. I put dish washing soap on the bottom to clean off the oil, dirt, etc.

    2. I put hot water into 5 finger then use Martha Stewart Clean Detergent to clean the inside. I like to keep things as organic as possible.

    3. I boil hot water and pour it into my five finger and let it sit until all the water in the shoe drain. The hot water will kill any bacteria.

    4. I let it sit to air dry at an angle.

    This had help me keep my smelling like new again and does not damage my shoe.

    • Dylan Romero permalink*
      March 6, 2012 9:55 am

      Great ideas, Ken. Thanks! Boiling water doesn’t harm your VFFs?

      • March 6, 2012 1:40 pm

        I just cleaned it yesterday with boiling water, I’ve owned this shoe for over 1 year and 3 months. I don’t really run much in it though, I only walk. But I don’t see any signs of damage. It just becomes odor free afterwards.

  6. June 26, 2012 10:15 pm

    Wish you would keep writing/updating!! Inspire me to walk all over the world please!

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