I've always been a very sweaty lady with exceptionally sweaty feet, but that fact hasn't deterred me from wearing sneakers without socks. But two years of sweat were two years too long for my trusty Nikes, which I finally retired from my wardrobe a couple of weeks ago.
I bought these black Nikes in spring 2013, ostensibly to wear to the gym, and although I did wear them while running, I ended up wearing them much more while running errands or running to a bar to meet up with friends. (What can I say? I really embraced the athleisure trend.) If I was working out, I would throw on a pair of socks, but if I was just walking around, I would let my feet go bare. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. The sneakers were breathable enough and I didn't think it would be that bad. But hundreds of barefoot miles later, my sneakers are showing and smelling their age.
All sneakers need to be replaced eventually, but in my experience, wearing sneakers without socks rots the shoes from the inside out. If you think keeping the outsides of sneakers clean is a struggle, imagine how terrible it gets when you're sweating through the insides, too. (If that fate's too grim to imagine, let me assure you that it's bad, even if your sock-less feet look good in those kicks.)
Here are seven things that happen when you wear sneakers without socks, and believe me when I say I know what I'm talking about:
1. Your Sneakers Stink...
It sounds obvious, but it's true and it's really the worst part of wearing sneakers without socks. I went to a friend's house and she asked us all to take off our shoes and I was literally embarrassed to do so because I knew the scent from my sneakers would waft into the air and make me, and probably everyone else around me, wildly uncomfortable — and that's when I knew these sneakers were done. When you wear sneakers without socks, they will smell, no matter how much Febreze you spray on them.
2. And They'll Change Color...
Some of this is just regular wear and tear, but you can see how the insides of my sneakers turned from white to grey. Seriously compare the insides of the shoes to the white soles because it's really not cute. You can blame the sweat for that one, as well as the dirt from my feet.
3. And There Might Be Some Mold
I really don't know what that green spot on the heels of my sneakers is, but I think it might be mold because I don't have any other guesses. The point is that the combination of sweat, moisture, and the lack ventilation probably did not help.
4. You Get A Couple Of Blisters, Especially At The Start
Yes, wearing comfortable sneakers is like stepping on clouds, but sneakers need to be broken in, too, and if you're breaking in any pair of shoes without socks, you're going to get some blisters because your bare feet are just rubbing up against the shoe. For me, that meant blisters on the back of my heels. There was a sweet spot after about a year when I got no blisters from these sneakers, but as the shoes got older and more worn out, the blisters returned.
5. Putting Them On Starts To Feel Gross
Another clear sign that my sneakers were ready for retirement came when putting my bare foot into them felt like stepping on a wet sponge. Because I've worn those sneakers for such a long time without socks, the cushions on the inside absorbed all of the moisture from my sweaty feet, which makes the process of putting them on cringe-worthy. It's gotten so bad that I can still feel the dampness if I'm wearing socks, a feeling I really wouldn't wish on even my worst enemy.
6. You Can't Keep Them For Long
There are several different theories about when to retire running shoes. Some are based on mileage, others are based on age. But the long and short of it is that if the cushioning in the shoes is shot, you should replace them because they won't actually protect your joints as you exercise (or something like that. Remember how I don't really work out?). You can test this by putting one hand inside the shoe and pressing your other hand on the sole. If you can't feel your fingers on either side, you should be fine.
I did this test for my Nikes, and they were actually fine. There's still plenty of cushion left. (Again, I can't express how rarely I wore these to the gym.) But I still have to get rid of these sneakers because they smell too bad and make me gag a bit when I put them on, despite the fact that they work just fine.
7. You Learn Your Lesson With The Next Pair
For all of the reasons I outlined above, I broke down and bought a new pair of Nikes a couple of weeks ago. The Nike Free 5.0 is made of a slightly more breathable fabric, which will hopefully help them air out a bit and prevent some of that aforementioned mold. But I'm taking preventative measures this time and have sworn to only wear these sneakers with socks. My feet are always going to be sweaty, and so I should stop trying to tempt fate and wear socks with my sneakers so they don't smell or change color or get moldy or become too gross to wear in polite company.
The moral of this story is to wear socks with your sneakers. I promise it's worth it in the long-run.
Images: Maxine Builder; Giphy