If you’re working out on the regular, you’ve probably already gotten a lot of things on track in life. After all, committing to a consistent exercise routine is one of the healthiest things you can do for both your mind and boy.
After a sweat sesh, you’re probably tossing all of your clothes and accessories, like a headband or towel, in the wash, but what about your gym shoes? You do sweat from your feet, rather excessively, in fact, but should you—or can you—wash your shoes along with the rest of your gear? And if so, how often should you be doing it?
A regular shoe vs. a gym shoe
Before we deep dive into the details regarding whether or not you should be washing your gym shoes, let’s go over the main differences between a regular shoe and gym shoe—because there are quite a few worth noting. A gym shoe is (or should be) a shoe that you only wear to workout in at the gym, according to Cortney Logan, RRCA Run Coach and founder of Run Sweat Sip. “Ideally, you should have a different shoe for weight training (i.e. trainers) and a different pair for cardio machines (i.e. running specific shoes),” she says. “Weight training in running shoes can cause injury as they don’t provide lateral support needed and the same can go for running in trainers can cause plantar fasciitis because they don’t have the same cushioning as a running shoe.”
While you might not have to wash your regular shoes all that often, your gym shoes deserve a different level of care seeing as you sweat in them several times a week. “When we sweat, it creates a moist environment that is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” warns Bill Daniels, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., founder of Beyond Fitness. “If you don’t clean your gym shoes, you will end up with a petri dish of bacteria that not only smells really bad, but leaves your feet vulnerable to skin problems like Athlete’s foot or other infections.”
What happens if you don’t wash your gym shoes?
If you’re worried that washing your shoes might compromise your shoe’s quality, know this: The sweat and bacteria buildup can actually wear down your shoes faster, according to Daniels, which can lead to a breakdown in the quality and integrity of your shoe.
What you also risk by not washing your shoes is some unpleasant foot problems, such as blisters. “Blisters are caused by sweat trapped between your skin and shoe—sweat causes friction and eventually becomes painful,” says Reda Elmardi, R.D., certified nutritionist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Trainer, and founder of The Gym Goat.
Athlete’s foot is another unpleasant side effect. “When you sweat, bacteria can enter your pores and multiply and then grow under your skin and create unsightly white spots called Athlete’s foot,” says Elmardi.
How often should you be washing your gym shoes?
The good news: Washing your gym shoes can make a big difference in several of these scenarios. How often should you be washing your gym shoes? In an ideal world, it would be great to be able to clean your shoes after each time you wear them—just like you do your workout clothes—but, if we’re being honest, no one has time for that. Cleaning them every 2-3 weeks is also fine, according to Logan.
How to properly clean your gym shoes
Before you throw your gym shoes in the washing machine, know that doing so can actually damage your shoes by compromising the fabric or causing the sole of the shoe to separate from the fabric. Instead, Logan recommends hand-washing them with warm water and a mild soap/detergent (or a specialized shoe cleaner). “Use an old toothbrush or magic eraser to scrub dirt off the sides/soles, use a yard hose or sink to spray shoes down, but don’t soak in water as this can be damaging and take the insoles out and hand wash (baking soda is your friend),” she says. Let everything air dry. Too much effort or short on time? She’s a huge fan of CleanKicks Shoe Cleaner Wipes for a quick clean.