Cleaning muddy trail shoes used to the the thing I dreaded the most after a muddy run. Let’s face it, the next time you hit the trails they are just going to get filthy again so why even bother however, a little bit of TLC will ensure that you prolong the life of your trail shoes and stop them festering and stinking the house out between runs. It is also necessary to maintain good hygiene. But what’s the best way to clean your most essential piece of running gear? We take a look at how to clean muddy trail shoes (and how not to)

Here’s what not to do! 

  • DO NOT put them in the washing machine or tumble dryer – trail shoes are not designed for either. Washing your running shoes in this manner will alter the fit, cushioning etc, and mess with your feet.
  • DO NOT dry them with hairdryer (guilty as charged) – it burns holes in them 
  • DO NOT leave them in a carrier bag after your run or the boot of your car – they will stink after a couple of days
  • DO NOT clean them over the kitchen sink right in the middle of Sunday dinner preparation
  • DO NOT throw them in the bin! I once did this with a pair right after a race (they were cheap, painful and I couldn’t bear the prospect of cleaning them!)

And what you should do…

Read on for our top tips on how to clean muddy trail shoes effectively.

The Quick Method

After completing the Sodbury Slog yesterday for the third time and contending with Sheep dip, cow s**t, muddy bogs etc, my shoes were more mud than shoes. A good hose off in the first instance will get rid of all the excess mud. Then all you need to worry about is drying them. If you want to give them a proper clean, get a scrubbing brush and clean out in between the lugs.

Don’t be tempted to just chuck them somewhere to dry and worry about later. Later could be a few weeks away! Often, it’s not just mud on the bottom go your shoes, but rather the excretions of ruminating animals. This is where an outdoor tap comes in handy! Remember, if you are going to rinse your trail shoes, make sure you have another pair on standby if you are planning on running again the following day.

dirty trail shoes

Giving them a Proper Clean

Nowadays, we tend to worry less about the state of our shoes. I tend to just leave them under the porch to dry (outside in the fresh air) But, if you want to get the best out of them and keep them looking pristine for longer, we share our top tips on how to clean muddy trail shoes.

Start by giving them a hose off though so that you can handle them without getting caked in mud yourself.


We had friends over for drinks over the recent Christmas period, the reason I revisited this blog. He had just got home from a muddy run and washed his trail running shoes in the kitchen sink. We all laughed nervously before explaining that he probably should avoid doing that. Don’t use the kitchen sink – use an outside tap, use the utility sink, or, if you really have to, use an alternative sink. The kitchen sink is for washing up, preparing food etc! It caused some smiles in our house anyway.

Remove the Insoles 

Starting from the heel, carefully lift out the insoles of your shoes. Give them a brush off and empty any debris or small stones, loose mud from the shoe. Often, we forget this part and are reminded when we have to stop early on in our next run to remove a small stone that has become embedded.

Loosen the Laces

Loosening the laces will open up the shoe which means greater airflow, quicker drying and it will also unclog the lace holes. You don’t need to remove the laces completely – just loosen them off. Remember to tighten them back again or adjust to how you like them before your next run.

Use a Toothbrush or Scrubbing Brush

Hosing off the shoes will get rid of most of the mud but a good scrub will get right into the lugs and remove the ground in bits. You can use a scrubbing brush, nail brush or toothbrush (make sure it’s not one that is being currently used for its intended purpose).

Drying Running Shoes

I lay my wet trail shoes on a tray or a piece of cardboard. I have an entrance hall that would give the nearest sauna and steam room a run for its money if I have the heating on. I tend to whack the heating up and leave the shoes beneath the radiator until they are dry. This happens extremely fast. You can find a warm area like an airing cupboard and leave the shoes there – anywhere that will speed up the drying – not direct sunlight though. 

Alternatively, and this has only come to light since we shared this article on Facebook, you can get a Shoe Dryer! Who knew? How did we not know this already? One of our readers shared this with us and we have to say, we are sorely tempted to buy one. Not just in the interests of reviewing but because we feel, as avid runners that we need this in our kit cupboard!

trail shoes dryer

Voila – your shoes are ready for their next outing – run, rinse repeat!

And if it’s Your Road Shoes?

Many of us have done it. You pop on your road shoes expecting to be mainly on dry paths and roads only to come face to face with a muddy path/gate/stretch of path that is impassable without getting your shoes dirty. What do you do then? Many white trainers won’t ever be quite the same again but don’t be tempted to wash them. We tend to let them dry and then brush the dirt off. If you try and clean them up while wet, you will ingrain the mud into the fabric of the shoe beneath the mesh.

Be patient and let them dry then brush off as much of the dirt as possible. If it’s not coming off, try a toothbrush and something like The Pink Stuff which is the most effective thing we have found for cleaning our road shoes. Remember that muddy trail shoes are a lot more robust and a less pretty than your road shoes so can take more of a thorough cleaning – be careful with your road shoes and do not wash or tumble dry them.

How to Keep Your Running Shoes Smelling Nice

Hands up if you have left your dirty, damp trail shoes in a bag and forgotten about them. After a while, they really do start to smell. I got in the car a few days after a run and tried to figure out where the smell was coming from only to discover exactly where I put my shoes when I last ran. Here are a few tips on how to keep them smelling fresh for longer:

  • White vinegar/water. Equal parts white vinegar to water. It is a great natural deodoriser. Simply spray inside your shoes and the insoles after each run then leave the shoes to dry.
  • Baking Soda. Harness the power of baking soda to keep your shoes smelling fresh after a run. Simply sprinkle some baking soda into your shoes, ensuring it covers the entire interior, and leave it in for 24 hours. Afterward, tap out any remaining powder. For an added touch, enhance the scent by combining the baking soda with 1-2 drops of your favourite essential oil. Enjoy a rejuvenated and pleasantly scented pair of shoes after this simple and effective deodorising trick.”
  • Replace the insoles. It’s not always the shoes that smell – sometimes, especially in older shoes, it may just be that the insoles need replacing. 

And When They Are Past the Point of No Return?

Once your trainers have seen a few hundred miles, are beyond help, and do get relegated to the garage because they stink, it might be time to check out some new ones. I mean, who doesn’t love new trail shoes? You may want to look at some waterproof trail running shoes if you find yourself regularly on wet and muddy trails.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links which may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you. The products we recommend are either those that we’ve used or that our fellow runners have used.