If you're having stinky shoe problems, then I feel bad for you son!
But seriously ... that sucks.
Smelly shoes plague many climbers, since most of us don't wear socks in the tight little foot prisons we call climbing shoes. There are many solutions to this problem on the market, and we're very excited to offer one of the latest anti-shoe stank creations here in our gear shops this week! With the added bonus that it was created by one of our very own employees, Ross Nelson, of Summit Denton. His invention is called Gnarly Feet - two balls of silica gel beads that you place in each shoe. Instead of masking foot odors with perfumes and scents, Gnarly Feet works by drying out your shoes, creating an environment too dry for bacteria to grow! Some other shoe deodorizers can leave weird smells or leftover residue, but Gnarly Feet aims to not just cover your foot stank, but eliminate it by wrecking shop on the bacteria that grows in your shoes. It's a great idea, so we sat down with Ross, so he could explain more on the product as well as his own genius self.
Tell me about yourself.
I started working at Summit Denton the day that we opened, so about a year now. I am a student at UNT, studying biology. But now I am thinking of integrating more business into my degree.
I have only been climbing for two years, maybe a little less than that. I started primarily to lose weight. I had tried running and going to the gym at UNT, and but I didn’t like it at all. But then my friend Liam, who is a really good climber, showed me climbing and I was like, I could get into this! I climbed for about seven months, before working at Summit.
How did Gnarly Feet come about?
I was talking to Adam one day (the GM of Summit Denton), about how there are similar products out there, but all of them aren’t super great — just in the way that they’re made, and the stuff that’s inside of them — whether that’s for the person that’s using it or for their shoes, or for the environment. So Adam suggested just drying the shoes out. I was like, "Oh, we just learned in biology class how most bacterial cells can’t live without water! It’s called desiccation." So I wanted to try to apply that to my climbing shoes.
To test it out, I just went out and got silica packets, and put them in my shoes and the next day, they smelled half as bad as they originally did, and they were really dry. When I put my shoes on, instead of it feeling slimy, it felt completely dry. It felt like a newer shoe, so I was like, "This could work!"
Any other companies out there selling desiccants?
There is one company, that is very small, that had the idea to make it — but luckily it is not patentable because it’s so obvious! But they added stuff into it to make it smell good, and the core of that is not good for the environment, because it's not biodegradable. They also used silica gel crystals instead of beads, so they rub against each other, break, and then the dust would actually leech into the shoe and cause small cuts into the leather. Because the leather is so soft because of the sweat, it cuts into the leather and you get this weird consistency of leather inside the shoe. So Gnarly Feet uses silica beads instead, which don’t break apart as easily, unless you’re really manhandling them. Gnarly Feet has nothing else added that would be harmful.
What was the creation process like?
I wanted to see if it was possible, so I originally was just going to make a couple pairs and see if they work. I tested them pretty hard, like how strong they were. I was in my apartment throwing them against the wall as hard as I could to see if they burst. When they didn’t, I had to test them with microwaving to make sure they didn't melt, so for a while, my microwave at my apartment was filled with a couple pairs. I’d even over-microwave them just a couple more minutes past how much they were supposed to be tested for, just to see! Luckily they never melted. (Ross is renting an apartment, by the way. Hope his landlord isn't reading this ... )
Summit is the first real distributor of the product, but I technically sold my first pair to a guy on my climbing team at UNT, after he saw when I posted them on Instagram.
Now I want to see how far I can take it!
So there you have it! If you've been having smelly shoe problems, we now carry Gnarly Feet at every Summit location! So come try it out and support Ross!