This Is the *Right* Way to Wash Your Sneakers, According to a Pro Athlete

Photo by (Brooke Cagle) on Unsplash

I have my leggings laundering down to a science—they're just that important. My Outdoor Voices pair? Tumble dry low. My favorite UltraCor set? They're washed inside out and laid flat to dry. (I’m pretty careless with my socks, but they can take the heat. Literally.)

But—and this is embarrassing—I had no idea what to do with my gym shoes. I would just leave them in a basket and hope the funk was gone by the next time I needed them. (Sound familiar?) I’d heard you could throw them in the washer and dryer but the thought of my precious kicks banging around in there made me super anxious. What if I ruined them? And what about the machine?

The thought of my precious kicks banging around in the washing machine made me super anxious. What if I ruined them?

In an effort to clear up my footwear’s funk factor between trips to the gym, and spare my washer and dryer at the same time, I sought the help of someone who uses her sneakers far more than I do: Kellie Wells-Brinkley. The Olympian scored a bronze medal in 100-meter hurdles during the 2012 London Games and now works with Eastbay, which is part of the Foot Locker family. Here's how she handles freshening up her footwear. 

Keep reading for Wells-Brinkley's expert sneaker cleaning tips.

How do I clean my sneakers?
Photo: Stocksy/Bonninstudio

Is it true you can throw your shoes in the wash? 

“I wouldn’t say washing your shoes in the washing machine is the best method, but if you must, only wash fabric sneakers—nothing with leather or suede,” says Wells-Brinkley. “Be sure to remove the laces and put the shoes in the gentle cycle on their own.”

How do you clean your sneakers?

“It’s best to use products made for sneaker cleaning. Eastbay carries a number of great sneaker cleaning solutions including some easy-to-carry cleaning travel kits from Jason Markk,” says Wells-Brinkley. Another non-toxic sneaker cleaning option she loves is The Laundress’ “Sport Spray.”

How often should you be cleaning your athletic shoes?

“You can really clean your shoes as frequently as you’d like, especially when you’re using products made for sneaker cleaning,” says Wells-Brinkley. “I typically give mine a touch up once a month, but it really depends on the terrain and mileage you’re putting in.”

How do I clean my sneakers?
Photo: Stocksy/Kevin Gilgan

Is it true baking soda can help if you pour a little in your shoes after every workout?

“I would say after training and having sweaty shoes baking soda definitely works. I put some in the shoes, loosen the laces, open up the shoe, and sit them outside so they can dry out,” says Wells-Brinkley. “If it’s raining I can settle for the garage. I also use those shoe deodorizer balls in shoes while they are just sitting on the shelf.”

If you’re working out a few days a week (and wearing the same shoes) how long before it’s time to retire them?

“It totally depends on how many miles you’re putting in, but someone working out three days a week can likely keep a pair of gym shoes about six months, give or take a month,” says Wells-Brinkley. “If you notice the treads on the bottom are becoming worn, it’s time to invest in a new pair.”

Any other tips for fresh shoes? 

Having "fresh clean socks" is a must," Wells-Brinkley says. "I prefer a nice and low running sock with a heel tab to prevent blisters, like these Nike Dri-FIT Elite Cushion No-Show Tab socks," she says.

Wells-Brinkley says alternating between sneaks is also a pro-move. "Have a few pairs! I love sneakers, both performance and casual, and find that variety not only keeps my style fresh, but keeps my shoes looking and smelling new longer,” she says. “I find a way to fit sneakers into a look for just about any occasion.”

Same, girl. Same.

Since we're on the subject: Here's how to clean your dishes with essential oils. And when it comes to sneakers, there's an ideal type for each workout. 

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