Nothing drives crazy like when my brand new running shoes get dirty the first time I run in them. Can I wash my shoes, and if so, what’s the best way to do it?
Seeing my new kicks get scuffed up always stings for a second or two, but I’ve always reminded myself that they’re tools of the trade, and as such, they’re bound to get dirty—usually sooner than later.
That said, I can understand wanting to keep them looking fresh—and lasting—for as long as possible. The short answer is yes, you can clean your running shoes, but it’s important to keep a few key things in mind.
I asked Golden Harper, co-founder of Altra Running and lifelong running shoe geek (his family owned a specialty running store from the time he was a young boy) for his top tips on keeping your kicks clean.
“Running shoes should definitely be washed, maybe just not in the way you’re thinking,” Harper explains. “Washing your shoes carefully and gently can actually help your shoes to last longer. Too often, dried mud or dirt in the shoe can cause the upper materials to tear, or even cause delaminations of the upper from the midsole or outsole.”
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4 Tips For Cleaning Your Running Shoes
1. Don’t wash your shoes too often. “Washing shoes inappropriately too often, or too long, can result in the shoe breaking down early,” Harper says. “Also, leaving a pair of newly cleaned shoes out in the hot sun or putting them in the dryer can cause the shoe to shrink, fit differently and never fit the same.”
2. Minimize exposure to water. “First rinse the shoes off, then spray them with shoe cleaner, Spray-n-Wash, 409 or some other cleaner and let it sit for a few minutes,” Harper explains. “At this point, take a scrub brush to them under running water—I will admit I usually do this in the shower!—and after you’ve got them nice and clean, stuff them and let them sit out in the open air or stick a fan on them. This approach will get the shoes much more clean than using the washing machine and minimizes their exposure which should help them to last longer.”
3. Be careful if you throw your shoes in the washing machine. “I have to admit I did this just a couple of days ago after an incredibly muddy run. It was the lazy way out. If you do this, just be OK with the fact that your shoes may not last as long. If you insist on using the washing machine, I recommend using the shortest gentle cycle and throwing them in with a few towels and some sport detergent or liquid detergent.” (Drying tip: Never put them in the dryer. Instead, stuff them with newspaper and let them dry for several hours before wearing them. The newspaper will absorb a lot of the water, so pull the paper out after a few hours and let them continue to sit away from the sun or any other heat source until they’re completely dry.)
4. Clean your insoles! “Remember that bacteria on the insoles is the main cause of bad smelling shoes,” Harper says, “so make sure to remove the insoles and scrub them a bit before throwing them in.”
Take Golden’s advice to heart and keep your kicks running clean for a long time!
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