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How to Clean Running Shoes to Make Them Last Longer

Itching to know how to clean running shoes and make them look better and last longer? Running shoes are intended to withstand intense outdoor activities and tough terrain. You rely on them to keep you going, and this means that they constantly get dirty. Although running shoes aren’t high-maintenance, they still require care and cleaning to make them last as long as possible.

It is important to understand that, although running shoes are durable, they are made of unique materials that require delicate treatment. Among these materials are the synthetic fibers, glues, foams, and stitching—each of which requires specific cleaning techniques to avoid damage and maintain the integrity of the shoes.

The good news is you don’t need professional help to clean your running shoes. You can easily do it with materials and cleaning agents that are readily available at home.

Cleaning Materials Needed

So, here are the materials that you need for cleaning your running shoes:

  • A used toothbrush or vegetable brush. Soft bristles will not damage the shoes.
  • A hose or utility sink
  • For insoles: mild soap or a mixture of water and baking soda. You can also use a water and vinegar solution; that is, one part vinegar to two parts water
  • For the upper: mild soap
  • For shoes with breathable or waterproof parts, use a footwear cleaner, because soap can cause damage.

How to Clean the Outsoles of Running Shoes

Keeping the soles of your shoes clean helps improve traction, and removes small lodged-in items such as pebbles and twigs. Cleaning the outsoles is as easy as following these steps:

  1. Allow the outsoles to dry completely.
  2. Vigorously brush them with soft bristles.
  3. For stubborn dirt or mud, run water onto the outsoles, rinse, and scrub the grooves, ridges, or lugs to remove the dirt.

How to Clean Running Shoes’ Upper

Cleaning the uppers of a running shoe starts with removing the laces. You can place them inside a mesh sack and throw them into the washing machine on gentle. Never place the shoes in the machine, because it can damage them.

You also need to detach the liners or insoles – but do not put these in the washing machine. Use a soft-bristle brush to remove dirt and dust from the uppers. Start by pouring water and mild soap solution onto your shoes. After that, rinse thoroughly with running water.

How to Clean the Insoles

The insoles of running shoes are prone to odor-causing bacteria, so regularly cleaning them is very important. You can use any of the three agents: mild soap, water and baking soda paste, or vinegar and water solution. Scrub the insoles, rinse them with clean water, and allow them to air dry.

How to Dry Running Shoes

Drying your running shoes is the easiest part of the cleaning process. However, make sure that you do it the proper way, or else the shoes might get damaged. Never – never! – dry them inside a dryer or any machine with high temperature, as it can permanently mess with their shape.

To dry shoes correctly, do the following:

  1. Put the shoes in a place where there is low humidity and mild temperature. Placing them near or in front of an electric fan helps them dry more quickly.
  2. As an alternative, you can also stuff the insides of the shoes with newspapers or paper towels.

How to Make Running Shoes Smell Better

There are a few things that you can do to keep your running shoes smelling fresh. Here are some tips:

  • Always wear socks. Without socks, sweat will get absorbed by the inside of the shoes. Socks will accumulate the sweat and moisture that cause the unpleasant smell.
  • There are times that sweat passes through the socks and moisture accumulates in the shoes. Sprinkling foot powder in your shoes will help absorb the moisture and reduce the possibility of developing odor-causing bacteria.
  • If you smell an unpleasant odor in your shoes, remove the insoles and clean them as prescribed above. You can basically clean them with water and detergent solution, wipe them with a water-soaked sponge, and allow them to air dry completely.

What Makes Running Shoes Last Longer

You might wonder how often you need to change your running shoes. The answer depends on how you treat them during and after use, and what type of runner you are. Some runners are heavy but run light, while others are lightweight but run heavy. You are lucky if you are a runner who runs efficiently and can milk your shoes’ mileage twice as long as the average runner.

Another factor that makes the running shoes last longer is the material they are made of, and whether they match your running style. Running shoes with simple or minimalist style can last for years for lightweight runners. If you repeatedly take road shoes out on rugged trails, you’re likely to see them last far less time than average.

How to Make Running Shoes Last Longer

There are several tips to make your running shoes last longer. Among these tips include:

  • Own two pairs of running shoes and rotate them during the season. This is because shoes also need to recover after long runs. With rotating two pairs of shoes, you can avoid overusing each pair, and extend their lifespans. You can use one pair for short runs and quick workouts, while the other for longer runs or marathons.
  • Improve your running form. Keep your running style simple and rhythmical, and maintain a balanced line from your head to toe. Perfecting your form takes time and constantly being mindful of your running style. A well-balanced form will reduce the impact on your body and on your running shoes.
  • Do not store your shoes in environments with extreme temperatures. Storing your shoes inside your car is not advisable as it might get too hot, especially during summer. Extreme environments can seriously damage the shoes.

Final Words

Running shoes can last for years as long as you treat them well. Properly and regularly cleaning them will not only extend their life but also make you feel more comfortable every time you use them.

Aside from learning how to clean running shoes, improving your running form and keeping them away from extreme environments will also make them last longer.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

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.

The Wired Runner