How To Clean Cycling Shoes the RIGHT Way

You love your cycling shoes when it’s time to go on long rides and pedal in the most comfortable, safe way. But not so much when the bad smells start spreading through your house. Your cycling shoes pick up all kinds of dirt and odor when you use them often (especially if you’re cycling in the rain), but you can’t exactly chuck those smelly cycling shoes in the washing machine and call it a day.

You can clean most cycling shoes easily with just a damp cloth. For dirtier shoes, use warm water with some gentle soap and a soft brush. Once you’re done with the soapy water, let the shoes dry.

Keep reading for detailed instructions on keeping your cycling shoes clean.

Man riding bike after learning how to clean cycling shoes.
Clean cycling shoes equals better performance.

How To Clean Cycling Shoes: A Step-By-Step Guide

Here is everything you need to know about cleaning cycling shoes, broken down into easy steps:

Wipe Them Down

The first step is to wipe down your bike shoes with a gentle, damp cloth. For most shoes, this is enough to get them clean.

You should try to do this step after most rides to keep your shoes in the best condition and save yourself the effort of having to go through the more intense washing process.

Clean and Rinse Them

If you’ve just been through mud without wearing overshoes, or it’s been a while since you wiped down your cycling shoes, then it’s time to bring out the big guns. Take out your insoles, loosen up any straps, and immerse your shoes in sudsy warm water to loosen the dirt. You can dunk the entire shoe in fully—don’t worry about getting them wet!

To create the soapy water, use a gentle dish soap. You don’t want to use anything too harsh as that could damage the material. The same applies for the brush—use a soft brush as anything with harsh bristles could cause damage.

Some experts recommend removing the insoles and washing them separately because they absorb the most sweat and odor. The process for washing the insoles is the same as the process for washing your regular shoes.

Once your shoes are wet, use a brush to thoroughly clean off any dirty patches. Be sure to go over parts of the shoes that often get ignored, including the buckle and the soles.

After your shoes have been cleaned with soapy water, rinse the shoes in cold water.

Dry the Shoes

Cyclist putting on cycling shoes after learning how to clean cycling shoes
Don’t try wearing those shoes again until they’re nice and dry!

Before you can use your pair of shoes again, you need to dry them thoroughly.

Open the shoes as wide as possible, undoing the buckles and straps, and put scrunched up newspapers into the shoes. The paper will absorb the moisture and help your shoes dry faster.

Some people try to speed up the drying process by putting them on a radiator or in the oven, but putting the shoes in direct sunlight will damage them (and putting them in the oven will cause them to catch fire). Just put the clean biking shoes in a warm, dry place to air out.

Shoe powder without talc can sometimes speed up the drying process.

What Else Do You Need To Do Before You Can Use Your Shoes?

After your shoes are clean and dry, you may need to complete some more tasks before you can use them again.

If your cycling shoes have a ratcheting system or any metal parts, allow them to dry fully and lubricate them generously before wearing them again so that the parts don’t seize up. Be sure to wipe off any excess lubricant.

Cleaning your pair of cycling shoes is also a great opportunity to conduct other regular maintenance on the shoes. Look at the soles and examine them for any damage. Tighten the screws that need tightening.

Man adjusting cycling shoes after learning how to clean cycling shoes
After your shoes are clean and dry, check them over and make any necessary adjustments.

How Can You Regularly Maintain Your Shoes?

If you clean your shoes regularly, you won’t have to dunk them in soapy water as often.

As mentioned above, wiping them down with a damp cloth after every ride helps keep away stubborn dirt and grime.

You can also reduce bad smells with regular cycling shoe maintenance. Loosen the tongues and let your pair of cycling shoes air out as much as possible after every ride. Use a shoe powder or bike shoe deodorizer spray to keep smells at bay.

Every experienced cyclist knows that maintaining your gear and accessories is key to success, and that includes keeping clean bike shoes. Regularly wiping them down and intensively cleaning them when they’re dirty will help improve your overall performance.

Finally, you can make general maintenance a lot easier by equipping your bike with fenders or mudguards.