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Cleaning Running Shoes Properly – Brush Gently, Don’t Wash

3rd December 2021

For us runners, our running shoes are the most important piece of equipment. It’s just a shame that after the first few runs, they are no longer as shiny as they once were in the store. That’s not surprising. After all, mud, dirt, and dust quickly soil our favorite shoe. In most cases, this is not a bad thing – but we still love it when our running shoes are really nice and clean. The good thing is that cleaning them is not difficult at all. Here are the best tips for cleaning our running shoes.


  1. Step by step to a clean running shoe

  2. How we should not clean running shoes in any case

Whether mud or dust – after just a few kilometers, our running shoes no longer shine like they did when we first got them. That’s actually not too bad. After all, running shoes are made to be worn on the road, on dirt paths, or in the forest.

For us runners, running shoes are nevertheless our favorite item. And they should look good. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to clean our running shoes properly and give them a fresh shine. All we need are four things:

  • lukewarm water,

  • mild soap or detergent,

  • a soft brush,

  • a cloth.

“This is enough to get our running shoes nice and clean again,” says Eva Hirschhäuser, Tech & Brand Representative at True Motion. On the other hand, it’s not a good idea to completely soak your running shoes – or even throw them in the washing machine. Both can harm its materials, ultimately damaging them and shortening their lifespan.


How we find the right running shoe size

Step by step to a clean running shoe

To prevent our running shoes from breaking when we wash them, it works best to clean them by hand. To do this, we first remove the insoles and unthread the laces.

First, we wipe off dry mud and dust on the upper with a cloth and brush them out with a soft brush. “The best way to do this is to put the running shoes in a bathtub or shower,” says Eva Hirschhäuser. That way, we can easily rinse out the dirt once we’re done cleaning the shoes.


Once we have removed coarse dirt from our running shoes, we can clean the outer sole with a damp cloth. If dirt remains, it helps to put a little mild soap or dishwashing liquid on the sole and wipe the shoe again with the damp cloth.

We clean the upper material of our running shoes in a similar way. To avoid damaging the mesh material, we should brush the shoes gently with a soft brush, some soap and lukewarm water. Afterwards, we wash out the soap with a damp cloth.

Cleaning the insoles separately is especially useful when we want to get rid of sweat odors. We wash the insole with a brush and lukewarm, soapy water – without completely soaking it. Otherwise, we risk that the shape will change when they dry. Shoelaces, on the other hand, will not be harmed by too much water. To clean them, we can hold them under running water and rinse them with soap.

After cleaning, do not dry running shoes on the heater

Once our running shoes are clean again, they need to dry before our next run. The best way to do this is to leave them at room temperature and put kitchen paper or newspaper inside. Newspaper absorbs moisture – and thus makes the shoe dry faster. To further speed up this process, we can change the paper two or three times.

However, it is not advisable to put our running shoes on the heater to dry them. The heat can deform or damage the shoe’s materials. The same can happen if we leave the running shoes to dry in direct sunlight for several hours.

How we should not clean running shoes in any case

Time and again you read on the Internet that some athletes wash their running shoes in the washing machine. However, this can be just as harmful as leaving them to dry on the heater. The reasons are the metal washing machine drum, the wrong detergent and excessively high temperatures, which can, in the worst case, damage the running shoes and greatly shorten their lifespan.


For example, spinning around in the drum can cause cracks in the upper material and in the rubber and foam elements of the outsole. Furthermore, if running shoes are exposed to excessively high temperatures and soaked in soapy water for too long, this can change the shape of the shoes. In addition, the glue that is connecting different elements of the running shoe may come loose. For the same reason, we should also be careful not to use aggressive or chemical cleaning agents when we clean our running shoes by hand. Mild soaps are usually unproblematic. They are gentle on the material.

Even if we would like to start running again directly after cleaning, as long as the running shoes are not completely dry, we should wait. If we don’t, we may develop blisters which will make our training much less fun.


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