5 Steps to Clean Running Shoes

by | Updated: May 29th, 2018 | Read time: 3 minutes

Your feet stink. Don’t get me wrong. Those trendy sneakers look great on you. But once you kick off your kicks, there’s nothing fresh about them. Unfortunately, that’s not reason enough to splurge on a brand new pair. All they really need is a little freshening up.

How to Clean Dirty Running Shoes
Stuff a dryer sheet inside your shoes to keep them smelling fresh after each workout.


Follow these simple steps to better-smelling, squeaky-clean sneakers:

Step 1: Remove the insoles (if you can) and wash these separately in your machine on gentle cycle. Use an equally gentle detergent, such as the cruelty-free Earth Friendly Delicate Wash Lavender and Chamomile liquid cleanser.

Step 2: While the insoles are washing, do some prep work on the outside of your shoes. Step into your yard and knock the soles together to loosen any clumps of dirt, sand or gravel that have settled into the crevices. No need to bang too hard or too much, though; these aren’t steel-toed boots. Next, using a wet toothbrush or baby wipes, gently scrub off any stubborn chunks of junk. If insoles are done washing, set them aside in a cool, dry place.

Step 3:  Remove the laces and wash them with the shell of your shoes (yep, the whole she-bang) on another gentle cycle. To protect them from the inevitable thrashing, put your shoes in mesh laundry bags and throw in a few large towels. These can be dirty gym towels as long as they’re not covered in the gunk you’re trying to get off your shoes (obviously). Note: not all shoe brands recommend using a washing machine. Brooks, for example, encourages hand-cleaning. Check the company’s website before tossing in the wash.

Step 4: Once cleaned, stuff your shoes with newspaper, packing paper or tissue paper and let them air dry in a cool place. Most laces have plastic end-caps, so keep these out of the dryer just to be safe. Make sure all shoe parts are AWAY from direct heat, including natural sunlight — they are not plants. Using a blow-dryer or setting them in front of a blazing fireplace may speed up the drying process, but it will also change the shape of your shoes.

Step 5: When they’re completely dried out, sprinkle in a dusting of  baby powder under and on top of the insoles. This will help keep your kicks from stinking after the first post-wash wearing. Now, slide the insoles back in and re-lace your shoes – or replace the laces if it’s time. Another easy way to keep sneaks smelling clean without having to wash them too often is to stuff them with reusable   EverydayWillow Dryer Balls, aromatic Zum Wood Balls or scented dryer sheets after every workout. And always store your shoes in a cool, dark closet or mudroom.

Aim to clean your well-used footwear every few months, and definitely do your loved ones a favor by washing them immediately following an endurance event or after a wet and nasty training run. When your athletic sneakers get past the point of no return, please recycle them. There are plenty of organizations that accept donations, such as Shoe4Africa (if your running shoes still have some mileage) or Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe (for a totally worn-out pair).