Running shoes aren’t high maintenance, but they do require a little care and cleaning along the way. Your goal isn’t to keep them minty fresh, you just need to keep muck and sweat from doing their worst:
  • If you’re a trail runner or a road runner who sometimes ventures off pavement, then dirt-caked outsoles can compromise traction.
  • If your shoes’ uppers are perpetually grimy, particles of dirt and grit can work their way into the mesh and fabric, grinding away like sandpaper.
  • If your shoes’ funky odor is beginning to offend even you, that can mess with your mojo.
recommended supplies for cleaning your running shoes
What you’ll need for cleaning your running shoes:
  • An old toothbrush or an old vegetable brush—soft bristles are the key.
  • A hose or utility sink.
  • For uppers: a mild soap or, if the shoes have Gore-Tex® or another waterproof/breathable membrane, use a specialized footwear cleaner because soap or detergent additives can gum things up.
  • For insoles: a mild soap, a paste of baking soda and water, or a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water.

 

Cleaning Running Shoe Outsoles

scrubbing dirt off of the outsoles of dirty running shoes
Not only are you revitalizing traction, you’re also ensuring you won’t accidentally transport an invasive species to a new area. Sole cleansing is simple:
  1. Let the outsoles dry completely.
  2. Give 'em a good, hard brushing (a brush with stiff bristles is OK to use).
  3. For stubbornly caked-on dirt: Grab a hose, then rinse and scrub until all the nooks and crannies come clean.
 

Cleaning Running Shoe Uppers

scrubbing the uppers of dirty running shoes with soap and water
Cleaning uppers is a simple process:
  1. Remove the laces. (They can be placed in a mesh bag and run through the washing machine on a gentle cycle.)
  2. Remove the insoles/liners.
  3. Use a brush to gently remove dust and dirt from the uppers.
  4. Scrub them with a mild soap and water solution (or Gore-Tex-friendly cleaner).
  5. Rinse your shoes thoroughly with clean water.

Never put shoes in a washing machine because it can damage them.

If you have shoes with a waterproof/breathable membrane, this is a good time to renew the fabric’s waterproofing.

 

Cleaning Running Shoe Insoles

cleaning running shoe insoles with a vinegar and water solution
Insoles absorb a lot of sweat, creating fertile ground for the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Clean them regularly to avoid this fate:
  1. Choose your potion: Whether it’s the mild soap, the baking soda/water paste or the vinegar/water mix is a matter of personal preference.
  2. Scrub them, rinse them and allow them to air dry.
 

Drying Running Shoes

drying running shoes after they've been cleaned, by placing newspaper inside
This is the easiest part of the whole process:
  • Place shoes in a place that has a mild temperature and low humidity.
  • For quicker drying, use a fan.
  • You can also stuff newspaper or paper towels into the shoes to speed drying (change the paper whenever it becomes damp).

Never put shoes in a clothes dryer or near any heat source—high temperatures can distort their shape and weaken their adhesives.

 

How to Clean Running Shoes step-by-step infographic

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Contributing Experts

Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes
Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes

Beth Henkes is a footwear sales lead and fit guru at the REI store in Alderwood, Wash.