If you want to learn how to wash gym shoes without ruining them, you’ve come to the right place. Our handy guide includes step-by-step instructions and top tips on how to safely freshen up your favourite gym shoes.

If you’ve developed a particular talent for clearing the gym floor, it might be time to wash your best gym shoes. While it’s perfectly natural to sweat when exercising – and your feet are home to the highest concentration of sweat pores on your body – after time bacteria from your feet and their waste products can build up and cause even the cleanest person’s pumps to reek.

Fortunately, cleaning them and getting them smelling box-fresh again is simple – all you have to do is follow these steps.

How to wash gym shoes

  1. Step away from the washing machine
  2. Remove the insoles and laces
  3. Use hot, soapy water
  4. Air dry – don’t use a tumble dryer
  5. Take steps to prevent future odours

Keep reading for our full instructions on how to wash your gym shoes without ruining them.

Step 1: Do not use a washing machine

The most important thing to do is also a warning. “Do not throw your shoes in the washing machine!”, warns Simon Fitzmaurice, qualified running coach and a member of the sales team at The Running Works.

Even if the label on the tongue suggests that you can, it’s important to take care of your kicks if you want them to stay functional.

“[Using a washing machine] can damage the midsole of your shoes and age them prematurely,” Fitmaurice explains. The heat of the washing cycle can cause any plastics in the shoe to warp, while rattling around in the drum isn’t going to be great for them either. What’s more, extended loads like that could even do damage to your washing machine.

Gym shoes and insoles hanging out to dry on a washing line
Remove the insoles before washing to speed up the drying process

Step 2: Remove the insoles and laces

Danger averted, it’s time to take a leaf out of a world record holder’s book. “Eliud Kipchoge washes his shoes by hand using soapy water in a bucket,” says Fitzmaurice. “This is the best way to keep your shoes fresh and functional.” And if it’s good enough for Kipchoge, then it’ll be good enough for you.

The first thing he recommends is removing the insole and the laces – these can be tackled later. Using a dry paper towel, remove any dry dirt or mud that you can flake off, which will minimise the mess in the next step.

These tips will also work for your best trail running shoes, which are bound to get muddy

Step 3: Use hot, soapy water

Once your shoes are prepared, it’s time to fill up a bucket with some relatively warm, hot soapy water, and give them a dip one at a time. To really give those odors the heave-ho, use a sportswear-focused detergent.

After giving them their bath, it’s time to break out the elbow grease for any stubborn stains that haven’t shifted. “Scrub lightly with a brush and a sponge,” advises Fitzmaurice. Once looking brand new, he says to leave them to air dry in the sun with cotton rags (“old t-shirts, dish cloths, newspaper”) inserted in the shoes.

Don’t be tempted to stick them in the tumble drier or stick them on a radiator at this point either – the intense, focused heat can do the same damage as a warm washing machine cycle.

Step 4: Air dry

Repeat the same process with the insoles and laces, scrubbing them in hot soapy water before leaving to air dry. If this doesn’t shift the odors of the insole, it might be time to source some new ones.

Step 5: Prevent future odors

Shoes clean and smelling fresh, you’re ready to hit the gym again. But it’s worth remembering that the best form of defense is a good offense. To minimise the build-up of bacteria in the first place, wear socks when working out if you don’t already, and remove insoles after a particularly sweaty workout, allowing them to air dry outside of the shoe. Not only will this slow the build-up of odors, but it can also help prevent conditions such as athlete’s foot.

Need some new gym shoes? We recommend the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v12 which offers supreme support thanks to the super thick foam midsole. We were impressed by the amount of bounce they provided, making them ideal for treadmill running at the gym.

Available from Sportsshoes.com (UK) (£95.99) and Amazon UK (£126.74)

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