How To Clean Running Shoes

Running shoe being cleaned with a toothbrush
(Image credit: SERSOLL / Shutterstock)

Unless you stick exclusively to running on the treadmill, your running shoes are going to get dirty eventually. You can either choose to accept this, or get scrubbing. 

If you’re going to clean your running shoes, there are a few rules to follow to make sure you don’t inadvertently ruin the performance of the shoe. Given that the best running shoes don’t come cheap, the last thing you want to do is wreck them by washing and drying them the wrong way.

How To Clean Running Shoes

When we spoke to footwear consultant and Under Armour athlete, Emma Kirk Odunubi, about how to look after running shoes, the advice for washing them was pretty simple.

“If they get muddy, leave them out to dry—outdoors if you’ve got a porch or a balcony—and then use good old elbow grease with an old toothbrush and some washing up liquid. Just scrub,” says Kirk Odunubi.

The good news there is that you don’t need to invest in any specialist products to clean your shoes. The bad news is that cleaning running shoes is a labor-intensive process if you want the best results. 

Can you put running shoes in the washing machine?

The shortcut to clean shoes is chucking them in the washing machine, but this does run the risk of damaging the shoe.

“As a traditionalist, I say absolutely not [to putting shoes in the machine],” says Kirk Odunubi. “But there are some people who will if they’re very muddy. If you’re going to put them in the washing machine, put them in a pillowcase, use a cold wash and take the laces out as well. If you put shoes in on a hot wash, it can break down the cushioning.”

How do you dry running shoes?

Once your shoes are clean you need to dry them safely, and you cannot take shortcuts here. Don’t use the dryer, or put them right on top of a hot radiator. 

“Near the radiator is fine so they get a bit of latent heat, but don’t put shoes on top of the radiator when it’s on,” says Kirk Odunubi. “A lot of shoes are made under heat conditions—the uppers are heat-molded—so if you put it on a direct heat source like a radiator, then it can soften and melt some of those welded areas and the shoe can lose its shape.”

Leave your wet shoes in a warm, well-ventilated area, or you can even put them in front of a fan to speed up the drying process. Alternatively, stuff them with old newspaper, and change the paper when it gets damp.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.