What Gives Shoes the New Shoe Smell?

Ahh, the alluring scent of a new pair of shoes – a delightful aroma that many shoe enthusiasts and shoppers have come to appreciate. Whether it’s the latest sneakers, elegant dress shoes, or sturdy hiking boots, there’s something undeniably pleasing about the “new shoe smell.”

But have you ever wondered what exactly causes this distinct fragrance that engulfs our senses when unboxing a fresh pair of kicks? In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the enigmatic chemistry behind the new shoe smell, covering everything from its origins to the key components responsible for its allure.

What gives shoes the new shoe smell?

The new shoe smell primarily arises from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by materials like adhesives, solvents, and leather during the manufacturing process. These compounds release distinct odors that create the alluring fragrance associated with new shoes.

ComponentRole in New Shoe Smell
Volatile OrganicEmitted by adhesives, solvents, and other materials
Compounds (VOCs)during manufacturing, releasing distinct odors.
LeatherNatural material used in shoe uppers and linings
releases aliphatic aldehydes, fatty acids, and
esters, contributing to the unique leather smell.
Adhesives andDuring the bonding process, adhesives emit VOCs
Curingthat add to the aroma.
Storage andEnclosed packaging and transit increase the
Shippingconcentration of VOCs, intensifying the smell.
IndividualPerception of the new shoe smell varies due to
Sensitivityindividual sensitivity to odors and olfactory
NostalgiaThe new shoe smell triggers positive memories and
excitement, creating a sense of nostalgia.
EnvironmentalVOC emissions from shoes contribute to indoor air
Impact and Safetypollution and health issues. Compliance with
Concernsregulations ensures safety and eco-friendliness.

Origins of the New Shoe Smell

Before we delve into the chemical composition of the new shoe smell, let’s take a moment to understand its origins. The captivating aroma that permeates new shoes is primarily a result of the materials used in their construction. Shoes are often made from a combination of various synthetic and natural components, and the interaction between these materials gives rise to the characteristic scent we associate with a freshly purchased pair.

II. Key Players in the New Shoe Smell

A) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of carbon-based chemicals that easily vaporize at room temperature, releasing odorous molecules into the air. Many of the materials used in shoe manufacturing contain VOCs, such as adhesives, solvents, and plasticizers. Common VOCs found in new shoes include toluene, xylene, benzene, and ethylbenzene. These compounds are known to have distinct odors that contribute to the overall new shoe smell.

B) Leather and Its Chemistry

Leather, a popular material for shoe uppers and linings, plays a significant role in the fragrance of new shoes. The unique smell of leather arises from the presence of aliphatic aldehydes, fatty acids, and esters. As leather is a natural material, it undergoes various chemical processes during tanning and finishing, resulting in the release of these aromatic compounds.

III. The Manufacturing Process and Aroma Retention

A) Adhesives and Curing

The bonding process in shoe assembly involves the use of adhesives, which can emit volatile organic compounds during curing. Once shoes are manufactured, they are often placed in enclosed boxes or packaging. This environment allows the aroma to accumulate and become more concentrated, intensifying the new shoe smell experienced upon opening the box.

B) Storage and Shipping

The journey from the manufacturing facility to the retail store involves storage and transportation, which can also influence the aroma retention. The concentration of VOCs in the shoes can increase during transit, contributing to the strong smell upon purchase.

IV. The Perception of Aroma

A) Individual Sensitivity

People’s perception of odors can vary significantly due to individual sensitivity and previous olfactory experiences. While some may find the new shoe smell pleasant and nostalgic, others might perceive it as overwhelming or unpleasant.

B) The Power of Nostalgia

For many, the new shoe smell is more than just a scent; it’s associated with positive memories, excitement, and anticipation. The smell of new shoes can evoke nostalgia and trigger emotions related to the joy of acquiring something fresh and desirable.

V. Environmental Impact and Safety Concerns

A) VOC Emissions and Air Quality

The release of volatile organic compounds from shoes contributes to indoor air pollution. Prolonged exposure to elevated VOC levels can lead to health issues, such as headaches, respiratory problems, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting eco-friendly adhesives and materials to reduce VOC emissions.

B) Regulations and Standards

Various countries have established regulations and standards to limit VOC emissions from consumer products, including shoes. Compliance with these standards ensures that shoes are safe for consumers and environmentally responsible.

How do I make my shoes smell brand new?

To make your shoes smell brand new, clean them thoroughly, remove insoles and laces, air dry completely, deodorize with baking soda or activated charcoal, use dry tea bags for leather shoes, ensure proper ventilation, alternate between pairs, and maintain good foot hygiene. These simple steps will eliminate odors and keep your shoes fresh.

Making your shoes smell brand new involves a few simple and effective strategies. Follow these steps to refresh your shoes and eliminate unwanted odors:

  1. Clean the Shoes: Start by cleaning the shoes thoroughly. Use a damp cloth or a soft brush to remove any dirt, dust, or debris from the surface. For fabric or canvas shoes, you can also consider gentle machine washing if the material allows it.
  2. Remove Insoles and Laces: Take out the shoe insoles and laces (if applicable) from your shoes. These components can trap odor-causing bacteria and sweat, contributing to unpleasant smells.
  3. Wash Insoles and Laces: If your shoes have removable insoles and washable laces, follow the care instructions and wash them separately to eliminate odors.
  4. Air Dry: Allow the shoes and insoles to air dry completely before proceeding. Avoid using direct heat sources like heaters or hair dryers, as excessive heat can damage certain shoe materials.
  5. Deodorize with Baking Soda: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and can help neutralize odors. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight. In the morning, shake out the excess baking soda.
  6. Use Activated Charcoal: Place a small pouch of activated charcoal inside the shoes to absorb and eliminate lingering odors. Activated charcoal is excellent at trapping odor molecules.
  7. Tea Bags for Leather Shoes: For leather shoes, you can use dry tea bags as a deodorizer. Insert a few unused tea bags into each shoe and leave them overnight. Tea bags can help absorb odors and add a subtle fresh scent.
  8. Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation for your shoes when they are not in use. Avoid storing them in closed spaces or plastic bags. Instead, use shoe racks or allow them to breathe in open areas.
  9. Alternate Shoes: Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Rotating between multiple pairs allows shoes to air out and reduces moisture buildup, which can lead to odor.
  10. Foot Hygiene: Lastly, maintain good foot hygiene. Wash your feet daily, and consider using foot powders or antiperspirants to reduce sweat and odor.

By following these steps, you can effectively eliminate odors and make your shoes smell fresh and brand new. Remember that regular maintenance and good foot hygiene are key to keeping your shoes smelling pleasant over time.

Why do new shoes smell like chemicals?

New shoes often smell like chemicals due to the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by the materials used in their manufacturing process. These VOCs are commonly found in adhesives, solvents, dyes, and synthetic materials like rubber and plastics.

When shoes are freshly made, these compounds release odorous molecules into the air, creating the distinct chemical-like smell. The enclosed packaging during storage and shipping can further concentrate the odor, making it more noticeable when you unbox your new shoes. Over time, these VOCs gradually dissipate, and the smell diminishes.

What makes shoes smell better?

To improve shoe smell, maintain foot hygiene, use moisture-wicking socks, alternate between pairs, replace insoles if necessary, promote ventilation during storage, use natural deodorizers like baking soda or activated charcoal, try freezing shoes, wipe with vinegar solution, expose to sunlight, and insert tea bags for leather shoes.

Several methods can help improve the smell of shoes:

  1. Proper Foot Hygiene: Ensure that your feet are clean and dry before wearing shoes. Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly, paying special attention to spaces between toes.
  2. Moisture Control: Moisture and sweat can lead to odor-causing bacteria. Use moisture-wicking socks or consider using foot powders to keep your feet dry.
  3. Alternate Shoes: Give your shoes time to air out between wears. Rotating between multiple pairs allows shoes to dry and reduces odor buildup.
  4. Insole Replacement: If your shoes have removable insoles and they are causing the odor, consider replacing them with new ones.
  5. Ventilation: Allow your shoes to breathe by avoiding enclosed spaces for storage. Use shoe racks or open shelves instead.
  6. Deodorizers: Use natural deodorizers like baking soda or activated charcoal to absorb and neutralize odors inside shoes.
  7. Dryer Sheets: Placing dryer sheets inside shoes can help add a fresh scent and combat unwanted odors.
  8. Freezing Method: Seal shoes in plastic bags and place them in the freezer overnight. The cold temperature kills odor-causing bacteria.
  9. Vinegar Solution: Wipe the insides of shoes with a mixture of water and vinegar to eliminate bacteria and odors.
  10. Sunlight Exposure: Sunlight has natural antibacterial properties. Leave your shoes outside in direct sunlight for a few hours to help eliminate odors.
  11. Tea Bags for Leather Shoes: For leather shoes, insert dry tea bags to absorb odors and impart a subtle fresh scent.

Remember that consistent foot hygiene, proper shoe care, and regular maintenance are key to preventing and combating shoe odors effectively.

Does baby powder make shoes smell better?

Yes, baby powder can help make shoes smell better. Baby powder contains ingredients like talcum powder or cornstarch, which have excellent moisture-absorbing properties. When sprinkled inside shoes, baby powder helps to absorb excess moisture and sweat, which are common contributors to shoe odor.

Additionally, many baby powders have a pleasant scent that can mask and freshen up any existing odors in the shoes. However, it’s essential to ensure the baby powder is thoroughly shaken out before wearing the shoes to prevent any discomfort or residue buildup.

Why do new sneakers smell so good?

New sneakers often smell good due to the combination of fresh materials and the manufacturing process. Several factors contribute to the pleasant scent of new sneakers:

  1. Fresh Materials: New sneakers are made from a variety of materials, including leather, fabric, rubber, and synthetic components. These materials have not been exposed to dirt, sweat, or other environmental factors that might contribute to unpleasant odors.
  2. Clean Manufacturing: During the manufacturing process, sneakers go through various stages, including cutting, stitching, and bonding. Manufacturers use adhesives and dyes that emit a pleasant smell when freshly applied.
  3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): As mentioned earlier, some materials used in sneakers may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that produce the distinct “new shoe smell.” These VOCs can have a pleasant fragrance, contributing to the appealing scent.
  4. Nostalgia and Positive Associations: The smell of new sneakers can trigger positive emotions and nostalgia, especially for sneaker enthusiasts or those who have fond memories associated with getting a new pair of sneakers.
  5. Packaging and Enclosed Environment: New sneakers are often packaged and stored in a sealed box or container before purchase. This enclosed environment allows the aroma of the sneakers to concentrate, making it more noticeable when the box is opened.

It’s worth noting that the perception of the “good” smell can be subjective and may vary from person to person. Some individuals may find the scent of new sneakers appealing and exciting, while others might not have the same preference.


What is an instant solution for shoe smell?

An instant solution for shoe smell is using a deodorizing spray or powder specifically designed for shoes. These products can quickly neutralize odors, leaving your shoes smelling fresh.

Does shoe smell ever go away?

Yes, shoe smell can go away with proper care and maintenance. Regularly cleaning and deodorizing shoes, allowing them to air out, and using moisture-wicking socks can help eliminate persistent odors.

Why do some shoes smell and others don’t?

Shoe smell can vary based on factors such as materials used, foot hygiene, and ventilation. Shoes made from synthetic materials may trap more moisture and odor-causing bacteria, leading to unpleasant smells.

Why do new leather shoes smell?

New leather shoes smell due to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the tanning and finishing process. These VOCs give the shoes their characteristic leather scent.

Why do replica shoes smell?

Replica shoes may emit a strong smell due to the materials and glues used during their production. Inferior quality materials can result in more noticeable odors.

Are smelly shoes normal?

Occasional shoe odor is common, especially if proper foot hygiene and shoe maintenance are neglected. However, persistent and strong shoe odor may indicate an issue that needs attention.

Does Febreze work in shoes?

Yes, Febreze or similar fabric fresheners can work in shoes to neutralize odors. Spray the product inside the shoes, and let them air out before wearing.

Can tea bags get rid of smelly shoes?

Yes, placing dry tea bags in shoes can absorb and reduce odors. Tea bags have natural deodorizing properties.

Does baking soda help smelly shoes?

Yes, baking soda is an effective natural deodorizer for shoes. Sprinkle it inside the shoes, let it sit overnight, and shake out the excess before wearing.

Should I put talcum powder in my shoes?

Yes, talcum powder can help absorb moisture and reduce odors in shoes. Sprinkle a small amount inside the shoes before wearing.

Is talcum powder good for shoes?

Yes, talcum powder is good for shoes as it absorbs moisture and can help keep them smelling fresh.

Why do people put powder in their shoes?

People put powder in their shoes to absorb moisture, reduce odor, and maintain a fresh scent.

Why do some people like the smell of new shoes?

Some people associate the smell of new shoes with positive emotions and nostalgia, which can lead to a liking for the scent.

How can I deodorize my shoes naturally?

Natural shoe deodorizers include baking soda, activated charcoal, and dry tea bags. These items absorb odors effectively.

How can I deodorize my shoes without washing them?

Use deodorizing sprays, powders, or natural remedies like baking soda or tea bags to deodorize shoes without washing them.

How can I freshen my shoes without washing them?

Freshen shoes by using deodorizing sprays, powders, or natural remedies like baking soda or tea bags. Allow the shoes to air out after applying.

Can others smell my smelly shoes?

Yes, others may notice the smell of smelly shoes, especially in close proximity.

Does washing shoes stop them smelling?

Washing shoes can help eliminate existing odors by removing dirt and bacteria. However, improper drying and storage can lead to new odors.

Does wearing shoes without socks cause bad smell?

Wearing shoes without socks can increase moisture buildup, leading to bacterial growth and bad smells.

Does baking powder work in shoes?

Baking soda (not baking powder) works effectively in shoes as a natural deodorizer.

How do you get rid of shoe smell?

To get rid of shoe smell, clean the shoes, use deodorizing sprays or powders, and ensure proper foot hygiene and ventilation.

How long does it take new leather smell to go away?

The new leather smell typically diminishes within a few weeks as the VOCs dissipate.

Does leather smell ever go away?

The initial strong leather smell of new shoes gradually fades with time and proper ventilation.

Is it illegal to wear replica shoes?

The legality of wearing replica shoes may vary based on local laws and regulations. However, selling counterfeit goods is generally illegal.

Is it illegal to order replica shoes?

Ordering replica shoes may be considered purchasing counterfeit goods, which can be illegal in some jurisdictions.

Are my StockX shoes fake?

StockX is a reputable marketplace for authentic sneakers. If you have concerns about the authenticity of your shoes, you can use StockX’s authentication service.

Why do women’s shoes smell?

Women’s shoes, like any other shoes, can develop odors due to moisture and bacteria buildup. Proper foot hygiene and shoe care can help prevent this.

Does hand sanitizer help smelly shoes?

Hand sanitizer can temporarily mask shoe odor, but it may not effectively eliminate the root cause of the smell.

Can hand sanitizer deodorize shoes?

Hand sanitizer can provide a temporary deodorizing effect, but specialized shoe deodorizers are more effective.

How do you get rid of new product smell?

To get rid of the new product smell, air out the item in a well-ventilated area, use natural deodorizers, or apply fabric fresheners.

Why do some shoes smell worse than others?

Shoes can smell worse than others due to factors like material composition, foot hygiene, and ventilation.

How do you get rid of new rubber smell?

To reduce the new rubber smell, allow the item to air out in a well-ventilated area for a few days.

Does talcum powder stop feet smelling?

Talcum powder can help absorb moisture and reduce foot odor by keeping the feet dry.

Should I put baby powder in my socks?

You can put baby powder in your socks to help keep your feet dry and prevent odors.

Why do people put baby powder on their feet?

People use baby powder on their feet to absorb moisture, reduce friction, and prevent odors.

What is a natural shoe deodorizer?

Natural shoe deodorizers include baking soda, activated charcoal, tea bags, and essential oils.

Does vinegar stop smelly shoes?

Vinegar can be used to help eliminate odors by neutralizing bacteria. However, it can also leave behind a vinegar smell, which may require additional airing out.


The new shoe smell is a fascinating interplay of chemistry and nostalgia, stemming from the unique materials and processes involved in shoe manufacturing. Understanding the chemistry behind this aromatic mystery adds a layer of appreciation to the act of unboxing a new pair of shoes.

However, it is crucial to be aware of potential health and environmental implications associated with volatile organic compounds. As we continue to innovate and develop more sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, we can savor the new shoe smell with a clear conscience, knowing that our favorite footwear is not only stylish but also eco-friendly and safe.