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Clean Your Dirty Running Shoes Without Ruining Them. Here's How

Lengthen the lifespan of your athletic shoes with this easy cleaning routine.

Macy Meyer Editor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
Expertise Macy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more. Credentials
  • Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
Macy Meyer
4 min read
Low Section Of Person Running On Road In Forest

Cleaning your workout shoes should only take about 30 minutes and only requires a few supplies that you probably have laying around your home already. 

Mikhail Druzhinin/EyeEm/Getty Images

Working out isn't just hard on your body -- it's hard on your shoes, too. Constantly jogging on rough concrete, pavement and hiking trails takes a toll, wearing down the soles of your shoes and reducing traction. The good news is that consistent cleaning and upkeep can help you keep your tennis and running shoes longer. 

Yes, your athletic shoes need regular maintenance. Grime and dirt can easily get caked on the fabric and laces as you do your favorite outdoor workouts and physical activities. And that's not to mention the smells that can accumulate when your shoes get soaked from rain or sweat. Luckily, there's a simple routine you can follow to make your shoes look (almost) brand new. (For more tips on how to clean your fitness equipment and accessories, check out our guide on the best way to clean a yoga mat and how to clean your workout clothes). 

What you'll need to get started

Cleaning your workout shoes should only take about 30 minutes and only requires a few supplies that you probably have lying around your home already. 

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Here's what you'll need:

  • Dish soap or laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Tooth brush or other soft bristle brush
  • Sink or large bowl

Before you get started with cleaning, examine your shoes to see if they're past the point of help. If your shoes are starting to come apart or you find cracks in the soles, you're probably just due for a new pair of shoes. Here's some recommendations of the best shoes of the year for every workout type:

Easy steps to deep clean your athletic shoes

The following routine is best for standard fabric running shoes made out of nylon mesh, cotton, knit polyester and rubber.

  1. Brush off excess dirt

Using an old toothbrush or other soft bristle brush, gently scrub away excess dirt, grass, mud and other particles. Make sure you scrub all sides and the outsole well. 

2. Clean the uppers

Start by removing the laces and insoles from the shoe and set aside. Use the toothbrush to gently remove any additional excess dirt. Create a gentle cleaning solution of water with a few drops of detergent or dish soap. Next, use the toothbrush or old wash cloth to wipe down shoes on all sides. Rinse thoroughly with warm, clean water. 

insole being taken out of running shoe

Remove the insole and laces to give each part of your shoe a good scrub down. 

AndreyPopov/Getty Images

3. Clean the insoles

Your insoles likely absorb the most amount of sweat, which means they probably smell the worst and require a deeper clean than your uppers. One option is to place your shoe laces and insoles in a mesh bag and machine wash on a gentle cycle. This ensures a deep clean and a fresh smell. 

But, if you'd rather hand-wash, you can use the water and detergent solution mentioned above, or you could use a 1:1 ratio mixture of vinegar and water. No matter what cleaning solution you use, scrub the insoles well and rinse with clean water.

4. Dry your shoes completely

This is the easiest but most time-consuming part of the cleaning process. You should allow your shoes to completely air dry before reinserting the soles and laces and wearing them again. For quickest results, place your shoes inside, in a low-humidity room and places balled up paper towels inside each shoe (change the paper if it soaks up too much water). 

You can even place your shoes in front of a fan for faster drying, but refrain from putting your shoes in the dryer or near a heat source since heat distorts the shape of your shoe, can weaken the adhesive attaching the fabric to the outsole and can even lead to yellow staining. 

Putting sneakers into the washing machine

Cotton, nylon and polyester shoes are normally safe in the washing machine.

Kinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

Can you machine-wash running shoes?

While it's usually best practice to hand-wash shoes, some shoes are safe in the washing machine. To check, find the care label usually located on the underside of the tongue. There, it should tell you if you can machine-wash or not. 

Cotton, nylon and polyester shoes are normally safe in the machine, but if you're unsure, definitely err on the side of caution and opt to hand-wash. 

More cleaning hacks for you to try

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.