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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Water Cooler: How to keep your athletic shoes fresh

Whether you’re a tennis shoe owner with a large, pristine collection or with one ride-or-die jogger, it’s important to know how to keep your shoes clean and in good shape through their life. Here are a few maintenance and cleaning tips to make sure you get the most out of your favorite athletic shoes.

Running shoes, especially those made of canvas, nylon, mesh or other durable materials, are not high maintenance when it comes to cleaning. Many sources recommend throwing shoes into the washing machine with laces removed and placed in a delicates bag. That said, many manufacturers suggest hand-washing to avoid any risk of warping, color bleeding or over saturation of the shoe.

Use your discretion on whether or not your shoes can handle the washing machine. If you opt for a machine wash, brush any dirt and debris off the shoe and spot treat stubborn stains before washing. Do not dry the laces or the shoes in the dryer. Hang dry the laces and place the shoes near a fan, or outside in the open air. Be wary of placing the shoes next to heat sources or in intense temperatures as this may result in warping and damage to the adhesives. Long exposure to direct sun runs a risk of dulling the shoe’s colors, but partial or indirect sun is fine for a few hours. It’s up to you and how much you care to keep the shoe in pristine cosmetic condition.

To minimize risk of damage, it is advised to wash shoes by hand, but especially if they are made of sensitive materials such as leather or suede. As with machine washing, start by brushing off dirt and debris. Use a shoe brush, tooth brush, rag or any bristled cleaning brush to loosen dirt. It is best to use brushes with soft bristles to avoid unintentional damage. Don’t forget to brush dirt out of the soles, especially if you are a trail runner. Stiff bristles are fine for this job.

Mix a small amount of dish soap or gentle washing detergent with some warm water to make a cleaning solution. Do not use soaps or detergents with dyes, as they may stain the shoe. You can also buy a commercially manufactured shoe cleaner, especially for materials like Gore-Tex, suede or leather that could be damaged or gummed up with soap. You can also use warm water on its own if the shoe is not too dirty.

Remove the insoles. You can clean these with products that are a bit harsher, like baking soda and water paste or vinegar and water solution, to help deodorize the sole. Rinse and allow to air dry.

Next remove the laces. Brush the dirt off the uppers, then scrub thoroughly with your cleaning solution. Make sure to take your time cleaning the crevices around the tongue of the shoe. Rinse them with a hose or under the faucet. Take a damp cloth and wipe the inside of the shoe as well.

Leave the shoes to dry around room temperature and in a low humidity environment. To speed the drying, place them near a fan. You can also stuff a bit of newspaper or paper towels inside the shoes to help draw moisture out, changing the paper once it becomes damp.

Hand-cleaning the shoes on a regular basis will keep them clean and in good shape for a long time. If you use your tennis shoes a lot, consider purchasing a second pair so you can rotate them between uses to help them bounce back from that day’s wear. Don’t leave shoes out in extreme elements, such as in a car trunk on a hot day.