How to Clean Running Shoes to Make Them Last Longer

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Running shoes are the most important gear a runner needs. They take a beating and can get awfully dirty, sweaty, and smelly. So it’s a good idea to clean them often if you want your shoes to last a long time (and maybe not stink up your closet, either!).

But do you know how to clean running shoes to make them last longer? Cleaning them correctly is important for extending their lifespan and protecting your feet.

Here’s how to clean running shoes the right way so they last longer and look great at the same time!

Why Is It Important to Clean Running Shoes?

Cleaning your running shoes isn’t just about keeping them looking shiny and new. While wearing clean shoes makes you feel better than dirty, muddy ones, cleaning your running shoes is about keeping them in good condition.

Dirt, mud, and sweat that settle into your shoes can cause the fabric to degrade. This can cause your shoes to deteriorate to the point where they’re no longer supporting or cushioning your feet properly.

As well as needing to spend money on shoes more often if you don’t clean your shoes, wearing dirty shoes can increase your chance of injury and developing foot conditions like athlete’s foot.

How Often Should You Clean Your Running Shoes?

The answer depends on how often you use them and where you run. If you run on the road a few times a week, you should clean your shoes at least once every two months or so.

This is often enough to keep them clean and supportive, but not so often that the cleaning itself begins to wear away the shoe materials.

It also depends on where you run, how far, the season, and the weather. If you run through a rainstorm and your shoes get muddy up to the ankle, it’s best to clean them as soon as possible.

Take care not to overclean them, either. Cleaning your shoes too often can also compromise the fabrics.

Can You Put Your Running Shoes in the Washing Machine?

Definitely not! Yes, they’ll look clean, but the shoe’s materials are likely to be damaged from the agitating of the washing machine.

It’s best to hand-wash your running shoes, which will allow you to spot-clean as necessary.

Can You Put Your Running Shoes in the Dryer?

No! The heat from the dryer may be the best way to dry your shoes, but it’s highly likely to damage them. They may come out misshapen and unable to support your feet like before.

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Shoes

You don’t need a lot to clean your shoes. Make sure you have a bucket or a large sink to fill with water. Aside from that, you’ll need:

  • Mild detergent or soap (clothing-friendly)
  • A soft-bristled scrubbing brush (a toothbrush is perfect)
  • A sponge (preferably small)
  • Paper towels

How to Clean Running Shoes

Here’s how to clean running shoes to make them last longer, feel sleeker, and keep your feet in the best condition possible.

Remove the Laces and Insoles

While you can clean your shoes with the laces and insoles still in or on the shoe, removing them will help you to clean all three properly.

You can place your laces in a bucket, warm water, soap, or bleach if they’re white. If your shoe’s insoles don’t come out, it’s not a problem. If they do, put them to one side—we don’t recommend soaking these as it may change the foam quality.

Start by Cleaning the Outsole

Fill your bucket or sink with warm water and add a small amount of detergent. Clean any mud or dirt off the outsole before scrubbing it with the brush or sponge.

You may need to spend some time on this, depending on how aggressive the lugs on your shoes are and how much debris is stuck in them.

Rinse with clean water once you’re satisfied with the outsoles.

Clean the Uppers of the Shoes

For this article, we’re assuming that your running shoes have a mesh upper. Use a soft brush to gently remove any dirt or debris on the upper.

Immerse the shoes in warm water until they’re wet. Then, scrub the uppers with a mild soap and a soft brush. You can apply a solution of vinegar and water, a baking soda paste, or even toothpaste for stubborn stains.

Remember that some things will work better for white shoes, and some may damage colors.

Cleaning Running Shoe Insoles

Spray or drop some soapy water on the insoles and scrub them with a soft brush to remove any dirt. Wash the excess with a wet sponge, but don’t soak the insoles completely. Rinse them well and leave them to air-dry.

Drying Your Shoes

Allow your shoes to air-dry in a room-temperature space. Remember that they may take up to 12 hours to dry, so plan to do this on a day you won’t be running. Stuff the paper towel into the shoes to absorb any moisture.

Avoid placing them in direct sunlight, putting them in the dryer, or too close to a heater. Direct heat can damage the shoes while drying them.

Once your shoes, insoles, and laces are dry, put everything back together, and you’re ready to run.

How to Get Rid of Stubborn Odors

Got odor stuck to your shoes? Here are some methods that can help to eliminate unpleasant odors in shoes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is something most people have in their households already. It’s a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors and even neutralizing bacteria.

To use it in your shoes, sprinkle a good amount of it inside the shoes. Try to get it underneath the insole as well as on top.

Allow the shoes to sit overnight, and vacuum the baking soda out of the shoe in the morning. The odor should be gone.

Vinegar

Vinegar is another all-natural odor-neutralizer that you may already have in the house. Mix water and vinegar in equal parts. It’s best to use white vinegar and not any other kind. The easiest way to do this is to place it in a spray bottle.

Spray the inside of your shoes thoroughly. Allow the shoes to sit for 30 minutes to an hour, and then wipe it away with a damp, clean cloth.

Freeze Your Shoes

It might sound strange, but freezing your shoes can reduce odor! Place them into a plastic bag so they don’t come into contact with food in the freezer. Put the shoe bag into the freezer for 24 hours.

The cold of the freezer kills bacteria and can effectively eliminate odor. You may need to allow the shoes to thaw for a few hours before you wear them.

Use a Deodorizer

You can also buy a shoe deodorizer to add to your shoes. This may be easier for some, although most of these products already contain baking soda, vinegar, or something similar.

Tips on How to Make Running Shoes Last Longer

Want your running shoes to last as long as possible? Implement these tips, and you should notice their lifespan extending.

Rotate Your Running Shoes

Rotating your running shoes can help them to last longer as the foam and other materials get time to “take a break” between runs. Ensure you have two similar pairs of shoes with the appropriate support and cushioning.

The alternative between each pair when you go for a run. That gives each pair a few days of rest before you run in them again, giving foam time to bounce back.

Store Shoes Properly

Store your shoes somewhere safe, dust-free, and moisture-free. The area should have good airflow, so bacteria can’t thrive. You can store your shoes in shoe bags, depending on how often you use them.

Avoid Excessive Heat Exposure

Heat is damaging to the materials of running shoes. Exposure to direct sunlight, a washing machine or dryer, or even a standing heater can compromise the quality of your shoes, breaking them down and making them less supportive.

Although it may take longer, air-dry your shoes every time. Your best bet is to place them in a well-ventilated, naturally warm area.

You should also remember that leaving your running shoes in a hot car, for example, can also cause damage to them. Be careful where you leave them and how you dry them!

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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