How to Maintain Your Athletic Shoes

While athletic shoes are great for your health and well-being, taking the time to clean, air out, stretch and scrape out their soles will repay your investment in them many times over. Here are some tips on how to maintain your athletic shoes so they can help you maintain your good physical condition.

Protect Your Athletic Shoes

Perform protective maintenance on your athletic shoes before you take them out on their first run. Use mink oil to lubricate and soften leather and to make it water and salt-resistant. Spray a silicone protector on suede and synthetic leathers. Apply a fabric protector graded for upholstery on nylon and canvas shoes.

Air Out Your Shoes thoroughly after every Run

Buy two pair of athletic shoes that fit you well and give you the support you need. Alternate wearing them from the day you buy them. Air them out thoroughly as follows: loosen the laces right to the toes and pull the tongues up vertically to the front of the shoe. Take out the removable interior insole and hang it from a clothes pin or clamp over a drying rack. If the insoles are smelly, wash them in dishwashing liquid and warm water, rinsing completely, and hang over the drying rack to dry overnight.

Brush Your Athletic Shoes at least once a Week

Use a stiff brush sold at a shoemaker or hatmaker to scrub off leaf bits, gravel, sand and dust from all the exterior surfaces of the shoe, including the sole. Anything that remains imbedded in the soles will affect your gait in the shoes. Pay attention to brushing the grommets or loops that hold the laces. Dirt and grit in the grommets will wear out your laces faster.

Wash the Laces of Your Athletic Shoes

When you wash the insoles of your shoes, pull the laces out and wash them as well. Change the water and add fresh soap so the laces will not pick up odors from the insoles. Stretch the laces and straighten them as they dry. If the laces are showing wear at a few places, replace them immediately. You cannot run safely in athletic shoes with broken laces.

Wash Your Athletic Shoes by Hand Infrequently

Do not put your athletic shoes in the washer, even canvas ones. The adhesives and stitching of athletic shoes were not designed to stand up to the agitation of a washer or the high velocity of the rinse and spin cycle. Wash nylon and canvas shoes with a damp cloth and an oxygen-based powder cleaner to remove stains. Check the cleaner's instructions for making a paste cleaner.

For suede, Nubuck and Durabuck finishes, use a suede cleaner to remove stains. Keep these shoes out of the rain and damp weather. Wear nylon or canvas shoes, that can air-dry well, on rainy days. Brush suede and other napped finishes after every wearing.

With diligent care and protective treatment, two pair of high-quality athletic shoes that go to the gym or track a few times a week should last you a full year.