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How to Clean and Deodorize Dirty Running Shoes

While there’s nothing more refreshing than challenging myself with a good jog, it has the opposite effect on my running shoes. The combination of sweat and dirt from the run tends to leave stubborn stains and a lasting stink on my favorite pair. Fortunately, I have mastered how to clean running shoes to get rid of all their foul smell. 

In this article, I’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to clean running shoes effectively, making them look and smell as good as new.

Gather Supplies

Before we learn how to clean running shoes, let’s look at some of the materials you’re going to need:

Cleaning Supplies:

  1. A soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush

  2. Cleaning solution: mix of laundry detergent and water

  3. A large bowl 

Deodorizing Supplies: 

  1. Baking soda

  2. White vinegar

How to Clean Running Shoes

I always prefer to wear clean shoes when I’m coaching my clients. Let me share the exact method of washing running shoes with you:

Pre-Cleaning Preparation

First, remove the laces and insoles from the shoes. This helps to clean every part of the shoe thoroughly without any hindrance. This step also allows me to give separate attention to the laces and insoles later.

Remove Dirt and Debris

Next, use a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush to remove excess dirt, grass, and dried mud from the shoe. Make sure to brush all sides of the shoe, including the outsole, midsole, and uppers. This step is important as it prevents the dirt from spreading during washing.

Clean the Soles

To clean the shoes, apply the cleaning solution to the soft-bristled brush and start with the midsoles and outsoles. For this step:

  1. Vigorously scrub the midsoles with the brush, taking extra time with stubborn stains. 

  2. Mud and dirt are usually caked in the grooves and crevices of the outsoles. So, I make sure to dig in the bristles of the brush to pick them out.

  3. Lastly, take the insoles that were removed initially and give them a proper scrub as well. This part goes on for a while until the dirt and stains have been scrubbed off.

Clean the Upper

Next, focus on the upper sides of the shoes:

  1. Like the soles, scrub the uppers with a cleaning solution and the soft-bristled brush. However, the uppers are treated more gently since they’re comparatively fragile.

  2. This step also includes cleaning the shoelaces. Simply place them in a mesh bag and run them through the washing machine.

  3. If the shoelaces are white or sporting a few stubborn stains, what works for me is submerging them in a bleach solution. But make sure to put them in a mesh bag first.

Air Dry the Shoes

Once the shoes are completely free of dirt and stains, here’s what you need to do next:

  1. Lightly rinse the shoes to remove any residues of the cleaning solution. For good measure, I sometimes dry the shoes with a cloth or towel to remove any excess water.

  2. For drying, typically, the shoe is left to air dry on its own or placed under a fan. This step usually takes about 24-48 hours. 

  3. To maintain the shape of the shoes while they are drying, prefer to stuff them with newspapers or paper towels. 

How to Get Rid of Bad Smell in Running Shoes

After knowing how to clean running shoes, the next step is getting rid of the odor. Here are some effective home remedies I use to deodorize my shoes:

Vinegar and Water Solution

Vinegar is a natural deodorizer that not only absorbs smells but also reduces the bacteria residing in my shoes. This can be especially helpful since running shoes can foster over 2,887 units of bacteria on the inside,

So, for this method, fill equal measures of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Then, spray a small amount on the inside of my running shoes and leave them to dry overnight.

Baking Soda Method

Baking soda works just as similarly as vinegar. Sprinkle equal amounts of baking soda on both shoes and let them sit overnight. This method helps completely neutralize the odor and leaves my shoes smelling fresh.


So, for anyone wondering, ‘How do you clean and deodorize sneakers,’ Here you have it. You can also learn how to clean running shoes by following the steps and methods given above. With this guide, your shoes will remain in great condition so you can run in them daily.

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