So Fresh and So Clean: How to Wash Running Shoes

Whether you’re just getting started with running or someone with a couple of marathons under their belt, your running shoes are essential to your life as a runner. Good running shoes are built to get you from A to B quickly and comfortably, and they’re made to endure tough conditions like sweat, rain, and even muddy terrains. Dirty, smelly shoes are a no-go, so you will need to clean your shoes regularly to combat smell and dirt build up. But what is the best way to wash running shoes?

While cleaning your running shoes regularly helps the durability and performance of your shoes, not doing it properly could damage them. Depending on the type of shoe you have, you could either throw them in the washing machine or you’ll wash them by hand. Either way, it is important to treat them with care so that they’ll last you a long time.

Follow our steps to wash running shoes so you can get back on the road.

Machine Washable Running Shoes

How do you know if your running shoes are machine washable?

The best way to ask is to check with the shoe manufacturer directly. Typically, the cleaning information is available on the company’s website. If you’re shopping at a store in person, it’s always great to ask the store attendant if the running shoes are machine washable. Once you’ve verified that they are, you can follow these easy steps to washing your shoes.

Note: Just because a shoe is machine washable, it doesn’t mean you can throw them directly into the washing machine, soiled and dirty. Doing this with even the best running shoes will produce subpar results and could also damage your washing machine, and you don’t want that.

We’ve outlined exactly how to prep your shoes before you let the washing machine do its job.

Things You’ll Need

  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • Toothbrush or small brush for tough dirt stains
  • Two laundry bags or some type of encasing for each shoe
  • Wet wipes

Steps

Before you start, set the washer to the delicate cycle with cold or warm water. Avoid using the hot cycle when washing your shoes as the heat could cause them to lose their shape.

Use the gentle or delicates cycle because the regular cycle will also cause damage to your shoes and the washing machine.

  1. Prep the shoes: Take out the insoles and the shoelaces and keep them separate from the shoe itself. You’ll want to take out the insoles so that the entire shoe can get cleaned thoroughly. Leaving the insoles will not allow the detergent to penetrate the shoe fully and will make drying more difficult.
  2. Choose how to wash shoelaces: You can choose to wash the shoelaces by hand or in the washing machine. It’s your choice! We recommend washing them by hand, however. It’s simple and much faster.
  3. Wipe down the shoes: Take your wet wipes or a damp cloth and wipe down the outside of the shoe. Be sure to get the mud and dirt buildup off before putting the shoes in the washing machine. If you have stubborn dirt stains, try using a toothbrush and soapy water to scrape the stains.
  4. Protect the shoes: Place each shoe in a laundry bag or some type of encasing. It’s important to protect the shoes by putting them in some type of bag so they don’t get damaged while being tossed around. If you don’t have laundry bags, a pillowcase will do.
  5. Prepare the washer: Put the insoles in the washing machine with the running shoes and shoelaces. For extra cushioning while it’s washing, throw in some extra towels too.
  6. Run the load: Wash the shoes on the delicate cycle.
  7. Dry the shoes: Once the shoes are done, remove the shoes from the washing machine and put them out to air dry. Do not use a dryer.

Warning: Popular running brands like ASICS discourages machine washing their shoes or even fully submerging them in water. Check with your running shoe manufacturer to verify that your shoes are machine washable.

Hand Washable Running Shoes

If you have ASICS or another brand of the best running shoes for women or the best running shoes for men that aren’t machine washable, don’t fret. Getting your shoes squeaky clean and fresh isn’t hard, even if it is the old-fashioned way.

The reason why some shoes aren’t machine washable is because of their build. If you wash running shoes the improper way, it will most likely lose its shape and won’t last long on the road.

The best part about hand washing your shoes is that you’ll be able to gently take care of them as you do. After hand-washing your shoes, you’ll appreciate them even more.

Similar to above, you’ll need to prep the shoes before washing them.

Things You’ll Need

  • Bucket of warm water
  • Mild Detergent
  • Paper towels or newspaper
  • Sponge
  • Toothbrush or a small brush with soft bristles

Steps

  1. Prepare the shoes: Take out the shoelaces and insoles of the shoes before washing them. You’ll have to wash all three of these things separately so the detergent can properly penetrate each of them.
  2. Prepare the water: Fill up a bucket with warm water and add a mild detergent or clothes cleanser to it. The bucket should be medium sized, but the shoe should never be inside of the bucket.
  3. Remove excess dirt: Clean the excess dirt off with a dry paper towel. This includes chunks of mud and dirt. It’s good to take this off of the shoe before you get them wet.
  4. Clean the bottoms: Dip your small brush or toothbrush in the soapy water and scrub the bottom of the shoe. It’s important to use a soft brush and not a hard one so you don’t damage the soles of the shoes. Get all of the dirt off before continuing.
  5. Clean the tops: Clean the top, or the uppers, with a warm soapy sponge. You should use the sponge gently, but scrub enough to get off the stains. Depending on the material of the upper, this may take time. Most shoes are made of mesh or canvas fabric. If your shoes are made with another type of material like suede or leather, be careful with using soap and water on them.
  6. Wash the insoles and shoelaces: Clean the insoles with the toothbrush by scrubbing the dirt off. Do not submerge the insoles either, or they will lose their shape. The shoelaces can be cleaned the same way or under running water.
  7. Dry the shoes: Once you get all of the dirt off, let your shoes air dry with paper towels or newspaper stuffed inside the shoes.

Note: When you wash running shoes, be careful not to submerge the entire shoe in the water.

Key Tips to Remember

wash running shoes outside

Thananya Apiromyanon / Shutterstock

We know running is a favorite cardio workout, so you want your shoes to be fresh and last you a long time. Here are some extra things to remember when washing your running shoes.

 Cleaning and Drying

  • Don’t dry your running shoes in a dryer. The heat from a dryer will cause damage to your shoes, machine washable or not. Let the shoes air dry instead. It may take longer, but having sturdy, durable shoes is a much better option.
  • Don’t dry shoes in direct sunlight. You may be tempted to do it, but keep your shoes away from sunlight and radiators. Just like the dryer, this could damage the build of your shoes. The sunlight could cause discoloration. Let the shoes air dry in a warm, dry place with adequate air flow instead. You can leave your insoles and shoelaces on a drying rack to dry.
  • Spot-treat tough spots. Have some tough spots you need to get out? Spot-treat with a Tide to-go pen or Shout Wipes for easy, fast treatment. These both work wonders and save you a lot of time.
  • Fill the shoes with newspaper or paper towel while they’re air drying. The paper towels will absorb the moisture from the wet shoes while holding the shoe’s shape. You can also wrap the paper towels around the entire shoe to absorb moisture.

Maintaining Freshness

  • Wear clean socks. To combat smelly, sweaty shoes that build up bacteria, wear fresh, clean socks with each new run. Wearing used, sweaty socks will make the smelly shoe situation a lot worse.
  • Put baking soda in your shoes overnight to help with odor. If you have a little extra time, the night before you wash your shoes, take out the insoles and add baking soda inside. This will help eliminate the odor so you can start on a fresher foot when you’re ready to wash. You can also do this in between washes to maintain freshness.
  • Take care of damp shoes. If you’re usually running in the rain, never leave the damp shoes inside a humid, wet area. It will create a nasty odor and could cause mildew or mold.

These steps may seem like a lot, especially if you have to wash them by hand. However, protecting your investment is worth it. Use this guide every time you wash running shoes to keep them in good condition. Happy running!

Do you need new wireless earbuds for your run? Check out our list of the best wireless running headphones.

how to wash running shoes

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