If you love running in the mud, you better get used to the consequences. You know what I’m talking about – muddy trainers, straw entangled around spikes on your cross country shoes and damp, dirty running trail shoes. From clumps of dirt that simply won’t shift to dirty laces, it’s a tough one having to tactically transport those shoes home without sharing your love of mud with everyone in your path.
You may be tempted to shove them in the washing machine when you get home. And for some people this seems to work fine but there are certain things you have to consider such as complaints from management if those mud-clad shoes went anywhere near a swanky washing gadget that sits there, pride of place in the pristine new kitchen.
Having run cross country races, trail marathons and years of watching my brother as a teenager meticulously care for his football boots (an old toothbrush was involved), I’ve found an alternative way to care and clean my most important tools. So here are a few tips on how to clean running shoes.
1. Race and wrap
Whether it’s your local rag or the free Guardian (or title of your choice) you cleverly worked into your shop at Waitrose, make sure you always have a newspaper handy for those post-race shoes. As soon as you cross the finishing line and caught up with your friends, whip your shoes off, put on another dry pair and wrap the muddy trainers in newspaper. Then stuff them in a plastic bag so you can carry them home without getting dirt absolutely everywhere. Newspaper is also useful to help you pry off the mucky trainers – use it as a layer between your fingers and mucky shoes.
2. Rinse as soon as possible
Seriously, do not wait for your trainers to dry as solidified mud is a bit like concrete and difficult to remove no matter how satisfying it can be whacking your dirty shoes against the wall to remove dirt from all the nooks and crannies. Unwrap your shoes when you get home and if you have access to running water outside, hose them down as soon as possible. Alternatively, you could hose them down in your shower (only as a last resort mind you, this will make you very unpopular with the person/people you live with), or do it the old-fashioned way and grab a tub of water to dunk them in.
3. Fill a bowl with hot soapy water
Once you’ve got the worst of the mud off, give your trainers a wash in a bowl of hot soapy water. Be sure to remove any insoles beforehand and untie laces so you can remove the dirt attached and freshen them up for next time. After all, no one enjoys having to tie up dry and crusty laces before their big race. You can use an old toothbrush or dish brush if you have one to hand to get into the grips of the trainers where the dirt likes to linger.
4. Rinse again
It goes without saying that post the soapy rub-a-dub-dub, you’ll need to rinse your shoes down again to remove any detergent. Use running water or a few tubs of water until it runs clear without soap suds.
5. Stuff ’em rock solid
Once again, grab your newspaper and screw up into balls to stuff your shoes with. Aim to really get as much in there as possible – the newspaper will absorb moisture and help your running dry faster.
6. Wrap again
Now you don’t have to do this but I find wrapping the exterior with newspaper also helps speed up the drying process of my running shoes.
7. Leave to dry
It may sound like common sense but you’ll be surprised by how many times you can leave your shoes outside only to find a week later that they are saturated with water and the newspaper you’d stuffed them with had turned into mulch. Remember to put your shoes in a dry, sheltered place or bring them indoors to dry. I seem to remember my oldies would place my brother’s football boots next to the boiler at home.
8. Change it up regularly
It’s up to you whether you leave your running shoes for a week or few days but one of the best ways to dry them out completely is to change the newspaper regularly.