How to Clean Running Shoes?

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Running is a healthy activity you surely enjoy for a long time. Being adventurous, you choose to run on different types of terrain even if it is too muddy, rough, and prone to liquid splashes. Though running shoes are made to last for a longer time, you might not want to see your running shoes looking ugly on dirt.

It is time to give your running shoes a treat! Cleaning your shoes will surely bring it back to life. Imagine how your running shoes looked when you first bought it? That should be your goal when cleaning it.

Check out these tips and methods on how to efficiently clean your running shoes!

1. Hand wash – the generally approved method

Manual hand washing is still the best method for cleaning your running shoes. You reap the benefit of thoroughly cleaning your shoes. As you manually wash your running shoes, you can assess if it is already clean or not. You can also assess if you have done enough to remove stains and dirt from your shoes.

What’s great about hand washing is on the materials you need to use. Like washing your clothes, you only need to use household products. As you plan to hand wash your shoes, just think of where you can find your old toothbrush and a soft cloth.

Hand washing will obviously take up your time and effort. But if you certainly prefer hand washing, you can always find time to do it in spite of your busy schedules.

Keep this in mind: your running shoes need gentle care and hand washing must be done gently.

2. How to hand wash your running shoes?

Prepare a clean old toothbrush, two soft cloths, and laundry detergent

  • The sponge can be used as an alternative for soft cloth.
  • You may want to try anti-grease soaps instead of laundry detergent. It is a recommended type of soap to remove stain and dirt on your running shoes.

Remove the shoelaces

  • It would be a wrong to clean your running shoes without removing the shoelaces. Stains and dirt must have accumulated on the eyelets of your shoes for a long time. The tongue of your running shoes is also prone to stubborn stains.
  • Clean your shoelaces by scrubbing it in your hand with soapy water.

Remove the insoles

  • Insoles are the breeding ground of odor-causing microorganisms.
  • Most running shoes have removable insoles. It is best to clean the insoles separately.
  • Use the same steps below to clean the insoles

Clean the outsoles and midsoles using a toothbrush

  • This step is essential for removing loose dirt.
  • Do not put too much force! You do not need to remove the stain and dirt completely. Too much force on scrubbing will damage the weave and mesh materials on your running shoes.

Mix laundry detergent with water

  • Warm water is recommended. Make sure you can tolerate the heat of the water.

Dip the soft cloth in the detergent-water mixture

Rub the soft cloth against the surface of your running shoes

  • On the dirty areas of your running shoes, rub the soft cloth repeatedly until the dirt comes off.

Soak another soft cloth in a pure water

Use the water-soaked cloth to remove excess detergent

  • Excess detergent makes your running shoes stiff.
  • Excess detergent results to staining.

Air-dry or sun-dry the shoes, shoelaces, and insoles separately

  • Flip the tongue out of the toe box to allow more circulation of air and heat

3. Machine wash – the risky method

Sometimes you are too tired to do a hand washing for your running shoes. Often, you’ll decide to use your washing machine when your running shoes are full of stains and dirt. You’ll be thinking of using your washing machine to ease your effort and save time.

While these advantages exist, there’s more risk associated with using a washing machine for your running shoes. Machine wash may lead to fabric discoloration and damages on your running shoes. If you really insist on using your washing machine, expect your running shoes to have a lesser life span.

You must read the label on your shoes if it can be cleaned in a washing machine safely.

4. How to machine wash your running shoes?

Prepare mesh bags, clean old toothbrush, used towels, and laundry detergent

  • An empty pillowcase can be used as an alternative to mesh bags.
  • Used towels are optional. It is ideal to use it if you want to prevent banging noises when your washing machine is in operation.
  • Do not use brand new towels and white towels

Remove the shoelaces

  • Same as manually washing your running shoes, the washing machine can’t efficiently clean the eyelets and tongue of your shoes if you do not remove the laces.

Remove the insoles

  • Odor-causing microorganisms are usually spotted on the insoles.
  • Most running shoes have removable insoles. It is best to separate the insoles to maximize the cleaning efficiency.

Clean the outsoles and midsoles using a toothbrush

  • This step is essential to remove loose dirt only.

Put the running shoes, shoelaces, and insoles on separate mesh bags

Use towels as a buffer

  • Again, this step is optional. It depends on your tolerance for noise.

Set the machine on a gentle wash cycle.

  • Your running shoes need to be handled gently.
  • Less friction means less stress towards your shoes.
  • Less stress means less risk from wears and tears.

Set the machine on a cold wash temperature

  • Warm wash is one of the reasons behind fading and discoloration.
  • If you’re running shoes is made out of PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabrics, then cold wash is highly advisable.

Use half of the needed laundry detergent.

  • Since your washing machine will not be totally filled, use half of the detergent needed by the wash cycle.
  • Excess detergent makes your running shoes stiff.
  • Excess detergent results to staining.

Air-dry or sun-dry the shoes, shoelaces, and insoles separately

  • Flip the tongue out of the toe box to allow more circulation of air and heat

5. Air dry – the most recommended drying method

Natural air drying methods deem to be the most recommended and most effective drying method. It certainly poses a lot of advantages and reduces the risk you may get when sun-drying.

Air drying is entirely useful if you don’t have time to clean during the daytime. But don’t be mistaken, this method is recommended even when the sun shines brightly. Air drying is generally safe for all types of fabrics.

The obvious downside of air drying is due to its time consumption. It takes up 12 hours to totally dry your running shoes. So when you come up with having an air dry, expect your shoes to be completely dried and ready to use as you wake up.

You may use blowers, fans, or any machines that produce air. But you must avoid the use of any machines that induces heat. Dryers are not recommended because it alters the shape of your newly cleaned running shoes. So it is best to stay on a natural drying method.

6. Is it totally safe for running shoes to be sun dried?

Sun drying is the most time efficient drying method. When you need to use your running shoes within the day, the sun will surely help you through.

Sun drying becomes risky when your running shoes are overexposed to sunlight. It causes quality degradation, color fading, and texture changes to our shoes. So if you think you really need to do a sundry, you must be in your house the whole time. If you can tap someone to remove your shoes away from sunlight at a specific time, it will be a great move. Sun drying only takes more or less 3 hours to dry. Anything above it will make more harm than good on your running shoes.

7. Tips and hacks for your running shoes

  • Apply stain repellant after purchasing your shoes

After purchasing our shoes, we usually do nothing about it. We’re just too excited to use it and show off to the world we have new shoes. While you can still continue doing this common practice, it is highly recommended to apply stain repellant for your running shoes!

Stain repellant provides a thin layer on the surface of your shoes. It is not a magical tool to prevent stains and dirt sticking to your shoes. Stains and dirt will still attack your shoes, but the protective layer catches the stains and dirt this time. This is far better than having the actual fabric of your shoes acquiring those stains and dirt.

Stain repellant optimally protects your shoes for at least a month.

  • Do an immediate cleaning for new stains

Every time you see a stain or dirt on your running shoes, you may immediately wipe it with a tissue. This prevents the stain or dirt from drying up. Dry stains are harder to remove and needs to be treated on a general cleanup. So you might consider bringing tissues with your wherever you go.

  • Have a daily quick fix

As you get home, you might want to remove loose stains with a damp cloth or an old toothbrush. Also, wipe a damp cloth on the surface if your shoes. This is recommended if you are too busy to do Tip no. 2.

  • Clean your shoes on a schedule

Keep a schedule to clean your running shoes generally. Set a weekly, biweekly, monthly, or bimonthly schedule. Dictate your cleaning schedules depending on your availability.

  • Use these recommended motion patterns when using a toothbrush

To optimally remove the stain and dirt, use a circular motion on open surfaces. On creases and contour lines, linear motion is recommended.

  • Use nail polish

Apply nail polish to the scratches of your running shoes like how you apply nail polish on your nails. This might be somewhat tricky since the fabric of running shoes have does not follow a solid pattern all the time. Use this tip at your own risk. Unevenly colored shoes may disappoint you.

  • Use magic eraser or baby wipes

If you don’t want to prepare your soft cloth and detergent mixture, use a magic eraser or baby wipes as an alternative. It is a great tool to remove the stain, especially on outsoles and midsoles.

  • Use baking soda for your insoles

In case the odor of your insoles is unbearable, baking soda will help you remove it. Sprinkle a tiny volume of baking soda while having an air dry. Use a clean brush to scrub off the excess baking soda when the insoles are completely dry. You can also apply the baking soda inside your shoes.

  • Use towels or tissues to speed up air drying

Waking up with unevenly dried shoes or damp shoes might frighten you. If you want to speed up the air-drying process, you must stick paper towels or tissues on the surface of the shoes. Paper towels and tissues are good for absorbing moisture.

Some people recommends newspapers, magazines, and use papers. However, we don’t suggest to use it as the inks may bleed and dye on your shoes. It will make the appearance of your shoes unpleasant.

  • Apply stain repellant again after cleaning your shoes

Again, stain repellant only works for at least a month. So every time you generally clean your running shoes, it is best to spray stain repellant again.

  • Wear fresh clean socks every time you run

It’s a bad idea to reuse your socks. On every run, odor builds up inside your shoes. Used socks will further enhance the odor inside your shoes.

  • Use dryer sheets after you run

You may want to invest in dryer sheets for your running shoes. Though it might be costly, it keeps your running shoes fresh and free from odor. If shoe odor is your number one frustration, then dryer sheets are highly recommended.

8. Conclusion

We forgot to tell you the last method on how to clean running shoes.

It is time to run again with your fresh-looking shoes!

Since you already know how to optimally recondition your shoes, it is time to apply it. Treat your running shoes with care by cleaning it. Your running shoes are your number one running buddy. You and your running shoes deserve the best from each other.

Pamela Couch

I am a designer, shoe-obsessed lifestyle expert, and founder of, a shoe boutique located in Downtown Atlanta. I love shoes and I love being able to share my passion for them with others.