Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Wash or Not to Wash That Is The Question

Woolite, Woolite, wherefore art thou oh Woolite. Okay that's a bit much, but have you ever wondered whether or not you could wash your running shoes? You wash everything else—socks, shorts, singlet, jog bra (well not me)—so why not your shoes? I've researched this a lot and there seems to be people passionate on both sides. Kind of sad to be passionate over washing shoes, but hey, whatever gives you kicks.

Anywho...the shoe manufacturers of course say not to wash the shoes. But, I have a feeling that's the same thing as a 100% polyester shirt with a tag that says "Dry Clean Only." I think the shoe companies are just playing it safe. Seems to me that if you run in a downpour and your shoes get sopping wet, how is that any different than you washing your shoes. I've washed my shoes for years.
The main reason is that I'm a heavy sweater. My feet often slosh in my shoes after a summer run. My shoes don't stink from fungus or athlete's foot, but they do get this pungent sweaty smell. At first I would just remove the insoles and rinse them out with cold water. Then I'd take them outside and shake as much water out as I could and then let them air dry. For me, however, this didn't always take care of that sweaty smell. So I started using mild detergents like Woolite. That really helped. Most recently I've been washing my shoes in the washing machine in cold water with the new sports detergent WIN that's designed to remove sports-related body odors. My shoes come out fine.

I think the trick is to use a mild soap, cold water, and to let the shoes air dry. Never dry the shoes in the dryer. That can shrink your shoes or even melt the rubber if you use heat. My experience washing my running shoes of course is not scientific, but it's worked for me. My shoes run fine after being washed. If you're curious, I recommend taking an older pair of your running shoes and do a test wash. Then if they don't come out as expected, you were going to replace them soon anyway.

If you have any other tips/tricks for cleaning your running shoes, I'd love to hear them!

18 comments:

DNLeeper said...

Spot on. I've been washing my shoes for years... Wisk, thank you very much. You are right about letting them air dry. If you put them in the dryer, bad things happen. I'm a heavy sweater too and this is a must. I don't wash them often - maybe once or twice during the 300 mile cycle - but that's it. I have to believe that overwashing would wear down the stability and the materials INSIDE the shoe - so I wouldn't make it a weekly habit.

Dena said...

I'll wash my shoes after a muddy run. I use a small bit of regular detergent and then stuff them with newspaper to dry. I never take the insoles or anything out. It all goes in, it all comes out and I've never had a problem. Mind you, I don't wash often. Maybe 2-3x per 400 miles. But so far, so good.

ZeroToBoston said...

As a trail runner, I cannot (by shear force of principle) ever wash my shoes.

If my peer group even so much as slightly sensed downy freshness, I'd be laughed off the trails.

The best I can offer my footwear is a brusque, no frills hose down from the trail spicket. No need to remove shoes. Works like a charm.

- Dean

Kay said...

I too have washed my shoes with no problem...I read somewhere if you put mouthwash in your rinse water it will kill the bacteria that causes yucky smells.....I'm all for trying new tips....So if you smell a minty fresh person running beside you...It's me

Jacob Aliet said...

I dont wash my shoes except when I am going for a race, which can be once a year, or twice.

Chic Runner said...

I try not to wash them ever, but I have to get new ones so often that the never really get too dirty. Then again I never run on surfaces that would make them dirty. :)

unathleticrunner said...

I wash mine (ok maybe once) I put them in one of those shoe bags, took the laces out and then air dried them.

Honeybee said...

I never wash my shoes. I've heard it breaks them down quicker so I don't want to risk it. I'm a heavy sweater too, but I figure running shoes aren't supposed to smell good.

RunnerDude said...

Hey DNLeeper! I probably only wash mine 2-3time during their life but it seems to work. I'll have to give Wisk a try!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Dena! I wash the insoles too, I just pull them out and put them in separate. Good to know it works leaving them in too.

RunnerDude said...

Hey ZeroToBoston! What? You buckling to peer presure? LOL!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Kay! Great tip about the mouthwash! Heard that's great to stop toenail fungus too! Whodathunk?

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jacob! Welcome to the blog! That's great you don't have to wash yours very often. Wish that was the case with me.

RunnerDude said...

Hey ChicRunner. I bet you glisten instead of sweat. :-)

RunnerDude said...

Hey unathleticrunner! That's a great idea! Never thougth of that. I'll have to give it a try.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Honeybee! I use to think the same thing, but I've not had the experience. Maybe if you wash them all the time or something it would. I don't mind shoe smell, but when you're worried everyone else can smell them when your eatinb bagels after the long run....you tend to want to wash them. LOL!!

David A. Kennedy said...

I never wash them, although if I had to, your method is spot on.

We had a tradition when I ran in high school – anyone that showed up to practice with new shoes got them stepped on and dirtied. We'd scrape as much mud and dirt on them as we could too!

And one shouldn't wash off such a tradition. :)

RunnerDude said...

Hey David! I agree. Keep your traditions.