What Is the Best Way to Wash And Clean Running Shoes?

Last Updated: May 31, 2022

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Running shoes are a big part of a runner’s life. And if they aren’t looked after, they can cause all kinds of problems to a runner’s feet. 

Running shoes must be cleaned properly based on a variety of factors: how dirty they are (and from what), their materials, and the way they are cleaned. The rubber and stitching on your shoes can be damaged and weakened if left muddy and sweaty after a run. There’s also a chance mold will grow there.

It’s important to remember that running shoes do get dirty, but not just from the environment. Running shoes tend to accumulate two main types of dirt. One is natural dirt. You brush up against the leaves and water on the run when out in the mud. 

There is also dirt that will come from you. Sweat, blood, oils, and anything else that you have on you that you rub on and into your shoes come into play as this becomes part of the mix. Because most running is outside, dirt is always going to be involved.

So what is the best way to wash them?

Rubbing Down Method

To remove the heaviest buildup of dirt and mud from running shoes, use a “shoe brush” (a toothbrush) to remove the dirt. This is the method recommended by Adidas.

By clapping the shoes together, you can get most of the dirt off, then put them in a dry place (keep the laces undone and remove the inner sole if possible) and let them dry before you brush them with your (dry) shoe brush.

Then, having shoes ready for their next trip is as simple as letting them dry after running. This only takes a few minutes after your run.

Washing by Hand

REI recommends that you always handwash your shoes. Handwashing is also seen as an effective way to wash shoes. Running shoes are tempting to throw in the washing machine after a hard run, but for the longevity of your shoes (and your machine), we recommend hand washing them.

Here’s how it works:

  •  Remove the insoles and laces. 
  •  Sweep off any debris, then fill the sink with warm water. 
  •  Brush or wipe the gritty parts, then squeeze the shoes. 
  •  Rub the laces between your hands and squeeze the insoles. 
  •  Drain the shoes in the empty sink, then re-squeeze to get rid of the water. 
  •  Make sure to dry the shoes in a warm, airy place and stuff scrunched-up paper inside to help speed up the process. 

They’ll be dry in two to three days, based on where they’re left to dry.

Frequently Asked Questions On Washing Running Shoes

Can I put running shoes in the washing machine?

Taking time-saving measures like this can set you back a pair of shoes. By spinning them, the shoe material will degrade, and you may even damage your washing machine or dryer. Some new washing machines have a hand wash setting, but you do not need to clean your shoes with this method.

How should you wash mesh running shoes?

With an old toothbrush, begin by brushing off any surface mud or debris. Put some mild soap or detergent in a basin of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. Let the shoes soak in the water for a few minutes. Running shoes’ mesh can be cleaned this way easily, but if there is any dirt left, you should scrub it gently with a brush or cloth.

How often should I clean my running shoes?

Getting your shoes dirty and muddy on the trail is inevitable. A bigger issue is losing traction. Slipping and falling can be a problem when you have mud caked on your soles. It’s important to keep your shoes clean if you frequently run on the trails. 

Finally, if you notice that there has been a change in the feel of your shoes, such as when mud over-weighs your shoes, or if they are beginning to smell, then you should clean your running shoes.

How do I clean the insoles of my running shoes?

These can be a problem when it comes to smells, so it’s important to know what to do. Sweat accumulates in insoles, allowing bacteria to grow and cause odors. You can avoid this by cleaning them regularly:

1. Personal preference will determine whether you use a mild soap, baking soda/water paste, or vinegar/water mix.
2. Let them air dry after they are scrubbed, rinsed, and drained.

Look after your running shoes, and you will avoid pain and unnecessary expenditure. Like all shoes, running shoes are worth maintaining for as long as possible.

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