Your running shoes are the most expensive part of your running kit and crucial to your running performance. For this reason, you want to keep your shoes looking as good as possible and performing at their best. Unlike your vest and bra, you should resist the urge to toss them into the washing machine – rather take care of them and keep them clean the right way.

Leading manufacturers agree, running shoes should never be put in the washing machine. They are designed to be tough on the road but are made up of technical parts and some delicate components that need to be kept in tip-top shape in order to maintain their performance and enhance yours. 

Soaking, high temperatures, and harsh household detergents interfere with shoe construction, weaken the fabric, and compromise adhesives. You would never risk damage to a designer piece by throwing it in the washing machine, why treat your running shoes any differently? 

Here’s how to keep them looking and feeling good, inside and out, without causing any damage. 

Maintain Your Performance

According to Asics: “Unnatural cleaning techniques can harm the integrity of the shoes, change the fit and lead to a less premium experience.”

Nike, New Balance, Brooks Running, and ON-Running all agree, to maintain the performance and integrity of your running shoes, resist the urge to put them in the washing machine. 

No matter how dirty your running shoes are, avoid using household bleach and cleaning supplies like an all-purpose cleaner or a scouring powder to clean them. These chemicals are way too harsh and not designed for use on fabrics.  

Even washing machine manufacturers like Whirlpool discourages you from putting your running shoes into the machine as they can cause damage to the drum. 

So if you can’t use the washing machine, what is the best way to keep your shoes looking good while still getting the most out of them?

How to Wash Your Running Shoes – Without Causing Damage

Forget the fancy shoe-cleaning detergents and expensive foam sprays. All you really need to clean your running shoes is seven easy steps and a few things you already have lying around your cleaning closet. Take out gentle laundry-safe detergent, soft brush or toothbrush, sponge, and paper towels, and fill a bucket with warm water. Before you wash them, remember to give your shoes adequate time to dry before your next running session.

Seven Easy Steps To Clean Running Shoes

  1. Use a Gentle, Fabric-safe Laundry Detergent 

The one you regularly use is a good choice as it’s already fabric safe since you use it on your clothes. In a bucket mix your detergent with the warm water and create a soapy solution.

  1. Remove Your Laces and Insoles

This will allow you to clean all of your shoe components thoroughly. 

Make a note of how you laced your running shoes so that you can re-lace them the same way when they are dry. Take a picture with your phone to remind you. Alternatively, you may want to do a Google search and find different ways to lace your shoes to suit your running style.

  1. Use a Paper Towel to Remove Any Dirt

Use the paper towel to brush away any grass or dust that has accumulated on your shoes. 

  1. Scrub with a Toothbrush

Dip your toothbrush or soft brush into the soapy detergent solution and gently scrub the outsoles of your shoes as well as the rubbery part that joins the sole to the fabric of the shoe. If your shoes are really dirty, a good scrub will reveal their original color. 

  1. Use the Sponge to Create Foam

Dip the sponge into the soapy solution and squeeze to create some foam. Use the foam to wipe down the outer fabric and mesh of your shoes. Really dirty areas, like under the laces and the top of the shoe tongue may require a bit more vigorous cleaning.

  1. Clean the Laces and Insoles

No matter how tempted you are, DO NOT soak the insoles. Scrub with the toothbrush and clean off excess soap with a sponge. Clean your laces with a scrubbing brush and soap under running water. 

  1. Allow to Air-dry

NEVER dry running shoes in the sun as this will cause them to discolor. Place your shoes in a well-ventilated area where there is good air circulation. Resist the temptation to dry your shoes in the dryer or on the radiator. Running shoes are not designed to handle high temperatures. Excessive heat will damage the shoe adhesives and warp the structure of your shoes causing them to lose their shape. A weakened shoe will not provide you with the support your feet need when running. 

This includes putting shoes in front of a fireplace to dry.

A clean paper towel can be used to pat down the outer shoe fabric as well as the insoles. It will help to absorb all the dirt you have just rubbed out of the fabric. You can also stuff rolled paper towels into your shoes to help absorb moisture from the inside.

Newspaper can also be stuffed into your shoes to absorb excess moisture and help them to maintain their shape while drying. If the newspaper becomes too wet inside, remove it and replace it with dry paper. 

Wondering how many miles you can actually get out of your shoes?
We’ve put this guide together just for you: When To Change Your Running Shoes – The Mileage Guide

Can Any of My Trainers Go in the Washing Machine?

Fashion trainers made of canvas, nylon, cotton, and polyester can be washed in the washing machine. These types of trainers are usually worn for comfort or to match your outfit and don’t have the high-tech adhesives, foam soles, and special fabric used to make performance running shoes. Fashion trainers can be washed in the machine on a cold gentle cycle. A hot cycle may damage them. 

The washing machine may seem like a quick and easy solution but the damage caused in the long run is not worth it. Your shoes are an essential, high-tech running tool. Take the best care of them with these seven easy cleaning steps to maintain their performance for longer and get the most out of them.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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