How to clean white running shoes, and get them looking good as new

white running shoes
How do you keep white running shoes clean? (Image credit: Getty Images)

White running shoes are a common sight in sports shoe shops and on-line retailers. They always look so good to start with but after a few wears, especially if you run on a mix of road and trails, the footwear will begin to turn a bit grey. After several more wears, the chances are your white running shoes will be a darker grey or even a dirty brown colour. So, how do you clean white running shoes?

white running shoes

White running shoes can easily end up wet and dirty (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tips for cleaning white running shoes

It’s a good idea to clean the running shoes after each run if you want too keep them as white as possible.

Brush off the dirt

If the running shoes have stayed dry but they a looking a bit dirty or dusty after a run, then you should try too brush off the dirt as soon as you get home. 

Ideally, you should use a soft brush or a specfic shoe brush for this. Be careful that the muck is not wet because if you brush this you will only spread the dirt across the surface of the shoes.

white running shoes

Follow our tips for cleaning white running shoes (Image credit: Getty Images)

Clean non-fabric parts

Most running shoes are made with different materials, such as knitted fabric, leather or synthetic-look leather and rubber. Pay attention to the non-fabric area first and clean these by brushing or rubbing off any loose dirt or muck. 

Persistent dirt can be removed with a water and/or water with a small amount of washing-up liquid. Be careful not to allow the wet dirt to spread to the fabric.

Next, clean the fabric on white running shoes

It is important not to completely soak the fabric. Also, try not to be too enthusiastic with the cleaning motion because water and mud will mix and spread across the fabric.

Use a small amount of liquid laundry detergent in a bowl of warm water. Take a clean cloth and dip it in the soapy solution then gently work on the dirt marks in a circular motion. 

It’s a good idea to rinse the cloth regularly so you are using a progressively cleaner cloth to remove dirt and stains. Rinsing the cloth will also avoid the dirt spreading across the rest of the fabric.

Persistent marks

For more persistent marks you could use a fabric stain removing product.  There are powders, gels and cleaning pads, as well as methods using ordinary households products. 

Try mixing together one part baking soda and one part vinegar in a bowl. Then dab on to the dirty area and leave for 15 minutes.

The mix should help to dissolve stains without affecting the fabric. Then use water or a mix of water and washing detergent to finish the clean.

Or use a stain remover in a powder or gel formula. One brand, Vanish, recommends this treatment for removing stains from white fabric on footwear.

Use the powered or gel version of the stain remover. Mix 10g of powder with equal amount of water, then stir for 30 seconds. Apply the mix on the stain and rub gently if needed.Now you can wash the area with water.

Note that it’s advised you should always test the product on a small inconspicuous area first. 

For grass stains

If you end up with grass stains on the fabric of your running shoes, you could try this method. Mix one part vinegar and two parts water and dab on the mixture with a cloth. After this, clean the area with water or water and washing detergent. 

Can I put my running shoes in the washing machine?

It is not recommended that you wash your favourite running shoes in the washing machine. The process can end up changing the structure and support of the footwear. 

Likewise, bleach is sometimes mentioned as a way to clean fabric but you need to be careful that amount off bleach you use. Too much bleach and you might cause the fabric to weaken. Bleach is best avoided unless used very weakly with a water mix. 

Keep running shoes in a dry place

After cleaning, it’s important that the footwear can properly dry out. Make sure you put the running shoes in a well-aired place that is not too warm, nor too cold. 

And as a final note, if you are looking for running footwear that doesn’t need to be cleaned so frequently, choose a colour other than white. Many running shoes are now sold in a range of darker colours, which hide the dirt much better than white. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.