I have found that runners are either VERY pro-washing or VERY anti-washing when it comes to the concept of cleaning their running shoes. Some of those in the anti-washing camp think excessive shoe washing can degrade materials and make your shoes look to squeaky clean and “newbie” like. While I have never really worried about looking like a newbie (since I am not terribly concerned what more seasoned runners think of me), degrading the materials of a $100 (or, often times, more expensive) pair of running shoes is a legitimate concern of mine. I spend a lot of time deciding on my running shoes, so by the time that I get them, I typically really love them and want to take care of them as best that I can.
Here is how I decide when and if to wash my shoes. First, it depends on which level of my Tier System into which they fall. Yes, I have a totally neurotic Tier System for my running shoes. If the shoes fall into Tier 1 or Tier 2, that means I actively use them to run in or work out in. These are the two tiers that I care the most about. In general, I really try hard not to wash my “good” running shoes. I am lucky in that I do not ever have a lot of sweaty shoe funk or odor, but there is the rare occasion that I will get caught in the rain/mud or run through something nasty and I just have to get the funk off of my shoes.
To clean my “good” running shoes, I use the following items:
• Big fat toothbrush (purchased from Whole Foods)
• 1 old medium sized towel
• 2 old washcloths
I start by running about 2-3 inches of warm water into my kitchen sink. I add about half a capful of Woolite and swoosh it around in the water.
Then I remove the insoles and laces from both shoes. The only part I clean is the shoe itself…not the insoles or laces.
Next, I VERY lightly dampen the outside of the shoe. I DO NOT at any point dunk the whole shoe in the water or allow it to get completely saturated. I use my big fat toothbrush to scrub the especially nasty parts of the shoe, namely the outsole and upper areas.
I use one of the washcloths to dab the moisture off the outside of the shoe. I DO NOT run the shoe under water to rinse out the Woolite. I figure it is mild enough not to need too much rinsing. Then, I roll up the washcloth and stuff it inside the shoe to help the shoe retain its shape. I repeat this process with the second shoe.
To clean the laces, I usually just toss them in with the next load of laundry that I run in the washing machine. I do not really “clean” the insoles. If I do anything to them at all, I might just set them outside overnight while the shoes dry on my back porch just to let them air out. I try not to get them wet or scrub them.
I *promise* there is a difference.
A lot of shoe stores will also try and sell you “sneaker wash” or “sneaker cleaner” but all that stuff just reminds me of when my mom used to make me shine my shoes for church when I was little. It is the last stuff I want to “paint” my running shoes with! I never throw my “good” running shoes into the washing machine. The foam rubber of the sole actually causes the shoe to float in the water so they do not really get as clean as you would think. Plus, you also risk the agitator of the machine tearing the fabric upper of your running shoes.
However, I do allow shoes that fall into Tier 3 or below to get tossed in the washing machine (without insoles or laces) and then I set them out to dry on the floor of my utility room. I never ever put any of my running shoes (no matter what tier) in the dryer.
Do you wash your running shoes? If so, how?