Killer Keens: When Good Gear Goes Bad

“I’ve got your shoes,” my friend’s said in an email.

“Great!” I replied.  “ Send them down as soon as you can.  I need the freezer space.”

I’m a big believer in good shoes, and for me Keens are the perfect travel shoe.  And now that I have the luxury of living in a place where it’s always sandal weather, they’re the perfect shoe for everything.

I expect a lot from them, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when my Keens turned on me.  It was sudden but undeniable.  I would put them on and within half an hour the stench was dizzying.  I washed them constantly, but still, after only a short while, the odor arose. So even though it’s against my nature to replace something that isn’t beyond worn out, I decided it was time for new ones.

The city of Leon, Mexico is about an hour away from me and is a Mecca for shoes.  There are entire malls (big ones, with shuttle buses to take you from shop to shop) of nothing but shoe stores.  I’m not much of a shopper, but I went to check it out.  Didn’t seen any Keens.

So when a friend was coming down from the US, I asked her to bring me pair.  “Black, Venice, size eight and half,” I said.  Easy enough.

I was thrilled when my friend (and my new shoes) arrived.  I slipped a metatarsal pad (necessary for the metatarsalgia I suffer) into the left shoe and headed out.  They felt a little stiff, as a new shoe does, but other than that fine.  At least the left one felt fine.

The toes of my right foot felt like they were hitting the front of the shoe.  Maybe my foot is sliding forward, I thought, and put a metatarsal pad in that side too.   It made it worse.  After two days, my right foot was sore in several places.  Back at the house, I removed my new shoes and took a closer look.

Was I hallucinating?

It appeared that the right show was smaller than left.  I got out the tape measure.  Sure enough, one shoe was a full centimeter shorter than the other.  (In spite of the fact that they both had “Size 8.5” printed clearly on them.)

So my new shoes, went back up to Gringolandia to be returned.  And I went to the internet for stink management strategies.

Dealing with Funky Keens

Foot stink is caused by bacteria.  Various websites offer the following suggestions:

  • Wash your Keens in the wash machine
  • Sun dry for several hours
  • Sprinkle with baking soda
  • Put them in the freezer for several hours

Of course, when you’re traveling, you probably don’t have access to a wash machine or a freezer, probably don’t carry baking soda and are probably wearing your shoes when the sun is shining.  When I’m the road, I deal with podiatric pungency by washing my shoes frequently and rubbing hand-sanitizing gel into the soles.

Here’s wishing you happy, sweet-smelling feet in your travels!

cursedthing's photo of Keens

Keens. Photo by cursedthing.

Published in Gear Guides and Tips

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Meet the Author

Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.


  1. OCDemon

    The suggestions are all just nonsense. You can use an anti-microbial surface that all but eliminates any bacterial growth and then you don’t have to worry about it. Your skin will still be smelly, but nothing else will be. Failing to make use of these strategies is the manufacturer’s fault for failing to make the best product they can. Chacos have the same flaw. Complain! Complain until the world is a better place!

    1. Jennifer Choban Post author

      At the moment I’m busy complaining about the two different-sized shoe. Do you have a shoe you recommend?

  2. Michael Jon Falk

    My Keens have been treating me great! Me and my brother both went on a couple day hike and we both bought new shoes for it. Of course, I wore mine around for about two weeks before the actual hike. I’m not sure if he did. He purchased some Merrells while I bought the keens. Long story short, by the end of day 1 he had a huge blister on his big toe, I mean huge! My feet were great. I still think he wasn’t tying his shoes properly, like so they were snug! You can’t go hiking with lose shoes. Sorry about your Luck Jenny

  3. La Jefa

    Any update on how the new Keens have held up? Or should I say smelled up?

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