Do It Right: How to Wash Running Shoes

Welcome to Do It Right, a new series where we cover essential skills that everyone should know. From staying fit to caring for your gear and beyond, each Do It Right post calls on expert advice to help you learn something new across a wide range of topics.

Once you take your pristine running shoes out for their first romp, they’ll never be the same. Whether you run in dry or wet conditions on the road or on the trail, your running footwear accumulates dirt, dust, sweat, and other nasty gunk as you put miles on them.

Some of the signs of dirty running shoes are obvious: They’ll start to stink, or they’ll leave behind dirt on your floors. But the buildup of crud doesn’t just ruin your shoes’ aesthetics; it can actually degrade their technical properties, toos. Dirt and debris on your shoes can reduce their water resistance, breathability, and even the integrity of their materials. If you don’t keep your running shoes clean, you’re only shortening their lifespan.

Before you toss out your dirty running shoes to splurge on a new pair, consider giving the old ones new life with a deep clean. Once they’re shiny and bright again, they might have more miles left in them than you thought.

Do It Right: How to Wash Running Shoes

To gather the best advice for cleaning even the dirtiest running shoes, we talked to a master gear washer for her top tips. Follow these seven easy cleaning steps to revive your running shoes from the laces down to the outsoles.

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The Skill: How to Wash Running Shoes

Washing your running shoes keeps your floors clean while prolonging the life of your kicks. Just like our skin, a shoe’s materials have pores. When those pores get blocked with gunk, the shoe becomes less breathable and weather-resistant. By washing them properly, you help restore the shoe’s performance features, which will make for more comfortable runs.

The Expert

Anabelle McLean, master washer at Gear Washers in Denver, CO. Her company specializes in eco-friendly professional washing and re-waterproofing services for shoes and all kinds of gear. Customers can drop off items at the Denver gear shop FERAL or mail in orders. She’s also opening two more Colorado drop-off locations at Wilderness Exchange in Denver and Bivouac Coffee in Evergreen.

What You Need

A toothbrush or footwear brush, shoe-specific detergent (Nikwax and Grangers make footwear-specific cleaners), re-waterproofing agent (Nikwax and Grangers both offer these products), a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and a container for washing.

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