How to Clean Running Shoes: A Comprehensive Guide by The Shoe Business


Running shoes are more than just footwear; they’re an investment in your health and performance. Ensuring they’re clean not only maintains their appearance but also prolongs their lifespan. Clean shoes can provide better support, prevent the growth of bacteria, and even enhance foot comfort. Let’s dive into the essentials of cleaning your running shoes the right way.

Recognizing the Different Materials in Running Shoes

Different shoes, different rules. Recognizing the materials in your running shoes is the first step towards their proper care. Here’s a brief overview:

Mesh/Fabric: Common in most running shoes, allowing for breathability.

Leather/Synthetic Leather: Offers a combination of style and durability.

Rubber: Often used for soles, providing grip and flexibility.

Common Running Shoe Materials

MaterialCommon UsageProperties
Mesh/FabricUpper part of most running shoesBreathable, lightweight
Leather/Synthetic LeatherStylish athletic variantsDurable, stylish
RubberSole of the shoeGrippy, flexible

It’s vital to clean your shoes according to their material to ensure longevity and prevent potential damage. Dive deeper into the various shoe materials and their care at our detailed guide on Shoe Materials.

Preliminary Cleaning Steps

Before diving into a deep clean, there are a few preliminary steps to ensure effective cleaning:

Remove Laces and Insoles:

This allows for a more thorough clean. Laces can be washed separately or replaced if they’re overly worn out.

Dusting Off:

Before wet cleaning, dust off excess dirt and debris using a soft brush. It prevents larger dirt particles from scratching or staining the shoe fabric during the washing process.

Cleaning Based on Shoe Material

Different shoe materials require specific cleaning methods to maintain their integrity and appearance. Here’s how to approach each:

Mesh and Fabric Shoes:

  Use a mixture of mild soap and water.

  Gently scrub with a soft brush in circular motions.

  Rinse with cold water and pat dry with a towel.

Leather or Synthetic Leather:

  Wipe down with a damp cloth to remove superficial dirt.

  For deeper cleaning, use a leather cleaner or a mild soap mixture.

  Always dry leather shoes naturally, away from direct sunlight.

Rubber and Foam Soles:

  Scrub using a bristled brush and a mild soap mixture.

  Focus on the outsole patterns where dirt tends to accumulate.

  Rinse and wipe down with a towel.

For those with unique or customized footwear, there might be unique materials or embellishments that need extra attention. Always refer to the care instructions provided by Custom Shoe Makers for the best results.

Recommended Cleaning Solutions and Tools

The right tools and solutions make the cleaning process efficient and safe for your shoes.

Soap and Water Mixtures:

A go-to solution for most running shoes. Always opt for mild soap to avoid damaging the shoe material.

Specialized Shoe Cleaners:

These are formulated specifically for footwear, providing deep cleaning without compromising the shoe’s material.

Brushes, Cloths, and Other Tools:

  Soft brushes for the upper part of the shoe.

  Bristled brushes for soles.

  Microfiber cloths for drying and polishing.

The Cleaning Process

For the most effective cleaning, follow this step-by-step guide:

Preparation: Remove laces, insoles, and dust off any excess dirt.

Wet Cleaning: Depending on the shoe material, use the appropriate cleaning solution. Apply using a brush or cloth in gentle, circular motions.

Rinsing: Rinse off any soap residues with cold water.

Drying: Always air dry shoes, keeping them away from direct heat sources. Stuffing them with newspapers can help retain their shape.

Reassembling: Once completely dry, reinsert insoles and re-lace.

It’s essential to occasionally check manufacturer-recommended practices to ensure you’re using the best cleaning methods for your specific pair of running shoes.

Drying Your Running Shoes

Once cleaned, ensuring your running shoes are dried properly is just as crucial. Proper drying not only retains the shoe’s shape but also enhances its functionality.

Best Practices for Drying:

Air Dry: Always opt for air drying over direct heat. Place them in a well-ventilated area but avoid direct sunlight which can warp the shape and fade the color.

Shape Retention: To help shoes keep their shape, consider stuffing them lightly with newspaper or paper towels. This also aids in absorbing moisture.

Never Use Heat: Direct sources of heat, like hairdryers or radiators, can damage the shoe’s material and bonding glue.

Additionally, after your shoes are dried, think about storage. Proper shoe storage not only keeps them clean but also in optimal shape for your next run. Check out some innovative shoe packaging and storage solutions for inspiration.

Regular Maintenance and Shoe Care

Regular maintenance goes beyond just cleaning. To ensure your running shoes have a long and functional life:

Rotate Between Pairs: If you’re a regular runner, consider having two pairs and rotating between them. This gives each pair a break, allowing them to breathe and regain their shape.

Spot Clean: Address stains or dirt spots immediately. This prevents them from setting deep into the material.

Storage: Store in a cool, dry

place. Avoid leaving them in damp or confined spaces, like a gym bag, for prolonged periods.

For more insights and tips on shoe care, be sure to visit our regularly updated Shoe Business Blog, where we delve deeper into the world of footwear maintenance and more!


The journey of a runner is as much about the journey as it is about the gear. Taking care of your running shoes means they’ll be with you every step of the way, looking good and providing the support you need. Regular cleaning is more than just aesthetics; it’s about functionality, performance, and respect for the investment you’ve made.

At The Shoe Business, we believe in the power of well-maintained shoes. Dive deeper, explore our offerings, and equip yourself with the knowledge and products to give your running shoes the care they deserve.