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Running shoes aren’t meant to last forever, especially if you’re logging a ton of miles. But with the high cost of swapping out shoes several times a year (monetarily and environmentally), we sure wish they would last longer than they do.
It turns out there are ways to take care of them so you can keep those kicks around just a little bit longer. Here are seven hacks for saving your shoes.
1. Don’t Wait to Weatherproof
Before you take your shoes out for a run, hit them with some weatherproofing spray, says Laina Gossman, a veteran of the shoe industry. The intention is to not necessarily protect your feet from getting wet from the weather (running shoes are designed to breathe and will inevitably let moisture in), but to protect the material of the shoe itself.
Not only will the weatherguard protect the leather on your shoes from getting damaged from rain and snow, but it will help to keep them from absorbing stains. “Once you have the weatherguard applied, it creates a barrier that allows you to easily wipe off dirt with baby wipes or a damp cloth,” Gossman says.
2. Wipe Them Down
Weatherproofing your shoes makes them easy to wipe down, but actually wiping them down is another thing.
Coming back from a muddy trail run? Use a damp rag and about a teaspoon of gentle, grease-fighting soap or laundry detergent to clean the fabric on the upper part of the shoe. For extra-stubborn dirt and grit, scrub with an old toothbrush and an athletic shoe cleaner.
And while the idea of simply tossing your dirty shoes into the washing machine is tempting, nearly every brand recommends that you skip the spin cycle, as submerging your shoes can cause damage. So always go for a much gentler spot-cleaning instead.
3. Clap Them Up
For kicks caked with mud, be sure to clean them as soon as your run is done. “When mud builds up, it can negatively impact the traction of the shoe,” says Stephanie Schappert, a former pro runner.
Not to mention the longer mud sits on your shoes, the harder it is to get rid of. “After your run, clap your shoes together so the mud and dirt dumps out,” Schappert says. “I’ll also remove the insole, which will make sure there isn’t any dirt or rocks trapped beneath it.” Once the excess ick is out, spot-clean with warm water and a damp rag or toothbrush and soap, detergent, or athletic shoe cleaner.
4. Air Them Out
After a good scrubbing—or a rainy run—be sure to give your shoes plenty of time to air-dry.
“Putting them in the dryer or near a heater can shrink the shoes or shift the shape of the shoe,” Gossman says. Instead, remove the liners and stuff your shoes with newspaper or paper towels to absorb the moisture, suggests Schappert (socks filled with rice or kitty litter will work, too). Leave them in a dry place—outside in the sun is ideal—and replace the paper stuffing every few hours until the shoes are completely dry, which may take an entire day.
5. Show Your Liners Love
The insole liners need love, too. As your shoes dry, remove both and toss them into your laundry and wash in warm water. Just don’t put the liners in the dryer, says Gossman, since they can be damaged by high heat.
However, if you have specialty insoles or prescription orthotics be sure to follow the care instructions that came with them.
6. Beat The Stink
Unmanageable odor can be one reason you’d give up your shoes before they’re truly worn out, but there are ways to get ahead of and beat the sweaty smells.
If your shoes are seriously stinky, wrap them in a plastic bag and pop them in the freezer for up to 48 hours to zap any odor-causing bacteria. Another way to fight foul smells? Slip in a bamboo charcoal shoe deodorizer after each run. “They suck in moisture and take the smell out without adding any scent in,” Gossman says. “They also recharge in direct sunlight, so they last for up to a year.”
7. Rotate Your Shoes
The best way to get the most mileage out of your sneakers? Use them strictly for running. “I have one pair for training and then another for walking around, gym work, and cross-training,” Schappert says. “This helps increase the longevity of your training shoes because you’re not wearing down your shoes walking to the coffee shop or running errands.” Remember, miles in the shoes count whether they’re miles running or miles walking and doing chores.