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Running Shoe Maintenance: How to Clean and Extend the Lifespan of Your Shoes

Alisha Deo

Hello, everyone! My name is Alexis, and I’m passionate about sports and exercise. From a young age, I discovered the joy of being active and challenging my physical limits. Whether it’s playing soccer, going for a run, or hitting the gym, I thrive on the energy and exhilaration that comes with staying fit.


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Running shoes are an essential investment for runners, providing comfort, support, and performance. To maximize their lifespan and ensure optimal performance, proper maintenance is crucial. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of cleaning and caring for your running shoes. By following these maintenance practices, you can keep your running shoes in excellent condition and extend their durability for many miles to come.


Running shoes are not only a critical piece of equipment for runners but also a significant investment. Properly maintaining your running shoes is essential to ensure they continue to provide the comfort, support, and performance you need. Regular cleaning and care can extend the lifespan of your shoes, preventing premature wear and maintaining their overall integrity. In this article, we will walk you through the steps of cleaning and caring for your running shoes, equipping you with the knowledge to keep them in excellent condition for miles and miles.

Why Shoe Maintenance Matters

Proper maintenance of your running shoes is vital for several reasons. By taking care of your shoes, you can:

  • Extend their lifespan, allowing you to get the most out of your investment.
  • Preserve their performance features, such as cushioning and stability, for a more comfortable running experience.
  • Maintain the shoe’s structural integrity, preventing issues like sole separation or upper damage.
  • Prevent the buildup of dirt, debris, and odor-causing bacteria that can affect both the shoe’s longevity and hygiene.

Cleaning Your Running Shoes

Cleaning your running shoes regularly is an essential part of their maintenance. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean them effectively:

Step 1: Removing Excess Dirt and Debris

  • Begin by removing any loose dirt or debris from the shoes. Use a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush to gently brush off the surface and crevices of the shoes.
  • Alternatively, you can use a damp cloth to wipe away the dirt.

Step 2: Handwashing or Machine Washing (if applicable) the Shoes

  • Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific shoes to determine if they are machine washable.
  • If machine washable, remove the laces and insoles and place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to protect them during the wash.
  • Use a gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the shoes.
  • If your shoes are not machine washable, proceed with handwashing.

Step 3: Drying the Shoes Properly

  • After washing, let the shoes air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat or sunlight.
  • Avoid using a dryer or exposing them to excessive heat, as it can warp or damage the shoes.
  • Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper or clean, dry towels to help maintain their shape and absorb excess moisture.

Cleaning Specific Shoe Materials

Different shoe materials require specific cleaning techniques to ensure their longevity. Here are some tips for cleaning specific materials commonly found in running shoes:

Mesh or Fabric Uppers

  • For mesh or fabric uppers, use a mild detergent and a soft brush to gently scrub away stains.
  • Be cautious not to scrub too vigorously, as it may damage the fabric.
  • If the shoes have strong odors, consider using a fabric freshener or a mixture of water and vinegar to deodorize them.

Synthetic Uppers

  • Synthetic uppers can be cleaned similarly to mesh or fabric uppers.
  • However, some synthetic materials may be more durable and stain-resistant, requiring less vigorous cleaning.

Leather Uppers

  • When cleaning leather uppers, use a soft, damp cloth to wipe away dirt and stains.
  • Avoid using excessive water or submerging the shoes in water, as it can damage the leather.
  • Apply a leather conditioner after cleaning to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking.

Suede or Nubuck Uppers

  • Suede and nubuck uppers require special care.
  • Use a suede brush or eraser to gently remove dirt and restore the nap of the material.
  • Avoid using water on suede or nubuck, as it can cause permanent damage. Instead, use a suede-specific cleaner or seek professional cleaning for stubborn stains.

Deodorizing and Freshening Your Shoes

Keeping your running shoes fresh and odor-free is an essential part of their maintenance routine. Here are some effective methods for deodorizing and freshening your shoes:

Baking Soda Method

  • Sprinkle baking soda inside your shoes to absorb odors.
  • Leave the baking soda overnight, then shake it out or vacuum it the next day.
  • For added freshness, add a few drops of essential oils to the baking soda before sprinkling it into the shoes.

Activated Charcoal Method

  • Place activated charcoal inserts or sachets inside your shoes to absorb odors.
  • Leave them inside the shoes for a few hours or overnight, then remove and replace as needed.

Tea Tree Oil Method

  • Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a cotton ball or cloth.
  • Place the cotton ball or cloth inside your shoes to combat bacteria and eliminate odors.
  • Leave it in the shoes for a few hours or overnight, then remove and air out the shoes before wearing them again.
Close up runner feet. Man runner legs and shoes in action on road outdoors at road near sea. Male athlete model.

Proper Storage and Handling

Proper storage and handling play a significant role in maintaining the shape and integrity of your running shoes. Follow these tips to ensure your shoes stay in excellent condition:

Dry Shoes Thoroughly Before Storage

  • Always ensure your shoes are completely dry before storing them.
  • Moisture left in the shoes can lead to mold or unpleasant odors.
  • Allow them to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area before storing.

Store in a Cool, Dry Place

  • Choose a storage location that is cool, dry, and away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.
  • Exposure to heat or sunlight can cause the shoes’ materials to degrade or warp.

Use Shoe Trees or Stuffing

  • To help maintain the shape of your running shoes, insert shoe trees or stuff them with crumpled newspaper or clean, dry towels.
  • Shoe trees can also help absorb any lingering moisture and prevent the shoes from developing an unpleasant odor.

Rotating Your Running Shoes

Rotating your running shoes is a practice that can significantly extend their lifespan. Here’s why it’s beneficial and how to incorporate it into your training routine:

  • Rotating between multiple pairs of running shoes allows each pair to fully dry and recover between runs, preventing excessive wear and tear.
  • It helps distribute the impact and pressure on different parts of the shoes, preventing localized breakdown of cushioning and support.
  • Consider having at least two pairs of running shoes in your rotation, alternating them every few runs or based on mileage.

When to Replace Your Running Shoes

Knowing when to replace your running shoes is crucial to maintain optimal performance and prevent injuries. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to replace your shoes:

  • Visible Wear Patterns: Examine the outsole for significant signs of wear, such as worn-down treads or uneven patterns.
  • Loss of Cushioning: If you notice a significant decrease in cushioning or support, it’s a sign that the midsole has worn out.
  • Discomfort or Pain: If you experience discomfort or pain during or after runs that cannot be attributed to other factors, it may be time for new shoes.

Professional Shoe Maintenance

For more complex issues or extensive damage to your running shoes, it may be beneficial to seek professional shoe maintenance services. Shoe repair shops or specialists can offer:

  • Repairs: Professional repair services can fix issues like sole separation, torn uppers, or damaged laces.
  • Resoling: If the outsole is significantly worn, resoling can extend the life of your shoes and restore their traction.

Extending Shoe Lifespan: Tips and Best Practices

In addition to regular cleaning and care, here are some tips and best practices to further extend the lifespan of your running shoes:

  • Rotate multiple pairs of running shoes to minimize wear and allow for proper recovery between runs.
  • Avoid using your running shoes for non-running activities, as this can lead to excessive wear and tear.
  • Properly lace your shoes to ensure a secure fit without putting undue stress on specific areas.
  • Consider using protective sprays or water repellent treatments on your shoes to guard against moisture and stains.
  • Avoid exposing your shoes to harsh chemicals, solvents, or excessive heat, as they can cause damage.


Proper maintenance of your running shoes is essential for their longevity and performance. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can keep your running shoes clean, fresh, and in excellent condition. Regular cleaning, deodorizing, proper storage, and knowing when to replace your shoes will ensure that they continue to provide the comfort, support, and performance you need for many miles of running. With proper care, your running shoes will be with you every step of the way on your running journey.