June 2


How to Clean Hiking Shoes

By Teddy

June 2, 2023

Hiking shoes are exposed to various elements such as dirt, mud, water, and sweat during outdoor excursions. Neglecting their maintenance can lead to deterioration, reduced performance, and unpleasant odors. By implementing a regular cleaning routine, you can extend the lifespan of your hiking shoes and ensure they continue to provide the necessary comfort and protection on the trails.

Importance of Cleaning Hiking Shoes

Cleaning your hiking shoes is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps remove dirt and debris that can accumulate both on the surface and within the shoe’s components. These particles can cause discomfort and affect the shoe’s breathability. Secondly, cleaning prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause odors and infections. Lastly, maintaining clean hiking shoes prolongs their durability, saving you money in the long run.

Preparing for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning your hiking shoes, it’s important to gather the necessary supplies. You will need a soft brush or toothbrush, mild detergent or soap, water, a sponge or cloth, and a shoe conditioner suitable for your shoe’s material. Additionally, remove the laces and insoles from your shoes to ensure a thorough cleaning process.

Cleaning Techniques for Different Materials

The cleaning process for hiking shoes may vary depending on the material they are made of. Here are some techniques for cleaning different types of hiking shoes:

Cleaning Leather Hiking Shoes

To clean leather hiking shoes, start by removing loose dirt and debris using a soft brush.

  1. Then, mix a small amount of mild detergent or soap with water to create a soapy solution.
  2. Dip a sponge or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the surface of the shoes. Avoid submerging the shoes in water to prevent damage.
  3. Afterward, rinse the shoes with clean water and use a dry cloth to remove excess moisture.
  4. Finally, apply a suitable leather conditioner to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking.

Cleaning Synthetic Hiking Shoes

Synthetic hiking shoes are typically easier to clean than leather shoes.

  1. Begin by removing loose dirt with a soft brush.
  2. Then, prepare a mixture of mild detergent or soap and warm water. Dip a sponge or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the shoes.
  3. Rinse the shoes thoroughly to remove any soap residue.
  4. Use a clean cloth to dry them or allow them to air dry.

Cleaning Mesh Hiking Shoes

Mesh hiking shoes require extra care during the cleaning process to avoid damaging the delicate fabric.

  1. Start by removing loose dirt with a soft brush.
  2. Mix a small amount of mild detergent or soap with warm water, and use a sponge or cloth to gently clean the mesh areas. Be cautious not to scrub too vigorously to prevent tearing the mesh.
  3. Rinse the shoes thoroughly and remove excess moisture with a clean cloth.
  4. To speed up the drying process, you can stuff the shoes with newspaper or place them in a well-ventilated area.

5. Removing Stubborn Stains and Odors

Sometimes, hiking shoes can acquire stubborn stains and unpleasant odors. Here’s how to tackle them effectively:

Dealing with Mud and Dirt Stains

Mud and dirt stains are common after hiking in muddy or dusty conditions. Allow the mud to dry completely, and then gently brush off the excess. For stubborn stains, create a paste using a small amount of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stained areas, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub gently with a soft brush or toothbrush. Rinse the shoes thoroughly and repeat the process if necessary.

Removing Grease and Oil Stains

Grease and oil stains can be more challenging to remove from hiking shoes. Start by blotting the stain with a clean cloth to absorb as much grease or oil as possible. Avoid rubbing, as it can spread the stain further. Sprinkle a small amount of cornstarch or talcum powder over the stained area and let it sit for a few hours to absorb the oil. Then, gently brush off the powder and clean the shoes following the appropriate technique for their material.

Eliminating Odors

To combat odors, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb the unpleasant odors. In the morning, shake out the excess baking soda and ensure it is completely removed. For a fresh scent, you can also place a fabric softener sheet or a few drops of essential oil inside the shoes before storing them.

Drying and Conditioning Hiking Shoes

After cleaning your hiking shoes, proper drying and conditioning are essential to maintain their shape and longevity. Follow these guidelines:

Air Drying

The most recommended method for drying hiking shoes is air drying. Place them in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Avoid using a dryer, as the intense heat can damage the materials and cause shrinkage.

Using a Shoe Dryer

If you prefer a quicker drying method, you can use a shoe dryer. Make sure to choose a gentle, low-temperature setting. Place the shoes on the dryer and allow them to dry gradually. Avoid high temperatures, as they can deform or melt certain shoe components.

Conditioning Leather Hiking Shoes

If you have leather hiking shoes, it’s essential to condition them periodically to maintain their suppleness and prevent cracks. After the shoes have dried, apply a suitable leather conditioner according to the product instructions. Gently massage the conditioner into the leather using a clean cloth. Allow the shoes to absorb the conditioner and remove any excess.

Maintaining the Longevity of Hiking Shoes

Regular cleaning and maintenance are key to prolonging the lifespan of your hiking shoes. Here are some tips for maintaining them:

Regular Cleaning Routine

Incorporate regular cleaning into your hiking routine, especially after challenging hikes or when your shoes become visibly dirty. Removing dirt and debris promptly prevents them from embedding deeper into the shoe’s materials.

Proper Storage

When not in use, store your hiking shoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in airtight containers, as this can promote moisture and mold growth. Keep them away from direct sunlight, which can fade the colors and weaken the materials.

Replacing Worn-Out Parts

Over time, certain parts of your hiking shoes may wear out, such as the laces, insoles, or outsole treads. Regularly inspect your shoes for signs of wear and replace these parts as needed. This ensures optimal performance and reduces the risk of discomfort or injury.

Properly cleaning and maintaining your hiking shoes is essential for their longevity, performance, and your overall hiking experience. By following the outlined cleaning techniques and incorporating regular maintenance practices, you can ensure that your hiking shoes stay in excellent condition for many adventures to come.


Q1: Can I machine wash my hiking shoes?

A1: It is generally not recommended to machine wash hiking shoes, as the agitator and harsh detergents can damage the materials and affect their performance. Stick to gentle hand cleaning methods for the best results.

Q2: How often should I clean my hiking shoes?

A2: The frequency of cleaning depends on your hiking activities and the condition of your shoes. As a general guideline, clean them after every few hikes or whenever they become visibly dirty.

Q3: Can I use bleach to remove stains from my hiking shoes?

A3: It’s best to avoid using bleach on hiking shoes, as it can weaken the materials and cause discoloration. Stick to mild detergents or specialized shoe cleaners instead.

Q4: Can I use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process?

A4: It’s not recommended to use a hairdryer on high heat settings, as it can damage the materials. If you choose to use a hairdryer, use the cool or low-temperature setting and keep a safe distance from the shoes.

Q5: How long do hiking shoes typically last?

A5: The lifespan of hiking shoes varies depending on factors such as the quality of materials, frequency of use, and the terrain you hike on. On average, hiking shoes can last anywhere from 500 to 1,000 miles before needing replacement.

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