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Clean & Deodorize Your Stinky Running Shoes With These Tips

March 19, 2019

Running is a great form of exercise. Not only does it strengthen your bones, but it will improve your cardiovascular fitness. In doing so, it also helps to prevent certain diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.  On top of that, it has benefits on your mental health as well. For instance, physical activity is known for boosting mood, self-esteem, and confidence.

As you probably know, running requires a certain set of gear—the most obvious being a pair of running shoes. After all, you’ll be running on your feet for prolonged periods of time. How are they different from regular shoes? For one thing, they have a built-up heel, which provides stability; it also encourages forward motion. On top of that, they are highly cushioned—this is important as the feet tend to incur quite an amount of stress while running.

Other Advantages of Running Shoes

Running shoes prevent injury. The way they’re designed, they greatly reduce the amount of stress that is placed on the ankles, heels, and toes during a run. As you can imagine, they also reduce the force of impact when the foot touches the ground.

These shoes can also improve your running performance. Incredibly lightweight (compared to regular shoes), you’ll be able to run much faster with less effort. With that said, you might want to opt for something a little heavier (i.e. more padding) if you’re a long distance runner.

How to Choose a Running Shoe

how to choose running shoes

Choosing a good pair of running shoes can be tricky. Sure, they might feel comfortable at the store, but will they still be comfy when you’re several miles into a run? Considering this, you should always make sure that they fit properly—from the heel to toe.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Make sure that there is enough room for your toes. Generally speaking, you want there to be a thumbs width between the shoe and the top of your toe
  • Check the shoe’s width; you want to have enough space so that you can spread out your feet
  • The shoe should comfortably wrap around your foot
  • Check for any irritation spots—these can easily lead to blisters.

Remember, an ill-fitting running shoe can lead to potential injury.

These are some of the top brands of running shoes that we recommend. Note that the instructions in this guide should work for any of these brands but be sure to double check with the manufacturer’s recommendations too.

  • Asics
  • Brooks
  • Saucony
  • Salomon
  • Mizuno
  • Altra
  • New Balance
  • Newton
  • Nike
  • Reebok
  • Adidas

Caring for Running Shoes

Running shoes take quite a beating on the road. After all, they come into contact with a variety of surfaces from cement to grass. Given this, it only makes sense that they’d get dirty. Want them to last? If so, it’s probably a good idea to clean them on a regular basis. You wouldn’t want bacteria to grow on your shoes, would you?

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to clean a pair of running shoes. Not too sure how to wash them? No worries, we will be going over the steps below.

How to Wash a Pair of Running Shoes

The best way to wash a pair of running shoes is to do so by hand—that way, you won’t have to worry about damaging the fabric and materials. The entire process is quite straightforward and shouldn’t take long at all.

cleaning running shoes by hand

1. Begin by knocking off some of the dirt and mud. You can do so by using an old toothbrush or a soft-bristled brush; you can also hit the shoes gently against themselves.

2. Dampen a clean cloth and use it to wipe the outer surface of the shoe. Baby wipes are great too.

3. Remove the insoles and liners and wash them separately; the shoelaces can be removed as well. Wash them either by hand or put them in the washing machine.

4. Mix a small amount of ACTIVE detergent with water in a tub or a container. Dampen a soft-bristled brush with the solution and use it to get rid of the grime on the surface of the shoe. Rinse off the brush with water before using it to clean the sole.

5. Wipe the surface and sole dry with a dampened cloth. Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper when you’re finished; the paper will help to prevent the build-up of moisture.

Pro-tip: Do not put your running shoes under direct sunlight—the UV rays can damage the fabric.

Can You Put Running Shoes in the Washing Machine?

It’s generally not recommended that you put running shoes in the washer. However, that’s not to say that you can’t.  You probably don’t want to do it on a regular basis, though.

putting running shoes in washing machine

1. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda in each shoe the night before—this will help to eliminate any odor. Remove the powder in the morning.

2. Take out the shoelaces and put them in their mesh laundry bag—this will prevent them from getting tangled.

3. Wipe off as much dirt and mud as possible from the surface of the shoes with an old toothbrush or a soft-bristled brush. Do the same with the sole of the shoe.

4. Place the running shoes in their own mesh laundry bag before loading them into the machine.

5. Add a few towels into the washer. They will not only balance the load but will prevent the shoes from slamming against the inside, which can cause damage.

6. Add half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Run the machine on a cold, delicate cycle. Avoid using hot water.

7. Remove the running shoes from the machine once the cycle is finished. Place them on a clean surface and allow them to air dry. Never put them in the dryer—the heat will likely damage the glue that keeps it together. Not to mention that they might get deformed by the high temperature.

Pro-tip: Don’t have mesh laundry bags? You can improvise with a clean pillowcase. Simply put your running shoes in and tie them off with a rubber band.

The Best Ways to Remove Stains From Your Running Shoes

Tough stains might require a bit more effort on your part. Don’t worry, though—most of them are removable. Here are some of the ways that you can tackle them.

getting rid of stains running shoes

Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

Brush off any dried stains with an old toothbrush. Be gentle as to not damage the surface of the shoe. From there, mix one part vinegar to one part baking soda to create a paste. Apply a small amount of the paste onto the stain using a clean cloth or paper towel. Leave the mixture on for at least 15 minutes (longer if necessary). Afterwards, wipe it off with a cloth. Blot the area dry with a paper towel.

Use a Magic Eraser

Most running shoes can be cleaned with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To begin, wet the product to activate the inner micro-scrubbers. Gently squeeze out the extra water before using it on scuffs and stuck-on dirt. Simply swipe the eraser across the area—the stains should come out easily

Note: Always test the product with an inconspicuous area first. Do not use it with other types of household cleaners.

Use Laundry Detergent and Water

In a container, mix a scoop of ACTIVE detergent with water. Use a brush or a cloth to apply the solution onto the stain. If necessary, you can brush the area gently with the brush. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Blot it dry with a cloth or a paper towel and allow the shoe to dry. 

Use a Commercial Stain Remover

In some cases, you might need to purchase a commercial stain remover. Just make sure that it is compatible with your running shoes (i.e. material) before applying. Depending on the product, you might need to rinse it off with water afterward.

How to Deodorize Running Shoes – Remove Stinky Odors

It’s not uncommon for running shoes to develop odors—especially if you’ve worn them for a long time. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to de-stink them!

Put them in the Freezer

putting running shoes in freezer

Believe it or not but you can actually deodorize your shoes by putting them in the freezer! Don’t want to get dirt all over your food? Just slip them into a pillowcase. Leave them there overnight and the smell should be gone by morning; the low temperature will be enough to kill off most, if not all of the odor-causing bacteria. Just remember to defrost them before wearing!

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a great deodorizing agent that most of us have in the kitchen. Sprinkle a small amount inside your shoes and leave them overnight; the smell should be gone by the next morning. Remove the baking soda before wearing your running shoes.

Use a Commercial Odor-Removing Spray

There are a variety of different sprays that you can get in stores. Specially formulated for tackling odors, many contain special ingredients such as enzymes, which are able to eat way the cause of the smell (e.g. bacteria). Simply follow the instructions on the bottle and apply them to your shoes.

Place Cedar Wood Insoles Inside

Cedar wood is naturally anti-fungal; it also smells fresh and light, which makes it a great deodorizing agent. If the smell is a recurrent issue, you might want to consider investing in a pair of cedar wood insoles. Simply put them inside your running shoes and they will smell fresh for longer.

Use Cat Litter

Stuff a sock with unused kitty litter. Yes, they are great for deodorizing shoes! Seal the sock with a knot before stuffing them into your running shoes. Leave them in overnight. Remove them the next morning—the odor should be gone by then.

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