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 A Running Shoe Wash Test
Submitted by Rickshaw :: Fri Feb 04, 2005 1:08 pm
Are your running shoes filthy and disgusting? If you've ever thought about washing them, but weren't sure how well they'd withstand a good scrubbing, then read on. I washed one old stinky shoe, then compared it against its unwashed twin to evaluate cleanliness, wear and tear, odor, and cushioning. It was all in the name of science of course!

I began with an old pair of Asics GT2080's. This pair had over 500 miles on it already, and had been retired in my closet for several months, unused. They were about as dirty as you can get. I grabbed the right shoe to be test victim.

1. Washing machine test: I removed the insole and laces, and put the shoe in the washing machine by itself, small load size, warm water, regular laundry detergent. I also tied the laces up into a ball and threw them in with the shoe. The result was a modestly cleaner shoe, but not nearly as clean as I'd expected. There was still a noticeable amount of caked-on dirt. A few of the threads and seams were also frayed-- nothing major, but enough to be a concern if you washed your shoes this way every week.

2. Hand wash test: I took the same shoe, and washed it again in the bathroom sink with hand soap. I filled the sink and submerged the shoe, working the soap in with my hands and gently scrubbing away the dirt. This resulted in a much cleaner, but wetter shoe. It actually took two days for the shoe to air dry completely.

http://www.runworks.com/templates/runworksClean/images/photos/shoes_washed.jpg
The washed and unwashed shoes after the hand wash test.

3. Odor test: I stuck my nose deep into a few different shoes and inhaled deeply. The old, unwashed shoe had very little odor, probably because it hasn't been used in months. The washed shoe had a mild odor, perhaps because the water from the wash had reactivated some dormant stink bacteria. By comparison, an identical shoe from another recently-used pair had a very strong odor. Yuck!

4. Run test: I put on the old pair and went out for a short run, looking like a freak with my one brown shoe and one white one. Although it's hard to say for certain, I did seem to notice some cushioning loss in the shoe that had been washed. In fact, after about a mile, my right foot started to hurt a little bit. This may have been coincidence, or the fact that the pair was already past the end of its normal lifetime, but I have to conclude that washing the shoe had a negative effect on its cushioning abilities.

So there you have it. If you must wash your shoes, I suggest wasing them by hand in the sink rather than the washing machine-- they'll get cleaner with less wear and tear. But it's probably safest not to wash them at all, and be satisfied with the occasional wipe-down and Lysol spray. Wear your stinky shoes as a badge of honor, so others can recognize you as a true runner!



OldManRunner
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: A Running Shoe Wash Test Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:56 pm 

That one was good for a chuckle, Rickshaw! Keep up the good work!

Maybe next you could do an expose on machine drying vs air drying running shorts, and how much that decreases the lifespan of the waist elastic? And whether throwing your polypropelene stuff in the drier does it any harm? Oh, and how about Gortex? I've heard that it's never as waterproof again if you machine wash it - fact, or fiction?! And why do the armpits of my most disgusting old running t-shirts turn yellow after a while. Is my sweat yellow, am I filthy, or is it something more mysterious?


Pretender
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Kansas, OK
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 100

Re: A Running Shoe Wash Test Posted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 3:00 pm 

Great job! I think the results validate my method: don't wash your shoes until you are ready to retire them as running shoes and convert them to casual clothes status. Then they look clean and you don't worry about any loss of effectiveness due to the washing. Since I run on dirt (mud) roads, my shoes look awful. I had to travel on business and had to run on a treadmill on saturday (12 miles, and no I really don't get bored). I looked pretty funny with those clodhoppers on! :o)

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