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How to Clean your Running Shoes

November 18, 2019

How to Clean your Running Shoes

Unless you only ever run on a treadmill, your favorite pair of running shoes is bound to get dirty.  For some runners, mud and dirt are status symbols while other runners would prefer their shoes remain clean.  Everything you need to know about how to clean your running shoes is described here. 

Why You Should Clean Your Running Shoes
First, do you really need to clean your running shoes?  Surprisingly, the answer is yes.  Mud, dirt, grime, and salt from sweat can weaken the materials in running shoes, making them brittle.  The cushioning can wear thin prematurely, and the most important component – the midsole – can break down due to debris. 

How to Wash Your Shoes
The best way to wash your running shoes is with gentle detergent, a stiff brush, and a rag.  There are many effective shoe washing methods, from taking them with you into the shower to running them through the dishwasher (minus dirty dishes and without the heat cycle).  Dish detergent, gentle laundry detergent, and soaps made specifically for athletic shoes are all useful.  For stubborn stains, such as grass or blood, stain removal sprays or a paste made from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can be used.  To dry your shoes, stuff them with newspaper and replace the paper as needed.  Never place running shoes in direct heat or direct sunlight. 

How Not To Wash Your Shoes
You might be wondering to yourself, can’t I just throw my shoes in the washing machine?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Due to advances in midsole and cushioning materials, many types of running shoes can be ruined when fully submerged in water.  In addition, running shoes can also become damaged if the shoelaces get wrapped around the washing machine’s agitator. 

The only part of the shoe that can be safely washed in a washing machine are the insoles. 

After washing your shoes, never place them in the dryer.  High heat can warp the materials and also melt the glue that holds the shoe components together. 

How to Deodorize Shoes
Sometimes running shoes simply need to be deodorized, but not necessarily washed.  To prevent odors (and blisters!) always wear socks with your running shoes.  Rotating your running shoes can also prevent the build-up of bad odors by allowing your shoes to fully dry between runs. 

If your shoes already stink there are a number of things you can do.  First, remove your insoles and wash them in the washing machine with cold water and a mild detergent.  You can also sprinkle baking soda in your shoes, which will absorb odors.  Products such as odor eaters or Febreze can also conquer hard-to-remove smells.   Next, place your shoes in a large plastic bag and place the bag in the freezer for 24 – 48 hours.  The freezing temperatures will kill odor-causing bacteria.  Finally, if you are unable to remove foul odors completely, it may be time for a new pair of shoes.  The growth of mold and mildew can cause shoe degradation that might ultimately result in injury. 


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