How to Clean Your Running Shoes Like a Pro

To wash running shoes, remove the laces and insoles and wash them separately with mild detergent and lukewarm water. Then, use a soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent to gently clean the exterior of the shoes, being careful not to damage any delicate materials.

As a runner, you know that your trusty pair of running shoes can get quite dirty and smelly after a while. Whether it’s from slogging through muddy trails or running in the rain, it’s important to know how to properly wash your running shoes to keep them looking and performing their best for as long as possible.

In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for washing your running shoes without causing any damage. From removing the laces and insoles to choosing the right cleaning products, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive in!

How to Clean Your Running Shoes Like a Pro


Understanding Your Running Shoes

Running shoes are an essential part of the runner’s kit. They provide comfort, protection, and stability during long runs. But, do you know your running shoes inside and out? It’s essential to have some understanding of your running shoes before cleaning them.

Here are a few things you should know.

Types Of Running Shoes And Their Materials

Running shoes come in various types, each with specific features designed for a particular purpose. Understanding your shoe type and material is vital to avoid damaging them during cleaning. Here are some of the most common types of running shoes and their materials:

  • Road running shoes: These shoes are designed for running on pavements and are the most common type of running shoe. They often have mesh or synthetic uppers, which make them lightweight and breathable.
  • Trail running shoes: These shoes are sturdy and designed for running on trails. They have thicker soles and durable uppers made of synthetic materials like nylon, gore-tex, or mesh.
  • Minimalist running shoes: These shoes have minimal padding and support, designed to mimic barefoot running. They are lightweight and often made of mesh or synthetic materials.
  • Stability running shoes: These shoes offer added support for runners who have overpronation issues. They often have denser foam and midsoles than standard running shoes and are made up of synthetic over-layer, mesh uppers, and rubber soles.

Factors To Consider Before Cleaning Your Running Shoes

Cleaning your running shoes is essential to maintaining their quality and lifespan. However, there are a few things that you need to think about before washing them. Here are some factors to consider:

  • The frequency of use: The more frequently you use your running shoes, the more often you should clean them.
  • The type of terrain: If you run on muddy or dusty roads, your shoes will accumulate more dirt, which means more cleaning is required.
  • The weather conditions: Wet climate conditions will make your shoes damp, so it’s vital to keep them clean and dry, especially after a rainy run.
  • The cleaning process: Choose the right cleaning products and avoid using hard brushes, harsh detergents, or bleach. These products can cause damage, weakening the shoe’s fabric and causing the colors to fade.
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What To Avoid When Cleaning Your Running Shoes

Cleaning your running shoes the right way is vital to avoid any damage. There are a few things that you should avoid when cleaning your shoes, such as:

  • Hot water: Using hot water while cleaning can damage your shoe’s fabric, causing the colors to fade, and deteriorating the adhesive.
  • Dryers or heaters: Avoid using dryers or heaters to dry your shoes after cleaning. The heat can cause the glue or adhesive to loosen, causing the shoe’s parts to fall apart.
  • Direct sunlight: Sunlight can cause heat damage, leading to the same issues caused by the dryer or heaters.
  • Abrasive brushes: Using hard brushes or abrasive surfaces can cause irreparable damage to your shoes, causing holes and tears in the fabric.

Understanding your running shoes is vital when cleaning them. Consider the shoe type and materials, the frequency of use, weather conditions, and the cleaning process to clean them correctly. Avoid using hot water, dryers, heaters, direct sunlight, and abrasive brushes in the cleaning process to prevent any harm to your shoes.

Pre-Cleaning Preparation

Running shoes require frequent washing, both for hygiene and maintenance reasons. However, washing running shoes is a task that requires preparation. Before you dive in, you need to gather all the necessary cleaning supplies, remove excess dirt and debris, and remove your insoles and shoelaces.

Here’s how.

Gathering All Necessary Cleaning Supplies

Before you start cleaning your running shoes, you need to ensure that you have the right supplies on hand. Here are some essential cleaning tools you will need:

  • Water: You will need plenty of water to wet and rinse your shoes.
  • Soft-bristled brush: A brush with soft bristles helps to scrub off dirt and debris without damaging the material.
  • Mild detergent: Choose a gentle detergent that is safe for your shoes’ material.
  • Towel or rag: You will need a towel or rag to wipe off excess moisture and clean away any remaining dirt.
  • Newspaper: You can use newspaper to stuff your shoes, helping them to maintain their shape as they dry.

How To Remove Excess Dirt And Debris From Your Shoes

The first step to washing your running shoes is to remove any excess dirt or debris from the surface. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a brush to scrape off any loose dirt or mud from the shoe’s surface.
  • If you have any dried-on dirt or mud, you can use a damp cloth to moisten the area, making it easier to scrub.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the shoe’s surface, working in circular motions. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the material.
  • Once you have removed as much dirt and debris as possible, wipe the shoes down with a clean, damp cloth.

How To Remove Shoelaces And Insoles

Once you have removed the dirt and debris from the surface, it’s time to remove your shoelaces and insoles. Here’s how:

  • Pull the shoelaces out of your shoes and set them aside.
  • Take out the insoles and set them aside.
  • Check the inside of your shoes for any remaining dirt or debris and use a brush to remove it.
  • Once you have removed the dirt and debris, you can wash the shoelaces and insoles separately.

By following these steps and gathering all the necessary supplies, you are now ready to wash your running shoes. Remember to let them air dry completely to avoid any potential damage, and your shoes will be ready for your next run.

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Cleaning Your Running Shoes

Different Cleaning Methods Based On Shoe Material (Mesh, Leather, Suede)

Running shoes come in several different materials, each requiring specific cleaning techniques. It’s important to know your shoe’s material before starting the cleaning process. Here are some ways to clean your running shoes based on their material:

  • Mesh shoes:
  • Remove the laces and insoles.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush off any loose dirt and debris.
  • In a bowl, mix warm water and a mild detergent soap.
  • Dip a soft-bristled brush in the solution and gently scrub the shoes.
  • Rinse the shoes with warm water and let them air dry completely.
  • Leather shoes:
  • Remove the laces, insoles, and any dirt with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Mix equal parts of warm water and vinegar in a bowl.
  • Dip a soft cloth in the solution and gently rub the shoes, focusing on the dirty areas.
  • Wipe the shoes with a clean, damp cloth and let them air dry.
  • Once dry, apply a leather conditioner to the shoes.
  • Suede shoes:
  • Use a suede brush to remove dirt and debris from the shoes.
  • In a bowl, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water.
  • Dip a soft cloth in the solution and gently rub the shoes.
  • Use a clean cloth to remove any excess moisture, and let the shoes air dry.
  • Once dry, use a suede brush to restore the suede’s nap.

How To Use A Washing Machine For Cleaning Shoes

Washing machines can be used to deep clean running shoes, but it’s essential to follow the necessary precautions to prevent damage. Here’s how to clean your running shoes using a washing machine:

  • Remove the laces and insoles.
  • Place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag to protect them from agitation.
  • Use a gentle cycle, cold water, and mild detergent to clean the shoes.
  • Once the cycle is complete, remove the shoes from the laundry bag and let them air dry completely.
  • Avoid using a dryer or direct heat source to dry your running shoes.

How To Manually Clean And Scrub Your Running Shoes

For heavily soiled running shoes, manually scrubbing them may be the best option. Here’s how to do it:

  • Remove the laces and insoles.
  • Mix a solution of warm water and a mild detergent soap.
  • Dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution and gently scrub the shoes, focusing on the dirty areas.
  • Once clean, use a clean cloth to remove any excess moisture, and let the shoes air dry completely.
  • For stubborn stains, use a mixture of baking soda and water to create a paste.
  • Apply the paste to the dirty area, gently scrub with a toothbrush, and rinse with warm water.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your running shoes stay clean and in great condition for all your future runs. Remember to clean them regularly to avoid dirt buildup.

Drying Your Running Shoes

Washing running shoes after a workout or a run is essential to maintaining their structure and durability. However, drying them properly is just as crucial to prevent damage and avoid any unpleasant odors. We’ll dive into three methods of drying your running shoes: air-drying, using a dryer, and utilizing a shoe tree.

How To Air-Dry Your Running Shoes

Air-drying your running shoes is the easiest and most effective method, but it requires some patience. Follow these simple steps for the perfect air-dry:

  • Remove the insoles and laces from your shoes.
  • Stuff your shoes with paper towels or a dry cloth to absorb the moisture from inside.
  • Place your shoes in a well-ventilated, dry area away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Let your shoes air dry completely, which may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours depending on your shoes’ materials.

How To Safely Use A Dryer For Shoes

Using a tumble dryer to dry your running shoes may sound convenient, but it’s essential to do it safely to avoid any damage to your shoes. Here are some tips:

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  • Remove the insoles and laces from your shoes and place them in a laundry bag to prevent any damage or tangles.
  • Use a low heat setting to dry your shoes and avoid overheating them, which can cause damage to the soles or other materials.
  • Add some towels or tennis balls to the dryer to help absorb the moisture and prevent your shoes from clunking around.
  • Check your shoes every 10-15 minutes to make sure they aren’t overheating or causing any damage.

How To Use A Shoe Tree For Drying

A shoe tree is a practical and effective tool for drying your running shoes while also preserving their shape and structure. Here’s how to use a shoe tree for drying:

  • Remove the insoles and laces from your shoes, and insert the shoe tree into them.
  • Tighten the shoe tree until it fits snugly in your shoe.
  • Place your shoes in a well-ventilated area with normal room temperature. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Let your shoes dry completely before removing the shoe tree. This may take up to 24 hours depending on the materials of your shoes.

Drying your running shoes is a critical step in maintaining their shape and durability. Air-drying your shoes, using a tumble dryer safely, and utilizing a shoe tree are all effective options to get your shoes dry and fresh for your next run.

Post-Cleaning Maintenance

Washing running shoes can extend their lifespan, but it’s also important to take proper maintenance steps after cleaning to keep them in tip-top shape. Here are some key steps you can take to make sure your shoes stay clean, fresh and intact.

Applying A Waterproof Coating To Your Shoes

After washing your running shoes, consider applying a waterproof coating to them. This can help protect the shoes from moisture, extending their lifespan. Here are some tips:

  • Look for a coating that is specifically designed for running shoes. Some coatings are designed for other types of footwear, but may not be as effective for sports shoes.
  • Apply the coating to clean, dry shoes for best results.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, including any recommended drying times.

When To Replace Your Running Shoes

No matter how well you care for your running shoes, they will eventually need to be replaced. Here are some signs that it’s time to invest in a new pair:

  • The soles are worn down and no longer provide adequate traction.
  • The shoes are causing discomfort or pain.
  • There are visible signs of wear and tear, such as holes in the uppers.

Remember that each person’s specific needs can vary, so it’s important to monitor your shoes closely and replace them as needed.

Tips For Keeping Your Running Shoes Clean And Fresh

You can take several steps to keep your running shoes looking and smelling fresh:

  • Invest in specialized shoe-cleaning products designed for running shoes. These products are formulated to be gentle on the shoes but still effective at keeping them clean.
  • Let your shoes air out after each use. This can help reduce odors and prevent bacteria buildup.
  • Consider rotating your shoes and allowing them to completely dry out between uses.
  • Avoid exposing your shoes to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.

By taking care of your running shoes, you can extend their lifespan and keep them in great condition for many runs to come.


It’s essential to take care of your running shoes to maximize their lifespan and keep them looking good for longer. Giving them a good wash every once in a while is a simple maintenance step that can make a world of difference.

With the tips and tricks outlined in this post, you should feel confident in your ability to wash your running shoes at home. Remember to remove laces and insoles, hand-wash with a gentle detergent, air-dry them away from direct sunlight, and avoid washing them in the washing machine or dryer.

Also, don’t forget to inspect your shoes regularly for wear and tear, and consider replacing them if they’re beyond repair. With these simple guidelines, your running shoes should stay clean and fresh for your next workout or race.