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The Definitive Guide to Caring for Your Expensive Running Shoes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When your activity of choice involves running, walking, hiking or otherwise propelling yourself forward, choosing the right shoes could be the single most important factor in making sure your exercise program starts off on the right foot. In choosing the perfect shoes, you may have visited a specialty store, consulted with an expert and shelled out more money than you’ve ever spent on footwear before, all of which adds up to a sizable time and cost investment in your health and fitness goals.
However, once you’ve purchased the perfect shoes to pound the pavement (or the treadmill), it’s important to take steps to protect your investment. We asked some experts to share their tips for cleaning, caring for and protecting what constitutes the foundation of your workouts.

To Wash or Not to Wash?

If you’ve ever tossed a pair of muddy running shoes in the washer, you might have found that they came out clean, but never quite fit the same. Jason Karp, running trainer, author and owner of Run-Fit, says you should never put running shoes in the washing machine or dryer, as that can ruin the shock-absorbing materials in the shoe, not to mention the shape.
If you must clean your running shoes, Brett Rubin, store manager and running expert at Jackrabbit/Bob Roncker’s Running Spot, says it’s best to use warm water and mild soap. “Most shoes have liners that you can take out and hand wash,” he says.
After running in very hot, humid conditions, running coach Kyle Kranz has been known to go straight from outside into the shower, shoes and all. “When you train in conditions where your shoes get saturated with sweat, there's nothing you can do to better ward off stench than to shower with them,” he says.

The Right Way to Dry

What should you do if you get caught in a rainstorm halfway through your running route? First off, resist the urge to toss those sopping-wet sneakers into the damaging dryer. Karp says it’s best to simply air-dry, but to remove the inserts first so they dry more quickly.
Another trick of Rubin’s to help shoes dry faster is to stuff them with newspaper to absorb more moisture. Also, he recommends loosening the laces to open up the shoes.

Eliminating Stinky Feet Syndrome

After a few sweaty running sessions or a thorough rain soaking, running shoes can take on an unpleasant odor. Before you banish them to the doorstep for good, try these strategies for freshening up your sneakers.
Rubin uses a product called StinkFree by 2Toms to get the stink out of shoes. And to help prevent the funk in the first place, he suggests wearing wicking socks (made from polyester or a synthetic fabric) instead of cotton. “Cotton is like a towel and stays wet, which can not only stink but could cause blisters,” he says.
Karp also suggests sticking some shoe deodorizers inside your shoes in between runs.

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

Even with all the proper care and maintenance, every pair of shoes will eventually run its last mile. How do you know when it’s time to tell your sneakers to hit the road?
Karp’s rule of thumb is when you notice that you can feel little pebbles or debris underneath your feet while running, it’s probably time to trade in your trainers. He says that most running shoes have a shelf life of around 300 to 500 miles. Track your mileage so you’ll know when to start watching for warning signs.
To help extend the life of your running shoes, Rubin suggests investing in two pairs and rotating them between runs. “Your feet will hit different pressure points each time you use a different shoe, which means they’ll wear down slower and you’ll get more use out of them,” he says. It’s best to wear the older pair on the shorter runs—as you start to feel the ground more under your feet, and perhaps some aggravation in your feet and knees, you’ll know it’s time to hang up that pair for good.
Kranz agrees that rotating footwear throughout the week can extend how many miles you can run in each pair. “This has nothing to do with the shoes, but more to do with your feet not adapting to a single pair,” he says. “If you only run in the same pair, over time your supination and pronation will become exaggerated with every footstep due to the wear on the shoe sole.

But if you're constantly running in a different pair of shoes, you're not exposing your feet to that same exaggerated foot movement.” There is even some research to suggest that this variation in training can be a protective mechanism against injury.
Also, says Kranz, when you have a couple pairs of shoes in your rotation, it becomes easier to retire a worn-out pair—so you don't have to quit them cold turkey, as you’ll have another pair at the ready with half or a third of the mileage of the older pair.

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RYCGIRL 5/27/2021
thx Report
CKEYES1 9/11/2020
I wash mine in the sink and try to keep the rubber out of the water Report
found the advice on how to clean interesting. Report
Good ideas! Thank-you! Report
I am diabetic, so it is important that I take care of my feet. I buy a new pair every 4 months and discard a pair to yard work every 8 months so I always have a couple of pair to run in. I put a foot cream on before I run and after I shower to keep my feet free of callouses. Sounds complicated, but it works for me. Report
I use foot powder to keep the odor minimized, plus always wearing sox. 🧦 When I do launder running shoes, 👟I do so in the washer in cold water then air dry. Never had a problem but I don't normally do so until shoes are quite worn. After that I wear for everyday street use like grocery shopping.
I prefer to alternate pairs but finding shoes in my size is challenging & I'm lucky to get one pair. Usually like to have different color combos.
I have wide feet, a tendency to pronate, & have to protect my original knee (the other knee got a partial replacement) which can lead me to buy men's shoes sometimes since the shoe last is normally wider. Great now that guy's wear all colors too. 🐨 That being said, I have had some luck 🍀 finding one or two pairs on sale.💲💰 Report
I don’t run but I walk a lot. I rotate thru 4 pairs of walking sneakers: black, grey, white and brown. I wear them every day Report
Should walking shoes be replaced with the same frequency? Report
I always have two or three pairs on the go.
Good information! Thank you! Report
Thanks for the info Report
Thanks for the info Report
I use multiple pairs. Report
Awesome Report
Awesome Report
Great info. Just save me a new pair of shoes. Thanks! Report
I rotate four pairs, two at a time. I wear two pairs every other day for a month, then clean them and spray them with protectant, and wear the other two pairs for a month. I also wear wick-away socks. Before I changed to that type of socks I got blisters. Haven't had any since. Report
It looks like I need to buy at least one more pair of shoes. Report
thanks! Report
Good article, thanks. Report
Great info. Report
If I can't feel the ground in my shoes, I can't walk in them. Problems with my balance. Report
Good to know, thanks! Report
thanks Report
Great article! Report
Thanks, Great info! Report
I do not put my shoes in the washer any more, since my last pair fell apart at work. I just wash by hand and air dry. Report
Interesting article! I live in the high desert, and walking/running shoes usually become saturated with dust and sand on the trails. It helps to clap them together at the end of a hike -- they release a big dust cloud. But when I can't stand the ground in dirt, I do wash athletic shoes on gentle in the washing machine. I air dry them and they are just fine afterward. Report
Great article! Report
I always wash mine in the washer. Never the dryer, BUT I do put them on halfway through the air-drying proces to let them again conform to my feet. I put nice thick stockings on and wear them for about an hour or so, then remove them to continue to dry. Drying them on the clothesline will really freshen them. I have been doing this for 48 years with all types of shoes: leather, synthetic,etc. Manufacturers do not want you to keep them longer, so tell you not to wash them. I do put crumpled newspapers inside them to speed up the drying process in the winter months. Report
thank you again Report
thank you again Report
Some good tips Report
I have more than one pair so I can let each air out thoroughly between wearings. Report
Precious advice when I most need it! The idea of rotating multiple shoes is brilliant. I have always used it for everyday shoes, so it totally makes sense to apply it to running ones. Report
I have 4 pairs 2 for winter and 2 for summer Report
Just what I was looking for! Report
Thanks Report
Having at least two pairs of shoes to rotate was one of the more helpful pieces of advice I got as a beginning runner. I appreciate the tip about feeling pebbles while wearing the shoes as an indicator that their wearing out.
Thank you! Report
Thank you . Report
Thank you . Report
Good article Report
Great Report
Finding ones that fit your feet is hard. Report
It is hard to get new shoes because they change the models often. So if you get one that you like and they are comfortable for your feet, buy more that one pair. Report
Great article! Report
...would throw the 'old' one's away and buy 'new' in this article will save me $$...thanks... Report