How to Clean and Care for Running Shoes

Remove mud, dirt, and odor without wrecking your shoes.

If you run a lot, your running shoes will inevitably get dirty, muddy, wet, and stinky. That’s great, it just means you’re logging miles in all kinds of conditions. But dirt and grime can damage stitching, material, and coatings, so you need to maintain your shoes so they last longer. 

Simply throwing your running shoes in a washing machine and dryer may sound like the easiest thing to do. But as in life, the easiest method isn’t always the best one. 

For one thing, fully submerging your shoes in water, especially hot water, can degrade glues that hold your shoes together and can also damage the upper materials. Add to that the harsh chemicals of most detergents, and the rough-and-rumble spin cycles of a washer, and your beloved running shoes will take a beating. 

The clothes dryer isn’t any better. The heat from a dryer can melt those glues, and the heat and tumbling combined is even worse. (Imagine something starting to loosen and come apart, then getting thrashed against a dryer wall over and over again.)

To prevent damage, follow these cleaning tips.

Cleaning Muddy Shoes

  1. A lot of mud: Spray muddy shoes off with a hose, but avoid using the strongest spray setting.
  2. A little mud: Bang the soles together. Do this a few times when the mud is wet, then wait for the shoes to dry, and do it again.
  3. Clean off residual dried mud with a brush (see below).   
  4. Dry as described in “Drying Wet Shoes” below.
A young woman spraying deodorant on sweaty running shoes for eliminate unpleasant, bad smell. Shoe shine and care. Sport footwear needs in cleaning and odor removal.

Cleaning Dirty Shoes

  1. Using a rag or soft brush, like an old toothbrush, use gentle soap and scrub the dirty areas until clean.
  2. Rinse off by blotting with a damp rag or gently hosing off.
  3. Dry as described in “Drying Wet Shoes” below.

Cleaning Stinky Shoes (and Fighting Odor in the First Place) 

  1. Spray the interior of each shoe with an air sanitizer, like Lysol or Febreeze.
  2. Purchase and insert odor-fighting products, like Sof Sole Sneaker Balls, into shoes when not in use.
  3. Shop for over-the-counter insoles that are treated with an odor-fighting antimicrobial, or shop for shoes that come with a factory insole that’s treated with an antimicrobial, like silver fibers or activated charcoal.
  4. Shop for socks that are treated with some sort of antimicrobial.
  5. Leave shoes outside in a cool, shaded location when not in use. The fresh air will help.

Drying Wet Shoes

  1. Shove newspaper inside each shoe, all the way to the toe and as far back as the heel. (Newspaper is highly absorbent.)
  2. Place shoes in a dry, shaded location. Excessive UV light degrades material so it’s best to dry shoes in the shade even if it takes a little longer. 
  3. Wait. Drying out soggy shoes can take a while (as much as a couple days), but the newspaper trick will help expedite the process. Don’t be tempted to put shoes near a radiator or other heat source. The forced heat can damage glues. You can use a fan to increase air flow, which will speed up the drying.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.