It is essential not to put them in the washing machine, as the temperature of the water may discolor the dye or detach the pieces from the footwear.
How should running shoes be cleaned? There is no single method, there is no universal truth to leave your running shoes like new after hundreds of kilometers of training and popular races. Each of us has our own habits, we have heard and/or read about certain ways of doing it or our own experience over the years is what has allowed us to find a way to wash our running shoes with the best possible result.
Shoes are the basic and fundamental equipment of any runner, they know the kilometers we carry in our legs, the time we have dedicated to running, and they are our dream companions, they are there when we meet personal challenges or lower our record in a certain distance. For all these reasons, they deserve some care. With simple maintenance and cleaning guidelines, we will be able to extend their useful life, preserve their original design and aesthetics, avoid premature degradation of materials and, of course, enjoy them for more kilometers -something to keep in mind considering the price of some models-.
Running shoes get dirty, that’s a reality. It doesn’t matter if you only run on asphalt and never run on dirt tracks, even in the middle of a city the materials, rubber and mesh accumulate dirt from road dust, car fumes or any kind of friction. Of course, if you get caught on a rainy day or do trail running, you’re going to have to clean your shoes.
Running shoes, away from the washing machine
Straight into the washing machine? Don’t even think about it. Running shoes (or for any other sport) are washed by hand. Some people will say, “Well, I put them in the washing machine and they look as good as new”. He’s probably not lying, but machine washing is very bad for running shoes. No matter how delicate the program chosen, the movements and temperature of the washing machine can kill our running shoes by affecting the glue that binds the various parts that compose them – most manufacturers glue the parts with heat-sealing. This heat can also deform their structure and, of course, fade the colors.
Hand-washing of running shoes
The washing machine is the easy and quick option, but we forget about it and move on to hand-washing. We think of the shoe as a single object, but when it comes to cleaning it, the best thing to do is to maintain it in parts: laces, inner insole and the shoe itself.
Personally, I start with the shoe itself and before wetting it I try to remove dust and surface dirt with a soft brush (be careful, if the bristles are too hard/aggressive, we can damage the mesh of the upper). The next step is to use a cloth together with a bucket of warm water and neutral soap. Clean well and rinse until the desired finish is achieved.
A toothbrush is your best ally to perfectly clean those areas that are difficult to access. Don’t forget the inside: sweat and dirt accumulate and cleaning it well will prevent bad odors. Don’t cut yourself off by wetting the shoe completely. It is important not to use abrasive cleaning products, neither bleach, nor the typical universal degreasers. They will probably remove stains perfectly, but the chemical components they use can affect the materials.
Dry slippers at room temperature
When you finish, rinse the entire running shoe thoroughly to remove soap and dirt. Now you just have to let it dry. Attention, let it dry, not dry it. We must wait for the shoes to dry completely at room temperature, in the air. Do not place them near heat sources such as stoves or radiators, nor is it advisable to leave them in the sun and, of course, do not even consider putting them in the dryer.
All of these methods can also affect the structure of the shoe, as is the case with machine washing. To facilitate drying, it is best to stuff the inside of the shoe with absorbent paper – kitchen towel – which will keep its shape while trapping moisture. Using newspaper is a classic and also works, but you may be surprised to find that the ink on the paper has stained the inner textile.
Insole and laces, simple but essential
Practically all current running shoes allow the inner insole to be removed and it is very easy to wash. This piece accumulates a lot of sweat and to clean it we must also avoid the washing machine. Again, with a cloth and a brush we rub the entire surface with water and neutral soap. At the same time, to eliminate odors, a simple trick is to add a little vinegar to the mixture. Let the insoles air dry (do not put them in the shoes until they are dry) and that’s it.
Lastly, the laces need to be cleaned and this is the least delicate of all. They can be washed by hand, but this time we can go fast and put them in the washing machine. The ideal is that it is inside a bag for delicate garments, so we avoid entanglement or snagging with the drum.
As you can see, cleaning a pair of running shoes to keep them always shiny is not complicated at all. It may seem time-consuming, but with normal use it is not necessary to do it every week, far from it. For example, you can set aside 20 minutes once a month to give them a once-over, just keep in mind if you’re going to need them, because they will take about 24 hours to dry completely. If your trail running shoes are caked with mud, then try to remove as much as you can first, but the rest of the procedure is the same.