Best Way to Clean Running Shoes: A Helpful Guide

what is the best way to clean running shoes

There’s nothing more satisfying than stepping into a pair of clean, minty fresh running shoes.

However, keeping your favorites in pristine condition can be challenging if you’re always on the run. Unless you rarely use your kicks, they will get dirty at some point.

Trail running shoes, in particular, will often be soaked from streams, caked in mud, and covered in debris.

Luckily, cleaning running shoes doesn’t have to be tedious, and that’s exactly what we’ll teach you: the best way to clean running shoes.

Before You Start

Before anything else, you should know a few things to make sure you don’t damage your well-loved kicks as you clean them, namely:

  • Check the care label on your shoes to see if they can be machine-washed or hand-washed.
  • If washing the shoes in the washing machine, put them in a laundry bag and run a gentle cycle using cold water and mild detergent.
  • For hand-washing, scrub the shoes with a soft cleaning brush and soapy water.
  • Take off the laces and insoles and clean them separately.

Things You’ll Need

To clean your running shoes, you need the following:

  • An old toothbrush or anything with soft bristles; never use a brush with hard bristles since it can damage your shoes, especially those with mesh uppers.
  • A hose or utility sink
  • Mild laundry detergent or a specialized footwear cleaner if your shoes have some waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex
  • Mild soap for the insoles
  • Baking soda paste (water and baking soda)
  • Vinegar-water solution (one part vinegar, two parts water)

Best Way to Clean Running Shoes

Now that you have all the necessary tools and supplies, it’s time to bring your dirty kicks back to life.

Here’s the best way to clean your running shoes:

1. Clean the Outsoles

Start by brushing away the dirt, grass, mud, and small rocks from the shoe outsole using an old toothbrush.

Keeping your shoe outsoles clean is essential to preserving their grip and traction. You may need a stick or some sort to remove stuck dirt or debris that has gotten harder.

Removing as much dirt as possible before you wash your shoes ensures you don’t have to deal with a big mess later.

However, if your outsoles have wet mud, you can rinse it off with water or wait until it dries before you brush it off.

2. Wash the Shoelaces

Pull out the shoelaces and clean them with soapy water and a toothbrush.

Add a few drops of laundry detergent to a warm water bowl and soak your shoelaces in it.

If your laces have stubborn stains, you can let them sit in soapy water for a few minutes to soften the debris before gently scrubbing them with an old toothbrush.

You may add a tiny amount of bleach or stain remover before scrubbing them. Lastly, rinse your shoelaces well and dry them.

How to Machine Wash Running Shoes

3. Wash the Insoles

Pull the insoles out of your shoes. Then, add some detergent to a bowl of water.

Dip the corner of the microfiber cloth or towel in soapy water and rub the insoles with it in circular motions.

Clean the top of the insoles’ top and flip them over to wash the bottoms.

Pay extra attention to cleaning the areas near the toes and heels, as that’s where stains and odors are most noticeable.

Instead of soap and water, you may also clean the insoles using a baking soda-water paste or a vinegar-water solution.

4. Clean the Uppers

To clean the uppers, dip your cleaning brush in soap water and gently scrub the entire surfaces of the shoe.

Focus more on areas that have stains, dirt, or other residues, and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Next, clean the midsole using a brush and mild cleaning solution or dish soap.

5. Dry Your Shoes

It’s best to air-dry your shoes in a well-ventilated area. Do not place your shoes in direct sunlight since it can cause excessive wear.

Also, never put your running shoes in a clothes dryer or any heat source because the high temperature can weaken their adhesives and distort their shape.

If you want to speed up the drying process, you can place your shoes near a refrigerator or use a fan.

You can insert the crumpled paper into your shoes to absorb more moisture. It may take 12 hours or more to dry your shoes completely.

How to Machine Wash Running Shoes

Even if your shoes are washer-friendly, washing them in the machine will prematurely break them down.

However, if you choose to do so, place your shoes in a soft bag or pillowcase first.

Putting your running shoes right in your washer could cause them to get tangled and damaged.

Make sure to take all your shoes’ components, such as the laces and the insoles, and zip them into the delicates bag or pillowcase before running the washing machine.

Next, stuff your washing machine with old towels. Your shoes could bounce around inside your machine and damage it, so it’s a good idea to add some cushioning for protection.

Turn the machine to a delicate setting and let the cycle run completely. Avoid using warm or hot water as it could ruin the adhesives in your shoes.

How Often Should You Wash Your Running Shoes?

Regular cleaning can help your shoes run farther. By maintaining your shoes, you don’t just make them look better.

You also delay any damage that dirt and debris will do to them.

How long you clean your shoes will depend on your chosen cleaning process, but it’s worth spending at least 15 minutes to keep them spotless.

Also, give your shoes a quick clean every two to three months to prolong their life.

However, if your shoes get very dirty after running on a muddy trail or pavement, you must clean them immediately to prevent grime and bacteria build-up.

Another tell-tale sign that your shoes need cleaning is when their funky odor begins to offend you.

How Often Should You Wash Your Running Shoes

Other Ways to Take Care of Your Running Shoes

Running shoes are an important investment. A pair of high-quality shoes can prevent foot and ankle damage and make running a more pleasant and comfortable experience.

Once you have made that investment, it’s important that you maintain your shoes properly so you can enjoy them for a long time.

Aside from cleaning your shoes regularly, there are other ways to take care of your running shoes, such as:

Only Wear Them for Running

While running shoes are very comfortable for other activities like walking or working out, you could easily wear out their cushioning.

When you feel that your shoes are losing their bounce, consider replacing them before they wear out excessively and cause injury to your feet.

Rotate a Few Pairs of Running Shoes

Consider getting at least two pairs of running shoes to give each pair a rest and time to dry out, decompress, and bounce back.

An extra day or two without use will help keep your shoes last longer.

Keep Them Dry

Whether you run through wet grass or a flooded trail or simply sweat a lot, you will end up with soaked shoes.

Moisture can easily damage your shoes, so give them plenty of time to dry properly. A simple way to dry your running shoes is to remove the insoles and place them where they can easily dry.

Protect Your Shoes From the Elements

Don’t leave your shoes on the porch where they could be sun-baked for several days. Exposure to extreme heat can degrade the materials of your running shoes.

Keep an Eye on the Miles

Running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles because, around this point, the midsole cushioning won’t be as effective anymore and will stop absorbing shock.

Thus, it’s a good idea to track your runs. You may also look out for the other signs that your running shoes need to be replaced, such as:

  • When you notice that your knees, ankles, or hips get achier after a run. Aches and pains are signs that your shoes’ cushioning has worn down.
  • The midsole of your shoes feels tough, and the treads are worn out.
  • You keep getting blisters or brush burns.

Keep Your Running Shoes Clean

Knowing the best way to clean running shoes is the secret to making them last longer.

By getting rid of any dirt, grime, and bacteria settling on the surfaces of your shoes, you prevent them from degrading.

With better care, your shoes will be able to give your feet cushion, comfort, and protection while you explore the great outdoors.

2 thoughts on “Best Way to Clean Running Shoes: A Helpful Guide”

  1. I usually struggle to clean my running shoes. Your step-by-step guide on how to go about cleaning it is a good guide for me to try.

    I usually use shoe-cleaning foam to clean my running shoes quickly. But have always been disappointed with the results.

    That gives more reason to try out your suggestions- especially about stuffing old towels when going for a machine wash.



    • Hi, Rohit, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      It is great to hear about the benefit of the article too!

      Don’t hesitate to contact me to help you with anything else or if you have any questions.


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