How to Wash Running Shoes (and How Not to Dry Them)

If you’re anything like me, by the time you’ve really started to get to know a pair of running shoes, they’re probably getting pretty funky. Hours and hours of sweat have poured into them, sinking into¬†pretty much every inch of fabric. So you need to know how to wash running shoes.

And if you’re really like me, you’re concerned about the wonky footstink you’re putting off mile after mile, but you’re even more concerned about ruining your precious, expensive playthings by throwing them in the washing machine. As much as I hate funky, wonky footstink, I hate the idea of ruining my running shoes even more.

The good news is, though, that running shoes are made to be durable and put up with some punishment. Even the kind that comes from the washing machine (just not the dryer!).

How to wash tennis shoes: the fork in the road

From what I understand, there are two solid ways of how to wash running shoes (outside of just washing the grime off the outside with a washcloth, which doesn’t really help with the smell, just the appearance.)

Method 1: the laundry

So if you really wanna wash tennis shoes, the first and most obvious way is to throw the suckers in the washing machine. That’s what I do when my footboxes get stanknasty. I know what you’re thinking: “My precious running footboxes! They’ll be ruined!”

No, they won’t. Really.

It’s actually pretty hard to hurt your shoes in the washing machine. (The dryer on the other hand…that’s a big no-no.)

Anyway, remove any inserts and throw them in with some Woolite (or other non-abrasive cleaner), use cold water, and do a single cycle on your machine’s gentle setting. Some people remove the laces, but I don’t.

If you really want to ensure your shoes’ safety, throw in a towel or a couple of small hand-towels/washcloths to absorb some of the shock of being in the washing machine.

When the gentle cycle has finished, let your little darlings air dry. This is very important, when you wash tennis shoes, make sure you absolutely do not put them in the dryer or apply any kind of heat. That is one of the only ways I know of to straight-up ruin them. Heat can deform the shoe’s upper, and it won’t even look the same (much less fit right).

Method 2: the kitchen

The second method to wash tennis shoes is pretty similar: take out the insole and throw them on the top rack of your dishwasher. I’d suggest taking the laces out of them this time because of all the extra moving parts. Set the dishwasher on a short cycle and just let it run.

I caution you on this method because of the harshness of dish soap and the heat. Those two reasons are why I haven’t personally used this way to wash my running shoes, but I read a lot about people who swear by it. You may love it, and it may rock all the stank from your feet right down the drain.

Dry dry dry, my darling…

Regardless of which way you wash running shoes, you’ll want to let them passively dry. You do not want to throw them in the dryer. Never. They can get totally borked in the spinny canister of hotness.

If you want to, you can place them near a vent or a fan. But I wouldn’t suggest putting them directly on a heating vent. Because, you know…heat. I just put mine on a shelf for a few days and let them sit.

If you’re worried about your shoes losing their shape, take some old newspaper (because it’s incredibly porous and absorbs a lot more than other kinds of paper), ball it up, and stuff the inside of your shoe full of it. It’ll draw out some water and not let your precious, expensive running shoes lose their shape.

For me, the newspaper is optional. I’ve done it a couple times, and this last time I didn’t. I wear pretty stiff and rigid shoes, though (Asics Nimbus), so if I were in something like the Saucony Kinvaras or a Nike Flyknit, I’d probably opt for the newspaper option.

Regardless, that’s all there is to washing your running shoes. For some reason, we all tend to be a little scared of it, but it’s pretty simple and easy to deal with. Nothing to be scared of at all.

Good luck with your stinky feet, folks!