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How to Clean Running Shoes: The Ultimate Guide

How to Clean Running Shoes: The Ultimate Guide

Did you know that the average cost of a pair of running shoes is about £95/$120?

If the only reason you’re throwing away your running shoes is that they look dirty, taking time to clean them could help you save a lot of money throughout the years. As a general rule, you can continue running in your shoes as long as they’re comfortable.

While running shoes aren’t necessarily high maintenance, keeping the sweat and dirt that collects on them will keep them healthy and comfortable. Also, whether you run on trail or pavement, your shoes can become slippery when the outsole is caked with dirt. Therefore, it’s important to brush off the lugs or pattern of the outsole to make sure it offers effective traction at all times.

However, if you’re not sure how to clean running shoes, figuring out the best method can be tricky. The main fear runners have is to damage them inadvertently. That’s why today, we’ve created a complete guide to help you better understand how to clean your running shoes.

Check out our checklist below to quickly learn how to clean your running. Scroll down for a detailed explanation.

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  • Remove the insoles and, if you have time, the laces to clean them separately
  • Use a hardbrush for the sole and a softbruth for the upper
  • Use mild soap for the shoes
  • To clean the insoles, combine 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar (or baking soda)
  • If your shoes are waterproof (e.g. Gore-Tex) then follow the instructions provided by the brand, which sometimes means using a special solution.
  • To air-dry your running shoes faster, place some newspaper inside and around them
  • Air-drying your running shoes will take about 12 hours
  • Never dry your shoes in the sun, with a dryer or next to a heater


How to Clean Your Running Shoes by Hand

If your running shoes are starting to look a little bit dirty, cleaning them by hand is a simple process that won’t take too much time. While a simpler alternative would be to place your running shoes in a washing machine, washing your shoes by hand will be a lot more gentle. Also, it will ensure that your shoes are thoroughly cleaned.

Gather Your Supplies

The first step that you want to take before you begin cleaning your shoes is to gather all of the supplies. The best type of brush for you to use when you’re cleaning your running shoes is a toothbrush with soft bristles. A toothbrush with hard bristles will do for the outsole but may be too harsh for the upper of your shoe, especially if it’s knit.

You’ll also want to ensure that you have some type of sink to wash your sneakers off in. A utility sink is ideal, especially if your shoes are muddy, as washing all of the mud off can get messy.

Grab a mild soap to use on your shoes. However, you should be aware that if they have any type of waterproof membrane (such as Gore-Tex), you may have to invest in a special cleaner for your shoes. Brands generally provide detailed instructions to preserve the effectiveness of their waterproofing.

Don’t forget to grab a hard brush for you to use to scrub off any dirt or mud that skate on to your shoes before you begin the deep cleaning process.

Also, be sure to make ahead of time a solution of two parts water and one part vinegar. This will be used to clean your shoe insoles.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Shoes

If you’ve just come back from a recent run, give your shoes the chance to dry, as any mud or wet dirt that is caked on your shoes will be difficult to clean off. Give the mud and dirt on your shoes the chance to harden, and they’ll be a lot easier to clean off.

Once you’ve found that the mud or wet dirt has dried on your shoes, take a hard brush scrub at the dirt. Using the brush with stiff or hard bristles here will be especially effective to clean off all the dirt that’s stuck in the pattern of the outsole. Some running shoes have outsoles with particularly intricate rubber treads that can be difficult to clean. That’s for example the case with On Running shoes and their CloudTec sole that has an open construction. The tube-like design of the sole makes it an ideal refuge for debris of all kinds. Using a toothbrush or any kind of small brush is ideal here to get rid of all the dirt.

Cleaning the Upper of Your Shoes

To begin cleaning the top part of your shoes, the first step you want to take is to remove your laces. If you notice that your laces are dirty, you can place your laces inside a small mesh bag and let them run through a cycle in your washing machine alongside your regular clothes.

After this is completed, remove the liners and insoles inside of your shoes. Now you can use the soft brush to dust away any mud or caked-on dirt from the top part of your shoes. Make sure to be gentle, especially if the upper consists of knit as it’s possible to rip the thread if you’re not careful. That’s especially true if your shoes are already old and show some signs of wear and tear.

You can scrub the top part of your shoes with the mild soap that you pulled out earlier. However, if your shoes are using a waterproof lining or membrane, make sure that you’re cleaning them with a special solution.

After you finished scrubbing and thoroughly cleaning the top part of the outside of your shoe, rinse the entire part off with clean water in your sink. You can also take this time to renew any waterproofing that you placed on the shoes yourself.

It would also not to fully soak your shoes in water. This is because soaking your shoes in water can damage their fabric. Also, it can also cause the adhesives that are used to keep your shoes together to become weak.

You should also avoid using bleach as its abrasive nature can also cause damage to your shoes.

Cleaning the Insoles

If while you clean the outside part of your shoes that you noticed the insides how to smell that was a little too pungent, you can also clean the inside of your shoes! Properly cleaning your insoles will help to remove a lot of the bacteria inside of your sneakers that cause your shoes to smell bad.

This is where you will use the water and vinegar solution that we discussed earlier. If you don’t have any water or vinegar on hand, you can mix baking soda and water to clean your insoles. Take the insoles out of your shoes and gently wash them with one of the above-listed solutions.

You can scrub your insoles with the soft toothbrush that we mentioned earlier. Just like the rest of the shoes, make sure not to soak the insides of your insoles, as this could increase the chance of you damaging the shape of the foam.

Once you’ve given your insoles a thorough cleaning, rinse them thoroughly with cold water. We recommend avoiding warm water as this could increase the likelihood of your insoles shrinking or losing their shape.

After you’ve rinsed your insoles with water, leave them outside of your shoes to allow them to air-dry.

How to Properly Dry Your Running Shoes

It’s best to avoid placing your shoes inside a dryer as the hot temperatures could distort the shape of the supper and alter the texture of the foams. This could result in your shoes becoming uncomfortable.

Instead, you can place your shoes in an area in your home that has a mild warm temperature, and that doesn’t have a high level of humidity. If you want to speed up the drying process, you could consider placing your shoes in front of a fan. However, avoid placing them in the sun or near a heater. Also, never use a hair dryer.

Air-drying your shoes will take about 12 hours.

You can also use newspaper to absorb the humidity of the shoe faster. This is a great trick if your shoes get soaked after running in the rain or stepping in a puddle. Simply fold a few pages of the newspaper into a ball and place it inside the shoe. You can then wrap the entire shoe with more newspaper and use rubber bands to keep it in place. The newspaper will absorb the humidity and allow te shoe to dry quicker.

Understanding How to Clean Running Shoes Effectively

By having a solid understanding of how to clean your running shoes effectively, you’ll be able to save yourself thousands of dollars throughout the years by extending the life of your current running shoes.

Not only will consistently cleaning your running shoes help them to be comfortable longer, but it will also allow you to run more safely by preserving their traction.

Are you looking for the perfect running shoes that fit your unique and individual needs? Check out our ranking of the best running shoes and compare models based on criteria like comfort and durability.

Kevin Le Gall

Kevin Le Gall

Kevin is the founder and editor of Runner's Lab. He started running in 2015 and completed his first marathon in Rotterdam in 2016. He's also worked for Under Armour from 2016 to 2018 and helped launch their running collection in Europe (in particular the HOVR shoes). In addition, Kevin is a 300-hour certified yoga teacher (Sivananda) and uses this experience to run more mindfully with a focus on well-being over performance.

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