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Old 09-14-2008, 08:12 PM   #1
Patrick Donnelly
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Vibram Stench

Well, let me just tell you what I told Vibram Inc. I've been having some troubles with the smell.

Vibram Inc.,

I've been an owner of a pair of FiveFinger Sprints for over a year now, and have slowly grown accustomed to using them for everyday life. In fact, about three weeks ago when I moved to college, I began using them as nearly my only footwear. There's one problem with that: they stink.

They don't just smell, they stink. They omit a foul stench that stalks me throughout the day; an odor so pungent that it surpasses anything any of my senses have ever sensed; a fetor so abrasive to the nostrils that a mere sniff of it could drive a man mad. It's rather unpleasant.

The smell began after two days of rain, where I, riding my bike around campus to get from place to place, had gotten my Vibrams thoroughly soaked. Luckily, there's not much fabric to them, so they dried quickly. After noticing the smell, I washed them, which caused the smell to subside. A week and a half later, the smell had recollected its forces and began to hurl further barrages of odors. Naturally, I washed them again - once again, the smell retreated. Yet, it still was not vanquished. Now the smell is back again, with a vengeance, stronger than ever, dead set on wreaking havoc upon everything in its path! It must be stopped once and for all!

Anyway, yeah. It's stinking up the whole dorm room and even leaking into the halls. How do I fix this for good? I know that when you're completely barefoot, your feet don't acquire a smell because it's difficult for the bacteria to grow when all the sweat evaporates so quickly. The Vibrams seem to be a refugee camp for those exiled bacteria. I can't simply keep washing them, since not only do I lack the laundry to warrant the washes, but I lack the quarters to fund them. That's completely ignoring the fact that the smell is recurring with each wash, and getting stronger each time too.

Any help would be greatly appreciated by myself and by my roommate.

Take care,
Patrick Donnelly
I hope that, if nothing else, it was an interesting read. When I get an official response from Vibram, I'll let you guys know, but they can take several days or more to reply to questions, and if anyone can offer suggestions here sooner than that, I'd be most thankful, for obvious reasons...
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Old 09-14-2008, 08:15 PM   #2
George Mounce
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Re: Vibram Stench

Did you try using antibacterial soap in the sink, rather than just laundry detergent?

I'd also sun-dry them.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:00 PM   #3
Adam Noble
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Re: Vibram Stench

I know what you mean! I love my vff's but have had to stop wearing them because the smell is foul. I have never had particularly smelly feet or shoes, but with in 15 min of putting them on things die in a 10 foot radius. Whats worse is even showering doesn't get the stink off my feet. I have to get silkwood on them to be at ease in my own presence. The smell does get worse with washing....thought I was going crazy. Please let me know if Vibram responds.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:47 PM   #4
Giles Clarke
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Re: Vibram Stench

If there is a swimming pool nearby steal some of the water in a bucket and keep your shoes in it for a day or two. Rinse them off and let them dry. The chlorine should kill a lot of the bacteria and stop them from smelling. I did that with a beloved old pair of sneakers of mine and it worked like a charm. It might fade the color a little bit in the process though.
If there is no pool you can borrow some water from use a bleach/water solution...easy on the bleach.
In the future, you could also give them a quick spray of lysol in the evening when you take them off. I don't know what that will do to the material, but it will kill the bacteria.
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:10 AM   #5
Kirez Reynolds
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Re: Vibram Stench

This is also my only complaint with the shoes; I find myself limiting the amount of time I keep them on.

I'm glad you wrote that letter, I've wanted to do the same. Definitely interested to see the response.

I've worn all leather hiking boots for weeks at a time on long (!!) treks, without trouble, because of a) wool socks, which I swear by and have worn religiously since 2000, and b) charcoal footbeds in my hiking boots. It's really hard to see how VFF could incorporate either of these materials.

The materials (and snug fit) of the VFF are pretty inseparable from the functionality of the shoe. For this reason, I'm expecting the only solution will involve daily maintenance like spraying with a baking soda solution, charcoal powder, or something like that.
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Old 09-15-2008, 09:16 AM   #6
Graham Carless
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Re: Vibram Stench

I have been told that if you freeze trainers/shoes etc for 24 hours then you kill the bacteria and that sops them smelling.

I have not tried it myself (not for a whole 24 hours any way) but I know leaving them out in the freezing night for a few hours does not work.

If you try it tell me how you get on...
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Old 09-15-2008, 09:34 AM   #7
Brad Thompson
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Re: Vibram Stench

I soaked mine in borax - pretty successful.
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Old 09-15-2008, 09:53 AM   #8
Frederic Giraud
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Re: Vibram Stench

Wash'em more regularly
"The results are in the intensity. The magic is in the movement. The art is in the programming."
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Old 09-15-2008, 10:13 AM   #9
Peter Keller
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Re: Vibram Stench

I only wear mine around the house (working out and chores) and whenever they get funky, I throw 'em in the wash. This works fine for me, but I see how I have easier access to facilities than others might.
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Old 09-15-2008, 10:22 AM   #10
Kevin Thomas
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Re: Vibram Stench

I'm a whitewater paddler and we battle stinky gear regularly. The term for it in my sport is "river funk". The enviromentally friendly and effective way to get rid of this sort of bacteria caused smell is: distilled white vinegar. Clean the shoes, soak them in vinegar overnight (can use 25% vinegar to 75%water ratio, but the more vinegar the better), let them dry, and then wash them again. The second wash is to get rid of the vinegar smell. This kills the bacteria and keeps the smell from coming back quickly. I use this method for polypro gear as well as for sandals. It should work for Vibrams as well.

Good luck,
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