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This week's tip:
Coping With Smelly Skates


By Linda Wood
(Sept. 22, 2006)

The Smell!

In trying to find a way to describe the stench of inline speed skates, I am at a loss for words. And that, as my friends can tell you, isn't something that happens often.

What I will say is this: It's a smell like nothing else in this world. It makes you want to gag. It's met by expressions like "yuck," "gross" and "nasty." It's what you might get from a high school science experiment gone bad.

And if you happen to be traveling with the World Team and your stuck on a bus loaded with 14 pairs of sweaty skates on a hot day while everyone else goes into a restaurant ... Yikes! ... the thought of it just makes me want to throw up!

So Why Do They Smell?

I can only guess on this one, but based on my experience as a coach, skater and mother of three, I can say that part of the problem is socklessness. Most skaters do not like to wear socks. As a result, there is nothing in their boots to absorb sweat. So the sweat just sits there, which is when things start to grow just like in that scary science project.

One thing that helps is to allow your boots to dry after skating. This means opening them up and leaving them in a well ventilated area for several hours. (In fairness, this can be difficult in humid climates or for skaters with heavy training schedules.)

One of the prime suspects in the Odor Wars is the skate bag. Skaters sometimes put their skates straight into their bags after a workout and don't take them out until the next time they skate. As a result, their boots never properly dry, providing a fertile breeding ground for odor.

And once the odor develops, look out! The next thing you know it will be seeking out fresh victims, just like the creature in "Alien." If you put your shoes on right after skating, they may soon join your skates on the dark side. Then, before you know it, every shoe in your closet will be part of the science experiment! (To avoid this, wipe off your feet after skating and put on clean socks.)

How Do I Curb the Smell?

Honestly, once your skates get to the point that they make you want to gag, there is not a lot you can do. I have literally spent hundreds of dollars on "odor control" gimmicks. I use the word "gimmick" because I have yet to find a guaranteed cure. I have tried charcoal deodorizers, powders (which leave behind a layer of grayish-brown goop) and even the commercial Febreze deodorizer. None have helped significantly.

So How Do You Cope?

Keep your distance! When I'm driving, skates are banished from the inside of the car. They either go in the trunk or in the luggage box (affectionately known in our house as "the coffin") on the roof.

In the house, everyone is supposed to keep their skates in their room. But that doesn't always happen. In their rush, the kids sometimes drop them near the front door. One time, the smell got so bad that my husband sealed the boots with duct tape, put them in a large garbage bag and then duck-tapped that closed. The boys got the point.

At residency with the World Team, where two practices a day are commonplace, I bring a can of air freshener and spray the halls regularly.

I also ask each room to purchase a Glade Scented Oil Fan and keep it running. But I still find myself spraying the halls a couple times a day!


lindawoodLinda Wood fights the good fight against stinky boots as a coach of the Triad Racing speed team in Citrus Heights, Calif., and mother of three skaters. This year she coached the U.S. junior world team that competed in the World Speed Skating Championships in Anyang, South Korea. Last year, she was the team manager.

Related links:

How do you deal with skate odor? ... Share your advice on the Planet forum.

Triad Racing web site.
Triad Racing web site.
Skate Tip of the Week Archive.
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing.
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating


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