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How to wash running shoes without ruining them

Dirty white sneakers with special tool for cleaning them on blue
We’ve put together a down and dirty guide to how to wash running shoes so you can get yours gleaming and pong-free for your next fast-paced feat on the trail or the road (Image credit: Svetlana-Cherruty)

With all the miles you put in in your running shoes, it’s no wonder they’re in need of a good wash from time to time. Between splashing through muddy puddles and lots and lots of sweat, your running shoes are bound to get stinky if you’re using them correctly. You might not mind a bit of dirt on your running shoes, and we don’t either, but stinky shoes can become a problem when you bring them home after your run and they make the whole house inhospitable. We’ve put together a down and dirty guide to how to wash running shoes so you can get yours gleaming and pong-free for your next fast-paced feat on the road.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly shoes at Design Museum

With all the miles you put in in your running shoes, it’s no wonder they’re in need of a good wash from time to time (Image credit: Mike Marsland / Contributor)

Can I wash running shoes in the washing machine?

When you were a teenager, it might have been easiest to just toss your running shoes in the washing machine for a quick and easy solution, since all you probably wanted was to look good at school the next day. However, most of the best running shoe brands do not recommend that you machine wash their shoes because they will degrade faster if you do, and if you’re serious about your running, chances are you’ve forked out enough cash for yours that you’re now thinking twice about that approach. Fortunately, hand washing your shoes doesn’t take a lot of time or any equipment that you don’t already have around the house.

Woman washing dirty shoes in a washing machine

Most of the best running shoe brands do not recommend that you machine wash their shoes because they will degrade faster if you do (Image credit: RossHelen)

How to wash running shoes

These instructions are for trail or road running shoes that have mesh and synthetic fabric uppers. If your shoes are made using leather or suede, you’ll want to use a gear cleaner specific to that material.

Before you start, know that you’ll need to air dry your shoes which takes some time, so the best time to do this is in the morning or before you take a rest day.

To wash your running shoes, you’ll need the following:

  • A basin full of warm water with a half capful of mild detergent.
  • A soft brush or old toothbrush.
  • A sponge.
  • A cloth.

1. Prepare your running shoes

You’ll wash the different parts of your shoes separately, so remove the shoelaces and follow our guide to how to wash shoelaces. Remove any insoles or sock inserts from inside your shoe. Use the brush to remove any dry dirt, mud, sand or other grime that might be caked onto the outsides of your shoes.

2. Scrub the soles

Dip the brush in the soapy water and scrub the soles first. When you’ve finished, wipe them off with a damp, clean cloth.

Person's hand scrubbing the sole of a running shoe with a sponge

Dip the brush in the soapy water and scrub the soles first (Image credit: Irina Shatilova)

3. Wash the uppers

Use the sponge to clean the uppers of your shoes next. Don’t dip the shoes in the water; instead, soak the sponge and gently scrub the upper panels and tongue. When you’re finished, wipe them with the cloth.

4. Wash the insoles or sock inserts

If you have removable inserts, these will have soaked up quite a bit of grime, so use the brush to scrub them first, then the sponge to wipe away the excess dirt. Don’t soak the inserts.

Hands in rubber protective gloves holding black sport shoe and brush above blue basin

Don’t dip the shoes in the water; instead, soak the sponge and gently scrub the upper panels (Image credit: FotoDuets)

5. Dry your running shoes 

Stuff your shoes with newspaper to help them hold their shape and lay them out alongside the laces and inserts to air dry away from any direct heat source. Don’t be tempted to speed things along with a radiator or tumble dryer – today’s shoes tend to be glued, not stitched, and can fall apart if you do.

6. Deodorize your running shoes

Your shoes are probably still a bit whiffy, so sprinkle baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) inside them to deodorize them, let it sit for 24 hours, then shake out any excess powder and give them a quick wipe with a dry cloth if needed.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.