How To Clean Running Shoes Easily And Effectively

The importance of cleaning your shoes

If you have running shoes you know how hard it can get when it comes to cleaning them.  For every runner, running shoes are the most important tool.  For me to get my head in the game I always need to have comfy and most importantly, clean shoes.

Over a period of time, I have tried to find the best ways on how to clean running shoes without ruining them. So how do you clean running shoes? How do you make sure they are not stained or faded? How do you get them to dry well and nonstinky?


I hope this article will enlighten you better on what to do, how to do it and when to do it. If your running shoes are important to you as they are to me, then keeping them clean is equally important.  

What makes running shoes dirty? 


We all have different trails we run on. If you run in a muddy or dusty trail, you are likely to get your running shoes dirty. The rainy weather often results to mud while the dry weather leaves our feet sweaty, and we know sweat and shoes don’t go well together.

Why we should clean our shoes

We need to clean our shoes regularly to avoid staining of our shoes. If you sweat in your running shoes they are likely to stink, and you could get smelly feet. Long-term dust in shoes can easily generate harmful bacteria to the body.

We have to clean the sole of our shoes so at to increase friction for shoe sole and increase grip. Shoes that are new and beautiful help you feel confident when running. There is no better comfort in running than using clean shoes, and your shoes are a reflection of you.


There is a difference between cleaning and washing your running shoes.  Cleaning the shoes covers both surface wiping or simply dusting your shoes, this can be done when your shoes are simply dusty while washing is a more intricate procedure done when the shoes are absolutely dirty. Full washing in the washing machine and drying shoes too many times a month takes a toll on them. The material of the shoes is delicate and washing them too often might ruin the material.

Once you kick off your shoes, there is nothing fresh about them. Fortunately, you do not have to buy clean shoes, just clean them. So, how do you wash running shoes? First, you can either use a washing machine or simply hand wash them depending on the type of shoes you have.  If you do not want to wash the shoes, you can just clean their surface and not the entire shoe.

It is ok to wash your running shoes completely using the machine. May runners according to wash their shoes using the washing machine and it works effectively.

However, to get the best results, it is better to combine hand washing and machine washing. In the end, you will get nice clean and comfy shoes, with no trace of dirt. There are some parts like the insoles where the machine may not clean as well as the hand can. Follow these simple and straight forward tips and have an easy time while cleaning your shoes.

Step by step procedure on cleaning your shoes:

Remove the insoles and clean them separately

Remove the insoles and clean them separately

The bacteria accumulated on the insoles from sweating during running will make your feet smelly. So make sure you remove the insoles and scrub them a bit before throwing them in the washing machine.  Most of us ignore this part and it is very important in keeping your feet healthy.

Remove the shoe laces

You need to remove the laces from the shoe so that they can wash separately in the drier. This is effective in cleaning all the parts of the laces, which would have been hidden in the lace holes. You have to pre-treat the dirty parts of the laces using some laundry detergent. 

Line the inside of your shoes


Damage could be done to your shoe, and it could lose its shape during washing so you need to line the inside with a plastic material that can be bought solely for this purpose as described in here

Some prep work on your shoes before washing them

If your shoes are muddy and dried up, knock the soles together to make the mud fall off. You don’t want to put your shoes full of mud in the washer.  You can also scrape off the mud first then use a wet cloth or baby wipes to remove any stubborn mud.

If the mud is extremely stubborn, you can use a brush to scrub off the mud gently under running water. The times when the shoe is just dusty, you can brush off the dirt on the outer surface of the shoe.

In the case of really stubborn stains

To avoid having stains on your shoes, hand washing some of the stubborn stains using a brush (a small hand brush or a toothbrush) with soapy water is recommended.  This really helps when the shoes are too dirty and the stains too stubborn to be cleaned by the washing machine.

Protect your shoes


It is a great idea to place your shoes in a laundry bag to prevent them from tearing in the drum. An empty pillowcase is a good alternative to the drum. To avoid noise, towels will come in handy.

Put your shoes inside a washing machine add the detergent as normal

Once you have loaded your machine, adjust your cycle to gentle cycle. Leave the shoes to clean as normal. However, not all shoe brands encourage machine washing. You can check with your shoe brand just to be sure. But don’t worry, 99% of the shoe brands are ok with machine washing. More on cleaning can be found at here and a step by step procedure on Youtube.


After your shoes are properly cleaned

Put some newspaper, packing paper or tissue paper and let them air dry in a cool place. Some people opt to use a fan to dry their shoes, but then that’s really exhausting, considering you have to stand under or next to the fan while holding your shoes till they dry.

  Others opt to sundry their shoes. That is limited to the summer only though when there is enough sun, otherwise, it can’t work during the other seasons.  While it's tempting to just toss them in the dryer, you could end up shrinking your shoes and damaging the dryer in the process. Some dryers have a shoe-drying rack you can put in, but if you're without one, the newspaper method works magic.

The newspaper can be used to dry both inside and outside of the shoe. Many people have agreed that the newspaper hack works really well. It is widely used, i have used it before and it worked perfectly for me. I would recommend it over the other methods. It is fast, efficient and safe, no risk of shrinking your shoes.

Drying the laces

Most laces have plastic end-caps. To avoid ruining them, keep them out of the dryer. You can just hand your laces to dry.

Are you a regular runner?

If you run daily, you also need to clean your shoes regularly. To avoid reducing the lifespan of my shoes, I usually clean the surface only on a daily basis. This is how you can go about it;

If the shoes are dirty on the outside, you can scrub them gently using a toothbrush, some water, and laundry detergent. This will remove the surface dirt that gets stuck on the shoes while you run. When they are dirty on the inside, use some hot water and soap to clean inside, and then stuff them with newspaper to dry.

If you do not have a washing machine to clean your shoes, hand washing comes in effectively. Soak your shoes in soapy water after prepping them, then scrub them gently with a toothbrush or a hand brush till they get clean. Raise them in clean water and dry them using the newspaper method as shown above.

A little helpful advice

Between machine washing and hand washing, I would recommend machine washing over hand washing. It is more effective and a faster process. If your shoes have a stubborn stain, it is easier to get the work done using the machine.

Hand washing is a bit cumbersome, messy and tiresome. All the scrubbing is a lot of effort and hard work, and it takes time. It also takes tact not to spread the dirt to the rest of the shoe. Constant scrubbing also wears down the material, if your shoe is not fully plastic.  

What to avoid when cleaning shoes

Do not put your shoes in the washing machine with mud on them; try to remove as much mud as possible before putting them in the washer.

When using a washing machine to wash your shoes, use the gentle cycle.

Avoid putting your shoes in the dryer; it might shrink your shoes.  Do not dry your shoes using a blow dryer or in front of your fireplace. Direct heat ruins your shoes. You can watch on Youtube for more tips on what to take care of.


In conclusion, these steps have helped me in cleaning my shoes. I used to have a hard time cleaning the shoes, and kept messing up from time to time. I remember the time I shrunk my shoes in a drier, it was awful, and I would not wish that on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

This tutorial is really important to me because after ruining so many shoes I had had enough and decided to research on the best way to clean my running shoes. After a long time of extensive research and experimenting with different methods, finally I settled on these steps.

The procedure may not cover all shoe brands but I assure you they cover 99% of the brands. These steps will help you send your shoe cleaning misery. It will make tour shoe cleaning process very easy.

Did you have fun reading this tutorial?  Were the points helpful in your shoe cleaning process? Share your thoughts and comments on the article in the comment section, and share you shoe cleaning adventure. If you like this article, share it with your friends to help others in their shoe cleaning journey. Hope you had fun with me.

Bella Williams

Hi! I'm Bella. I love running. I write this blog to share everyone about running.

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