How to Clean Cycling Shoes – A Comprehensive Guide

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How to Clean Cycling Shoes

As an avid cyclist, keeping your cycling shoes in pristine condition should be a top priority.

Dirty, damp, or damaged cycling shoes can lead to a range of issues that affect comfort, health, and performance.

From premature wear and tear to unpleasant odors and foot infections, improperly cared-for cycling shoes can spell disaster for the dedicated rider. 

In this detailed guide, we will walk through the entire process of cleaning and caring for your cycling shoes.

By following these comprehensive steps and tips, you can keep your cycling shoes looking, feeling, and functioning like new. Let’s dive in!

Inspect shoes before cleaning

Before cleaning, conduct a thorough inspection of the current condition of your cycling shoes.

Check for excessive dirt or mud buildup, stains, scuffs, odors, and any signs of wear and tear or damage.

Pay close attention to the soles, upper material, seams, buckles, straps, and moving parts.

This assessment will allow you to identify any problem areas to pay special attention to during cleaning.

You’ll also be able to determine if the shoes just need a basic surface clean or if a deeper scrub is required.

Remove laces, insoles, and accessories

Start the cleaning process by removing all laces, insoles, and removable accessories from your cycling shoes.

This includes all laces, custom orthotic inserts, pads, cleat covers or plates, and any other parts that can be taken out of the shoe.

Thoroughly cleaning the shoes will be nearly impossible if these parts are left in place.

You can clean laces, insoles, and accessories separately as needed, using the appropriate cleaning methods for each item. 

Eliminate dirt and debris

With removable parts taken out, use a stiff-bristled cleaning brush to gently remove any dried mud, caked-on dirt, or embedded rocks and debris from the exterior and interior of the shoes.

Carefully brush from the sole uppers towards the laces, tongue, and heel areas.

For leather shoes, use a soft horsehair shoe brush.

Take care around stitched seams or bonded adhesive areas to avoid damage.

A soft-bristled toothbrush can also help scrub small or hard-to-reach spots.

Create a mild cleaning solution

Create a cleaning solution by mixing lukewarm water with a small amount of gentle, soap-based cleaner in a bowl or bucket.

Opt for an unscented dish or laundry soap without harsh chemicals, aromas, or additives that could break down shoe materials or leave residues.

Baking soda and white vinegar make great all-natural cleansers.

Submerge a soft cloth or shoe brush in the solution.

Scrub the entire shoe surface

With your brush or cloth soaked in cleaning solution, gently scrub every interior and exterior surface of the cycling shoes to remove dirt and oil buildup.

Focus on the soles, upper material, seams, stitches, and any visible stains.

But don’t over-saturate the shoes or leave them to soak, which can damage materials like leather.

Be extra thorough on high-wear areas like the heel and ball of the foot.

Rinse your shoes thoroughly

Once scrubbed with a soap solution, rinse the shoes very thoroughly using clean running water.

You can use a hose on a light setting or a spray nozzle attachment to rinse without over-saturating.

Rinsing removes all soap residue and lifted dirt to prevent breaking down shoe materials over time.

Wipe shoes with a dry microfiber cloth to soak up excess moisture. 

Disinfect and deodorize shoes

After basic cleaning, spraying the insides and outsides with equal water and distilled white vinegar can kill bacteria, remove odors, and help shoes dry fast.

There are also non-toxic cycling shoe-specific disinfectant sprays to sanitize shoes.

Let the disinfectant sit for 5–10 minutes before wiping away any excess. 

Use stuffing to maintain the shape

While drying, fill shoes with bundled newspaper, towels, or moisture-wicking shoe trees to help maintain their shape as they dry.

Newspapers absorb moisture quickly.

Cedar shoe trees can also help eliminate odors.

Replace any stuffing periodically until the shoes are completely dry.

You can also loosely stuff plastic bags filled with crumpled paper overnight.

Allow time to fully air dry

Never force dry cycling shoes quickly with direct heat, as this can damage glues, adhesives, and leathers.

Instead, allow your shoes to air dry fully before wearing them again.

Shoes should be kept out of direct sunlight and in a well-ventilated location.

Drying time varies based on climate conditions and shoe materials.

Leather may take longer than synthetic uppers.

Restore protective products

Once shoes are completely dry, reapply any protective sprays, polishes, waterproofing products, or conditioners recommended by the manufacturer.

This restores water resistance and conditions the upper materials.

Test small areas first to prevent damage or discoloration.

Re-insert parts and inspect

Re-insert clean insoles and laces once the shoes are dry.

Before wearing, inspect for the proper functioning of buckles, straps, cleat plates, and moving parts.

Do a test walk in the shoes and re-adjust parts like straps as needed.

Lubricate and clean clipless cleats.


Regularly and properly cleaning cycling shoes using this comprehensive process is essential for maximizing their longevity, comfort, and performance.

By following these detailed steps, you can remove ingrained dirt and bacteria, eliminate odors, maintain structural integrity, restore function, and keep your shoes looking like new.

Your feet and your riding will greatly benefit from taking the time to thoroughly clean and care for your cycling footwear.

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