How to Clean Running Shoes Without Ruining Them

December 31, 1989 | Remove shoe odors

Whether or not your running shoes cost a fortune, they need ongoing care to prevent sweat and dirt from degrading them too quickly. Thankfully, running shoes aren’t particularly high maintenance, so keeping them in tip-top condition is usually easy and not a dreadful chore.

Here’s how to clean running shoes without running them.

Is It Okay to Put Your Running Shoes in a Washing Machine?

A washing machine makes cleaning easy and convenient, but it’s not the safest equipment for cleaning your running shoes. Tossing your sneakers or trainers into a washing machine might save you a ton of time and effort, but it will likely make your shoes degrade too quickly.

In most cases, running shoe brands discourage the use of washing machines for cleaning their shoes because the various fabrics, glue, rubber, and other materials in a typical running shoe aren’t designed for machine wash.

Remember that your aim isn’t just to clean your running shoes but to do so in a way that won’t ruin them. For this reason, keeping your sneakers out of the washing machine is best.

Besides, hand washing your running shoes isn’t difficult and doesn’t require any special equipment. If you’re like most people, you already have all the cleaning tools you’ll need to provide basic shoe care and cleaning.

Things You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to wash your running shoes the right way:

  • An old toothbrush or soft brush
  • A hard brush
  • A sponge
  • A clean piece of washcloth
  • A basin
  • Mildly warm water
  • Non-toxic laundry detergent
  • Chemical-free sports odor-removal product
  • Shoe deodorizer

How to Clean Running Shoes Correctly

Once you have all your supplies and tools, follow the steps below to give your running shoes some tender loving care.

Step 1: Separate the Parts

First, separate the various parts to prevent caked dirt on the outsoles from smearing other parts during washing. Remove the shoelaces, insoles, and other removable parts so you can clean them separately.

Step 2: Remove the Dirt

Before washing your running shoes with soap and water, grab an old toothbrush or a soft brush and gently wipe off grass, caked mud, sand, and debris. This will reduce the amount of grime and dirt you’ll have to wash off when you use soap and water.

Step 3: Mix the Water and Soap

Fill a basin with mildly warm water and mix in a non-toxic laundry detergent. For best results, consider adding a chemical-free product specifically designed for sports odor removal, like the OdorKlenz Sport Laundry Additive.

Remember to avoid using chemical-laden products that may damage your shoe fabric or weaken the glue.

Whatever you do, avoid dipping your running shoes into the soap and water mixture for the same reason you shouldn’t put the shoes in a washing machine. The safest way to clean your running shoes without ruining them is to soak the brush, sponge, or washcloth in soapy water and gently scrub the shoe.

Step 4: Clean the Outsole

Now, let’s get to the actual cleaning process. Once the soapy water is ready, start by dipping a sponge or hard brush into the water and use it to thoroughly scrub dirt and debris off the outsoles.

You might need to repeat this several times, depending on how dirty the nooks and crannies of the outsoles are. Wipe the outsoles with a clean, damp cloth when you’re happy with the result.

Step 5: Clean the Uppers

Dip the soft brush or old toothbrush in soapy water and gently clean the uppers of your running shoes. Remember to handle the fabric with care during washing to avoid ruining them.

Use the clean washcloth to wipe excess soapy water from the upper and set the shoe aside.

Step 6: Wash the Insole and Shoelaces

Next, clean the insole or liners. While this part of your running is not visible to others, it is the part that harbors the most odor-causing bacteria. Typically, the insoles soak up a lot of sweat during running, so you should pay close attention to this part during cleaning.

Use the soft brush to scrub grime off the insole or liners. Dip a sponge in soapy water and thoroughly wash the insole.

Remember not to soak the insoles, but it is okay to soak the shoelaces in the basin before washing.

Step 7: Rinse and Dry the Various Shoe Parts

Use plain warm water to rinse off the shoes, insoles, and shoelaces, ensuring to remove excess suds and grime. Give everything a good wipe down using a clean washcloth before drying them.

Place the shoe, insoles, and shoelaces in a well-ventilated space to air-dry. Whatever you do, keep your running shoes away from direct heat sources like sunlight, tumble dryers, and radiators. Direct heat can weaken the glue in your shoes, and too much sunlight will likely warp the outsole and affect the fabric.

If you need to speed up the drying process, consider laying out the shoe with the other parts near a fan.

Step 8: Deodorize the Running Shoes

woman deodorizing a running shoeDeodorizing is an essential part of cleaning your running shoes. Most regular detergents aren’t enough to destinkify your running shoes, so it is best to use products specifically designed for that purpose.

The OdorKlenz Sports Powder is an excellent choice for removing and preventing stinky shoe odors. It is easy to apply; simply add the powder to your running shoes after cleaning and properly drying them.

Bottom Line

Most people don’t mind a little dirt on their running shoes. However, when it comes time to clean them, you should avoid tossing them into a washing machine or using the wrong cleaning products.

Modern running shoes aren’t typically stitched but are glued. You must be careful during washing, so they don’t fall apart. Thankfully, you now know how to clean running shoes without ruining them, so go ahead and clean your shoes using the steps above.