Suffering smelly shoes? No sweat, say scientists

Smelly trainers could be a thing of the past, thanks to an airtight shoebox that suffocates the bacteria that lead to foul footwear.

Smelly trainers could be a thing of the past, thanks to an airtight shoebox that suffocates the bacteria that lead to foul footwear.

A team at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London has designed and built a box that contains nitric oxide gas, which poisons the bugs.

The smell in trainers comes from bacteria breaking down the sweat and skin particles that seep into the absorbent parts of the shoes. Conventional cures include running trainers through a washing machine, putting them into the fridge (to put the bacteria into suspended animation) and using "activated carbon"insoles.

Professor Nigel Benjamin, a clinical pharmacologist, and Robin Gilbert, a student, hit on the idea of wiping out trainer bugs with lethal doses of nitric oxide released by the reaction of two chemicals.

"You'd put the trainers in the box and activate it every few weeks," Professor Benjamin told New Scientist. "The treatment leaves it with a nice,disinfectant-like smell."

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