Guide to Cleaning Women's Athletic Shoes

Are your running shoes soiled? Follow these helpful tips on cleaning running shoes to get your kicks back to new.

Oftentimes, our favorite pair of shoes, whether it be the Brooks Trance 10 or the Nike Air Pegasus 27, become odorific and not so terrific.

Are your shoes still resilient and comfortable, but stained and unsightly? I have tested more products than I care to mention and will enlighten you as I break down a common myth about cleaning your running shoes.

Identifying The Stain

Cleaning Dirty Running Shoes

First we need to identify the stain. Is it tar, road grime, or just plain dirt? Black or brown sticky substances on the outer or upper fabric of the sole picked up from road running can be easily removed without damaging your favorite pair of runners.

Bug and Tar remover found in any automotive section at the grocery store or any car wash or auto parts store will safely remove excess creosote from your shoes. Simply place a dab of the bug and tar remover on a piece of damp cloth and work the stain with light force in a circular motion.

Be sure to not press the stain in, gentle scrubbing of the surface followed by a light blotting will lift the stain off the shoe. In most cases, repeat this process 3-4 times and you should be able to remove the tar.

Cleaning Running Shoes: The Equipment

Plain old dirt on the mesh of a nice white shoe can put a frown on even the most optimistic runner’s face. Did you step into a dirty puddle on the first mile of your race? Don’t worry, in this section I will reveal three products that will knock your socks off when it comes to making your running shoes look brand new.

First we need to talk about purchasing a light scrub brush. I use what is commonly known as a nailbrush. It has firm, yet soft bristles that will not damage the airy mesh of your shoe. The nailbrush has a sturdy handle that allows you to use that old elbow grease Pop’s always preaches about.

Cleaning Running Shoes: Tip# 1 -Resolve

How To Clean Athletic Shoes

Ok so what are we dealing with? Old fashioned brown dirt has piled up on the outer soles? No problem. We are going to spray the mesh outer with a stain remover called Resolve. Resolve is a stain lifter and not bleach that is commonly used in households to remove carpet stains.

Apply Resolve liberally to the shoe, almost soaking it if you will. After you are satisfied with the amount of Resolve you have applied, reach for the nail or scrub brush of your choice. Remember, Resolve is a stain lifter.

With a minimal amount of force, apply the brush in a circular motion to the stained area. After a few minutes let the shoes sit for a while. After about ten minutes, apply a wet clean rag and blot the area with the Resolve. This should make a noticeable difference in your shoes appearance without causing any harm.

Cleaning Running Shoes: Tip# 2- Clorox Cleaner

Still not satisfied? Break out the Clorox Cleaner. This is a bleach-based product so be sure to only use it on white surfaces. Be careful when applying any bleach product, it will turn that blue shirt white if you don’t pay attention.

Identify the stain and start spraying. Apply in a liberal manner, but don’t go overboard as you want to check the resiliency of the material you are bleaching. After soaking the stain on the shoe, apply the bristles of the scrub brush to the stain in a circular motion with full force and vigor. Bleach will remove most stains and give your shoes a fresh, white look.

I recommend using the Resolve first and allowing the shoe to dry. Then I would apply the bleach treatment. If you are in a hurry and can’t wait you may proceed with Resolve and then bleach.

Please always be careful when applying more than one cleaner directly on a surface as chemical reactions can cause the air around you to become unsafe to breathe. Do this cleaning in an open and ventilated space please.

Cleaning Running Shoes: Tip# 3- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

How about those pesky stains on the lower lateral rubber parts of the shoe? Bleach is too harsh and Resolve not harsh enough. Enter Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the rescue.

Dampen the Magic Eraser slightly and apply it to the stained area with force. A back and forth motion for 20-30 seconds will remove most streak marks and stains.

Cleaning Running Shoes: Tip# 4- Washing Tennis Shoes

Washed Athletic Shoes

If you are still not satisfied with the appearance of your running shoes, I have one more trick up my sleeve. The washing machine!!! Yes I said the Washing Machine.

After extensive tests on many shoes I can honestly say that is safe to put your rubber and foam shoes in the washing machine. First remove the laces and place them in the machine with your running shoes. Make sure you just have your shoes and laces in there- we don’t want to harm any other training gear.

I was moderately worried about harming any rubber or cushioning of my shoes upon placement in a spin cycle. After running the shoe on Cold, Delicate and then the Hand Washables Cycle, I became impatient and frustrated. While the shoes odor definitely improved, the overall appearance did not. Time for the Normal warm water cycle my everyday loads are done in.

One thing to be sure of is only use a minimal amount of soap, as I learned firsthand after sudding out my garage. Add regular bleach to the cycle. I tried two cycles with and two without bleach. The bleach did not harm the shoe and there was marked improvement in the overall cleanliness and brightness of the shoe.

Cleaning Running Shoes: Did It Work?!

The spin cycle stops, the door clicks and bam! There is my old faithful pair of Nikes! Not a hair harmed, and they are as bright and clean as ever. The stench of running so many miles without socks was gone as well. This was all done on regular warm water 40-minute cycle.

Clean Running Shoes Kid

Myth Busted, the washing machine is not death to running shoes. It is a chance to make them reborn!!

Please do not throw them in the dryer! That will end in a melted disaster. If you have removable insoles, set those out to dry. Crumble up a bunch of paper towels into balls and pack them into the shoe. Place the shoe in a warm dry area and change the paper towels every 4 or so hours. If you need the shoes to dry right away I suggest using a hair dryer to accelerate there drying time.

Feel free to try each cleaning tip individually or for maximum affect, do all steps in sequence.

Good luck and if you have any shoe cleaning tips that you would like to share please share with the RunPals community!

If your feet deserve a fresh pair of running shoes, we provide unbiased, in depth reviews of the best running shoes on the market from all the major brands.