Unfortunately, smelly climbing shoes come with the territory of being a climber, with some shoes being renowned for absorbing odor. This is a common problem with synthetic shoes as they don’t have the natural breathability of their leather counterparts.
Regardless of how good your shoes are at dispelling moisture if you are crushing hard and putting your shoes through their paces, the chances are your shoes will start to develop some unwanted fruity odors pretty quickly.
Are they worth it?
There have been plenty of trips and tricks whispered around crags across the world to deal with the smelly climbing shoe dilemma. Some climbers suggest antiperspirant shoe spray or simply leaving your shoes to air out after use. Others suggest more extreme remedies, like freezing your shoes or – perhaps the most unusual one I have come across – putting kitty litter in your shoes.
Thankfully, we have a better, low-effort solution: Boot Bananas. Besides proper shoe storage, this is perhaps the easiest method for de-fuming your funky footwear. These climbing shoe deodorizers use a concoction of natural odor-neutralizing salts and minerals to fight the unwanted funk. Simply slip them into your shoes and let them eat up all those fruity odors. Easy.
So, how well do they work? We put these Banana shoe deodorizers through their paces to find out how good they really are.
What Are Boot Bananas?
Unlike other shoe deodorizers, Boot Bananas were created especially to fight the funk of climbing shoes. It all began when a British climbing couple, Alex and Phil, moved into their new flat. They quickly realized the smell of Phil’s climbing shoe was becoming a problem. After properly cleaning their shoes and trying all the popular deodorizers on the market, it seemed that nothing was up to the challenge.
So the couple decided to create their own solution. They perfected their ‘recipe’ using a blend of natural ingredients including bamboo charcoal, dried lavender, and essential oils. They then created a banana peel exterior, made from 100% cotton, that ‘ripens’ and darkens in color as the shoe deodorizer soaks up moisture. The Boot Bananas are expected to last approximately 6-12 months before needing to be replaced, depending on how pungent your shoes are, of course.
My Boot Banana Review: A Head-to-head Test
For my Boot Banana review, I decided to dig through my collection of climbing shoes to find the worst-smelling pair of shoes I own. The winner of this unfortunate title was an old pair of first-generation models of the La Sportiva Solutions stuffed at the back of my cupboard.
They smell bad. Like really bad. If I remember correctly, these shoes had served several months of service when backpacking across Asia, including several deep water solo trips. The horrible combination of sweat, saltwater, and relentless Asian humidity still haunts me.
As well as testing the Boot Bananas out on climbing shoes, I also decided to test them on a pair of equally disgusting sneakers, after all, the Boot Bananas themselves say they are suitable for “climbing boots, running shoes or any other fruity footwear”. Needless to say, the Boot Bananas have their work cut out.
For this experiment, I used one banana in the Solutions and the other in the sneaker. With the other climbing shoe and sneaker, I bought a popular antiperspirant shoe spray on Amazon to use as a comparison to measure the effectiveness of the Boot Bananas.
Over the course of 1 week, I applied the spray placed a banana in both sets of shoes, and let both work their magic. After seven days I would, reluctantly, re-smell both pairs of shoes and see how much change, if any, occurred.
A week later the results were in. Up first, the antiperspirant spray. While the shoe spray did certainly help reduce the overpowering stench in both the Solution and the sneaker, it didn’t completely eliminate the odor in either shoe. The climbing shoe still has that lingering smell of dampness, and the sneaker also still gives off that sickly sweet smell of sweat. That said, I like that the spray acts as a prevention and remedy, as it can be applied directly to your feet to reduce sweating before putting your shoes on, as well as applied to your shoes after use.
I am sure if this was used more frequently and over a longer duration, like directly before and after using your shoes, the effectiveness of this remedy would improve. That said, this isn’t exactly the hassle-free defuming solution I was looking for.
The Boot Banana, on the other hand, really surprised me. It seems to have done a significantly better job at ridding both shoes of the odor. That damp smell that has been haunting this pair of climbing shoes was significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated, with the use of the Banana. There was also a significant improvement in the smell of the sneaker too, and when comparing the shoe spray, it was clear the Boot Banana had worked some voodoo magic with both of these shoes.
There’s a pretty pungent smell of lavender that comes off these banana shoe deodorizers, but after several days of not having them in, the lavender started to reduce. In honesty, I was half expecting the lavender to just mask the odor rather than eliminate it but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Amazing!
Boot Bananas Alternatives
Boot Bananas aren’t the only climbing shoe deodorizer available. While they have certainly received our seal of approval, If you can’t get your hands on them, or just don’t like the smell of lavender, there are other Boot Banana alternatives available out there.
Bamboo Charcoal has been used for centuries, with evidence of use in China dating back over 500 years. Its excellent natural properties make it the perfect natural remedy for illuminating organic impurities and odors. While boot Bananas do use Bamboo Charcoal, there is an abundance of other bamboo charcoal shoe deodorizers on the market. One of our favorites is the Moso purifying bag.
For starters, these odor eliminators are touted as one of the longest-lasting odor eliminators, lasting over 2 years! We also really like their multifunctional nature that can help remove unwanted odors from shoes, clothes, and closets. Using only 100% bamboo charcoal and a mesh hemp exterior, these are one of the most sustainable options available. Once they reach the end of their life, they also make great plant fertilizer!
Climbing Shoe Spray
Climbing shoe spray is one of the most common remedies for climbing shoe odor prevention, most frequently used at climbing gyms on their rental shoes. While they offer an easy short-term solution to odor issues, as our head-to-head test showed, it will take a more constant application to completely rid your shoes of that smell.
If it’s a climbing shoe spray you are looking for, then this one from Elite Sportz is one of the best. Using a blend of non-toxic and natural ingredients, this spray can be applied to your climbing shoes, and also to your feet to prevent shoe odor build-up.
What Is Your Go-to Climbing Shoe Deodorizer?
It’s been several weeks since I first tested the Boot Banana. Since that initial experiment, I have used them on an almost daily basis for my gym shoes. While they certainly aren’t anywhere as bad as my old Solutions did, I noticed a huge improvement in them too. Hell, our household likes the Boot Bananas so much my partner has even bought a pair!