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How to wash running shoes (and how not to dry them)

If you’re anything like me, by the time you’ve really started to get to know a pair of running shoes, they’re probably getting pretty funky. Hours and hours of sweat have poured into them, soaking into pretty much every inch of fabric. So you need to know how to wash running shoes.

And if you’re really like me, you’re concerned about the footstink you’re putting off mile after mile, but you’re even more concerned about ruining your expensive trainers by throwing them in the washing machine.

As much as I hate funky, wonky footstink, I hate the idea of ruining my running shoes even more.

The good news is this: running shoes are made to be durable and put up with some punishment. Even the kind that comes from the washing machine (just not the dryer!).

How to wash running shoes

In my experience, there are two solid ways how to wash running shoes (outside of just barely wiping the grime off the outside with a washcloth, which doesn’t really help with the smell, just the appearance).

1. Wash running shoes in the laundry

So if you really wanna wash tennis shoes, the first and most obvious way is to throw the suckers in the washing machine. That’s what I do when my trainers get stanknasty. I know what you’re thinking: “My precious running shoes! They’ll be ruined!”

No, they won’t. Really.

It’s actually pretty hard to hurt your shoes in the washing machine. (The dryer on the other hand…that’s a big no-no.) As long as you follow the right steps and take the right precautions:

  1. remove any inserts such as in-soles or orthotics
  2. use Woolite or another non-abrasive cleaner
  3. fill the washer with cold water
  4. do a single cycle on the gentle setting.

Some people remove the laces, but I don’t. I do, however, throw in a couple of small hand towels or a bath towel to absorb some of the shock of being tossed around.

When the gentle cycle has finished washing your running shoes, let them air dry.

This is very important: when you wash tennis shoes or any kind of athletic shoe, make sure you absolutely do not put them in the dryer or apply any kind of heat.

That is one of the only ways I know of to straight-up ruin them. Heat can deform the shoe’s upper, and it won’t even look the same (much less fit right), and it can cause serious degradation of the technical material in the midsole and outsole.

2. Wash running shoes in the dishwasher

The second method to wash running shoes is pretty similar: take out the insole and throw them on the top rack of your dishwasher.

You do want to remove the laces this time or they will get caught in the moving parts. Set the dishwasher on a short cycle and just let it run.

I caution you on this method because of the harshness of dish soap and the heat. Those two reasons are why I haven’t personally used this way to wash my running shoes, but I know a lot about people who swear by it. You may love it, and it may rock all the stank from your feet right down the drain.

How to Dry Running Shoes…

Regardless of which way you wash running shoes, you’ll want to let them passively dry. You do not want to throw them in the dryer. Never. Never put running shoes in the dryer.

They can (and likely will) get totally ruined. It will be ugly, too.

If you want to, you can place them near a vent or a fan. But I wouldn’t suggest putting them directly on a heating vent. Because, you know…heat will warp them. I just put mine on a shelf for a few days and let them sit.

If you’re worried about your shoes losing their shape, take some old newspaper (because it’s incredibly porous and absorbs a lot more than other kinds of paper), ball it up, and stuff it inside of your shoe until it’s full.

That will draw out some water and not let your precious, expensive running shoes lose their shape.

For me, the newspaper is optional. I’ve done it a couple of times, and this last time I didn’t. I wear pretty stiff and rigid shoes, though (Asics Nimbus), so if I were in something like the Saucony Kinvaras or a Nike Flyknit, I’d probably opt for the newspaper option.

Regardless, now you know how to wash running shoes. For some reason, we all tend to be a little scared of it, but it’s pretty simple and easy to deal with. Nothing to be scared of at all.

Good luck with your stinky feet, folks!ย 

What method do you use to wash running shoes?

 

 

 

I also have a Substack that you would enjoy!

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Miki

    Lol I’ve washed mine forever in the washer. I love to run in all weather any day anytime, but I inexplicably hate dirty shoes! (I think it’s because I always buy fun, colorful shoes that stand out. I like to keep them that way!) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      I am totally jealous. I wear wides, and I can’t tend to get the bright, colorful shoes I want. So I keep the weirdly drab ones I am forced into as clean and shiny as I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    • Tessa Liford

      I always wash in the machine and then use the sweat rack in the dryer to set them on and push the air dry option.

      Reply
      • Tessa Liford

        I meant to say sweater rack in the dryer.

        Reply
  2. Geeky Workout Mike!

    Hey BJ,

    This is a great reminder that you can refresh those stinky running shoes! I’ve always found that washing older sneakers, especially white sneakers, can make them look brand new again! Okay, not brand new…but it help you stop feeling like you need to buy a new pair ๐Ÿ™‚

    Take care…and sorry for not stoping by the blog more in November…it was a busy month!

    Reply
  3. MJ Combs

    I have washed mine several times with no problem but I have come across some people who have washed their shoes and they will squeak after that. Can anyone tell me why that would happen or if it has happened to them?

    Reply
    • B.J. Keeton

      The best I would be able to tell is that there is some water inside the sole. Maybe they’re not dry all the way through (which means the squeaking would end once it’s completely dry), or they might be slightly misshapen or the outer-sole warped in some way. Preventing that could be as simple as tossing a couple of towels in the washer and using cold water before air drying. That SHOULD keep them as close to their new shape and feel as possible because they wouldn’t be banging up against the washer walls as much and getting cracked or damaged (if the shoe are like mine with lots of gel pockets that could come loose and squeak). That’s the best I could think of, at least, because mine tend to squeak when really wet, but not afterward.

      Reply
  4. Annie

    Woolite is ok, but you can also use baking soda (in washer and dishwasher) followed with a distilled white vinegar rinse. It’s very kind to the fabric, removes odors and also removes soap, oil and grease buildup. It leaves no scent, and I’m not aware of people reporting allergies or skin sensitivities to these.

    Reply
  5. Nyabinghi Djehutti

    How does one get them dry BEFORE they get that moldy smell???

    Reply

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