How to Clean Running Shoes: A Step-by-Step Guide


You’ve spent a lot of money on the best running shoes; it probably wouldn’t hurt to know how to keep them clean. Sure, running shoes won’t stay fresh long after you start using them, but you can at least try to extend the life of your favorite pair by keeping them clean and odor-free.

With our step-by-step guide and running shoe cleaning tips, you can keep your favorite Adidas and Nike running shoes clean. These running shoe cleaning tips can also be used to keep your trail running shoes and women’s running shoes clean.

Why clean your running shoes?

This is the icky part; after reading this you will be running for the running shoe wash! Basically, if you don’t clean your running shoes, bacteria, body oils, and dirt can accumulate inside causing bad odors, especially if you keep your running shoes in a warm place.

It’s not the kind of impression you want to make in the gym or at your local running club. Aside from personal hygiene, that’s not the only reason to keep them clean. Bacteria, body oils and dirt can start rotting insoles, upper fabrics and seams – oh my dear wallet! This process speeds up even more if you regularly store your running shoes in a warm environment.

How often should you clean your running shoes?

No one has time to meticulously clean their running shoes after every run; once every 2-3 months is enough to combat bacterial growth. Or sooner if you sniff them and it’s not what you’d call scented, or if other exercise enthusiasts start to push you away…that’s your cue to grab the cleaners.

Which running shoe cleaners should I use?

There are many running shoe washing products and kits on the market, but we recommend buying something eco-friendly; if you like running in the clean, fresh air and in the countryside, it’s good to help make it so. In the video below, we use the Nikwax Sandal and Athletic Shoe Cleaner (opens in a new tab)an active deodorizing shoe cleaner that cleans and eliminates odors.

Remember that this particular product is designed for non-waterproof shoes made of leather, fabric, synthetic, cork, rubber and plastic. There are waterproof shoe cleaners; even Nikwax has one. Always read the label before buying any shoe cleaner.

How to clean your running shoes?

Sorry, running through a puddle at the end of a run won’t be enough, although it’s a very effective first step in getting rid of any caked-on mud. Instead, try this method to turn your smelly used running shoes into something more palatable:

  • Deal with your garden’s outdoor hose to wash away the worst, or a bowl of lukewarm water in a washing up bowl.
  • Take a scrub brush and clean off any remaining dirt, removing the insoles and giving them once too.
  • Take the shoe care product of your choice and apply it liberally to the shoe and soles.
  • Rinse with clean water and hang to dry outdoors out of direct sunlight or stuff them with newspaper and place them in the airing cupboard, keeping the soles apart to speed up the drying time.

See – simple, fast AND saving the planet. Your halo has never shone so brightly.

Why can’t I put running shoes in the washing machine?

Well, you can…but you risk permanently damaging your washing machine drum AND your favorite pair of running shoes. It’s not too recommended, especially since it’s so easy to follow the four steps above, and you always have to brush off all the mud first anyway and remove the insoles and laces to wash them separately. . When in doubt, always stick to hand washing, but if you want to embrace the technology, here are some tips:

  • First, check the washing label to see if machine washing is a prohibited area with the fabric and materials of that particular shoe.
  • Remove the insoles and laces and wash them separately in warm soapy water.
  • Use a very low temperature (i.e. 20 degrees) and the slowest cycle possible to avoid adhesive degradation.
  • Use liquid detergent rather than powder as the specs can stay inside the shoe.
  • Lay down a few towels to prevent shoes from bumping into and damaging the washing machine drum.
  • Hang them to dry outdoors out of direct sunlight or stuff them with newspaper and place them in the air closet, keeping the insoles separate to speed up drying times.

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