How to Clean Running Shoes: Simple and Effective Methods

Running shoes withstand plenty of wear and tear, especially if they are being used for regular outdoor workouts. Dirt and sweat can accumulate on the shoes, affecting both their performance and appearance. It’s important to clean your running shoes periodically to maintain their function and prolong their lifespan. In this article, we will discuss the essentials of cleaning running shoes and provide useful tips to keep them in the best condition possible.

When it comes to cleaning running shoes, there are a few key steps to follow. First, it’s important to remove any mud or dirt from the shoes using a brush. Then, remove the shoelaces and clean them separately, as they tend to collect grime. Finally, clean the shoe uppers using a gentle soap and water solution, taking care to rinse them thoroughly. By following these steps, your shoes will not only look better but also perform at their best during your runs.

Why Clean Running Shoes

Cleaning your running shoes is an important aspect of their care and maintenance. Regular cleaning helps extend the life of your shoes by preventing the buildup of dirt, sweat, and bacteria that can break down the materials and lead to wear and tear.

One of the primary reasons for cleaning running shoes is to remove sweat and bacteria. As you run, your feet sweat, creating a damp environment that is ideal for bacteria to thrive in. By cleaning your shoes regularly, you help to eliminate the growth of bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors and even lead to skin infections in some cases.

In addition to harboring bacteria, sweat can also cause the materials in your shoes to break down over time. This can lead to a loss of cushioning, support, and ultimately decrease the overall lifespan of your shoes. By keeping your running shoes clean, you help prevent the buildup of sweat, thereby preserving their structural integrity and ensuring they provide optimal support and comfort.

Another reason to clean your running shoes is to remove dirt and mud that accumulate during your runs. Dirt and mud can clog the treads on your shoes, affecting their grip and traction on various surfaces. This can lead to an increased likelihood of slipping or injury during your runs.

Furthermore, mud and dirt can also weigh down your shoes, making them feel heavier and potentially affecting your performance. By regularly removing dirt and mud, you maintain your shoes’ optimal weight and ensure the best possible running experience.

In summary, consistently cleaning your running shoes is an essential practice for maintaining their quality and extending their lifespan. By removing sweat, bacteria, and dirt, you preserve the comfort, support, and performance of your running shoes, helping you run your best for longer.

Preparing to Clean

Removing Dirt and Mud

Before you start cleaning your running shoes, it’s essential to remove any dirt and mud on the surface. You can use a stiff brush or an old toothbrush to gently scrub off the dirt and mud from the outer sole and upper parts of your shoes. Make sure to brush carefully to avoid causing any damage to your shoes. If the mud is difficult to remove, you can also try rinsing the shoes under warm water to help loosen the dirt.

Taking Out Insoles and Laces

The next step is to remove the insoles and laces from your running shoes. Detach the laces and set them aside, as you will clean them separately later. For the insoles, carefully take them out from the inside of your shoes.

Cleaning the insoles can help eliminate odors and maintain the overall cleanliness of your running shoes. You can wash the insoles by using a mixture of water and mild soap or vinegar. Gently scrub them with a soft brush or cloth, rinse them thoroughly, and allow them to air dry.

For the laces, you can clean them using a mixture of warm water and mild laundry detergent. Place the laces on a towel, dip a toothbrush in the soapy water, and gently scrub them to remove dirt and stains. Rinse and let them air dry before putting them back on your shoes.

By following these steps, you will be able to prepare your running shoes for a thorough cleaning. Taking the time to remove dirt, mud, insoles, and laces will help ensure your shoes stay in good condition and maintain their longevity.

How to Clean Running Shoes

Hand-Washing Running Shoes

To hand-wash your running shoes, start by removing the laces and insoles. Then, create a solution of mild soap and warm water to clean your shoes. Dip a soft brush or cloth into the soapy water and gently scrub the uppers of your shoes, focusing on stained or dirty areas. Rinse your shoes thoroughly to remove soap residue with clean water, either under a faucet or using a hose 1.

For the insoles and liners, wash them separately using the same soapy solution. Gently scrub them with a soft brush or cloth, then rinse them thoroughly with clean water. Finally, air-dry both the shoes and insoles, avoiding direct sunlight or heat sources.

Cleaning the shoelaces is also a simple process. Mix a few drops of mild laundry detergent in a bowl with warm water 2. Lay the laces on a towel and use a toothbrush to scrub them, removing dirt and stains. Rinse them well with clean water and allow them to air-dry before re-lacing your shoes.

Using a Washing Machine

If you prefer to use a washing machine to clean your running shoes, first check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that it is safe to do so. Then, remove the laces and insoles from your shoes, as they should be washed separately. Place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to protect them during the wash cycle.

Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle with cold water, and use a mild laundry detergent. It’s also a good idea to add some vinegar to the detergent compartment to help remove odors and stains 3. To balance the load and protect your machine, add a few towels or other gentle fabric items.

For the insoles, you can hand-wash them following the steps mentioned above, or place them in a separate mesh laundry bag and add them to the washing machine. Wash the shoelaces in a mesh bag or pillowcase to prevent tangling.

Once the cycle is complete, remove the shoes, insoles, and laces from the washing machine, and allow them to air-dry. Remember to avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can damage the material and structure of your running shoes.

Cleaning Specific Parts

In this section, we’ll discuss how to properly clean the different parts of your running shoes. We’ll cover the upper and uppers, outsole and treads, insoles and liners, and laces.

Upper and Uppers

To clean the uppers of your running shoes, begin by removing dirt and dust with a soft-bristled brush. Next, create a solution of mild soap and water to scrub the uppers. Use a cloth or soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean the material. Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water to ensure no soap residue remains.

Outsole and Treads

The outsole and treads of your running shoes often collect mud and dirt. Use a vegetable brush or toothbrush with firm bristles to remove any debris from the grooves. Apply a small amount of footwear cleaner or a mild soap solution to enhance the cleaning process. Scrub the outsoles and treads vigorously, then rinse them with clean water.

Insoles and Liners

Insoles and liners can be removed from the shoes for more effective cleaning. Create a cleaning solution by combining two-thirds water and one-third vinegar, or use baking soda in place of vinegar.

  • Place the insoles/liners in the solution and scrub with a soft brush or cloth.
  • Rinse the insoles with clean water and allow them to air dry.
  • If your shoes have Gore-Tex liners or waterproof materials, follow the specific instructions provided by the brand.


Cleaning your shoe laces should be done separately from the rest of the shoe. Follow these steps for optimal results:

  1. Remove the laces from your running shoes.
  2. Create a mild cleaning solution using a few drops of laundry detergent and warm water.
  3. Gently scrub the laces using a toothbrush or cloth.
  4. Rinse the laces thoroughly with clean water.
  5. Lay the laces out to air dry before reinserting them into your shoes.

Dealing with Odors and Stains

When it comes to cleaning running shoes, dealing with odors and stains is essential. Proper care can help prolong the life of your shoes and keep them smelling fresh. In this section, we will cover two important cleaning aspects: removing stains and eliminating odors.

Removing Stains

To remove stains from your running shoes, follow these simple steps:

  1. First, take out the laces and insoles.
  2. Create a cleaning solution by mixing a mild soap or detergent with warm water until suds are formed.
  3. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub the affected areas with the soapy solution. For tougher stains, try using a toothbrush to get into smaller crevices.
  4. Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water, ensuring that you remove all the soap residue.
  5. If your shoes are made of leather or suede, apply a leather conditioner after cleaning to maintain the material’s integrity.

Remember to let the shoes air dry completely before wearing them again to prevent any mold or mildew growth.

Eliminating Odors

To eliminate odors from your running shoes, try these methods:

  • Baking soda: Sprinkle some baking soda inside your shoes and let them sit overnight. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and can help absorb unpleasant smells. Remove the baking soda the next day by shaking the shoes or using a vacuum cleaner.
  • Newspaper: Stuff crumpled newspaper inside your shoes after each use to help absorb moisture and odors. Replace the newspaper regularly to maintain its effectiveness.
  • Air dry: Ensure your shoes are properly air-dried after each use, as damp shoes can lead to unpleasant odors. Avoid using direct heat sources, such as radiators or hairdryers, as it may damage the shoes’ materials.

Following these tips can help you effectively deal with odors and stains in your running shoes, ensuring they remain clean and fresh for a long time.

Drying Running Shoes


Air-drying your running shoes is the simplest and safest method to dry them. Start by removing the insoles and laces of your shoes so that they can dry separately. This allows better airflow inside the shoe and speeds up the drying process. Place the shoes and insoles in a well-ventilated area, such as near an open window or in a room with a fan. Make sure to keep them away from direct sunlight or heat sources, as excessive heat can damage the shoe material.

To further enhance the drying process, you can stuff your shoes with crumpled newspaper or paper towels. This will absorb moisture inside the shoe and help maintain its shape while drying. Replace the paper every few hours until your shoes are completely dry.

Using a Fan

If you have access to a high-speed fan, you can use it to dry your running shoes more quickly. Remove the insoles and laces from your shoes, as mentioned in the air-drying method. Place the shoes and insoles directly in front of the fan with the mouth of the shoes opened as wide as possible. Ensure that the fan is positioned in a stable, safe, and out-of-the-way location, and make sure it’s not sitting too close to your shoes to avoid scuffing or damaging the shoe material.

The fast, dry air from the fan will flow through and around the shoes, drying them more efficiently than just air-drying alone. Keep checking on the shoes periodically to ensure they’re drying evenly and to prevent any potential damage.



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