Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Climbing Shoes

Every climber understands the predicament of having their beloved climbing shoes become a smelly nuisance. Although cleaning them may seem like the obvious solution, improper cleaning techniques can lead to irreversible damage. In this article, we will explore effective methods to clean climbing shoes without compromising their quality. Additionally, we will cover essential tips to prevent climbing shoes from smelling.

How to Clean those Nasty Climb Shoes:

The persistent odor emanating from climbing shoes is a common concern. To address this issue, it is crucial to focus on prevention. Since most climbers prefer not to wear socks, the moist environment created by sweaty feet becomes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. However, certain types of climbing shoes, particularly leather ones, are more breathable and naturally regulate foot temperature, thereby reducing odor retention. Nonetheless, here are practical solutions to combat smelly climbing shoes:

Solution #1: Take em Off:

One effective way to minimize odors is by removing and airing out your climbing shoes after each climbing session. Avoid storing them in the bottom of your bag, as this can lead to the growth of bacteria. Instead, open them up and allow them to dry thoroughly.

Solution #2: Apply Odor-Fighting Products:

Using odor eliminators or placing dryer sheets inside your climbing shoes when not in use can significantly reduce unpleasant smells. Additionally, products such as Boot Bananas are specially designed to combat smelly climbing shoes. Alternatively, you can utilize a DIY approach by using baking soda, which neutralizes bacteria-friendly environments. After applying baking soda, simply wipe down the shoes for fresh-smelling results. If your shoes are dirty, a disinfectant wipe can help remove grime and restore their cleanliness.

Solution #3: Keep Your Feet Clean:

Maintaining personal hygiene is essential for preventing smelly climbing shoes. Before wearing your shoes, ensure your feet are clean. If excessive sweating is an issue, applying a light dusting of chalk can help absorb moisture. Wearing socks can also be an effective way to prevent shoes from absorbing sweat and developing unpleasant odors.

Can You Wash Climbing Shoes?

The washing of climbing shoes is a topic of debate among climbers and manufacturers. While some shoe brands discourage washing due to the potential damage it may cause to the glue and overall structure, others endorse it for removing sweat-induced salt and chemicals. If you choose to wash your climbing shoes, follow these steps carefully to minimize any adverse effects on their performance and lifespan.

How to Clean Climbing Shoes:

When it’s necessary for a deep clean, there are two cleaning methods available: machine wash and hand wash. However, it is highly recommended to opt for hand washing to avoid damaging your shoes.

Step 1: Gathering Cleaning Equipment:

Prepare the necessary cleaning tools, including a soft brush (an old toothbrush works well), and a cloth for delicate areas.

Step 2: Cleaning with Running Warm Water:

Avoid using hot or boiling water, as this can damage the shoes. Instead, rinse the shoes with warm running water, gently brushing the footbed and uppers to remove dirt and grime. Focus on avoiding excessive brushing to protect the uppers.

Step 3: Drying the Shoes:

After cleaning, wipe the shoes with a dry towel or microfiber cloth. Insert a cloth inside the shoe to absorb excess water, reducing drying time. To maintain the shape of the shoes, stuff them with paper or a microfiber cloth and provide proper ventilation in a warm, airy environment. Avoid direct sunlight or excessive heat, as they can cause damage to the shoes.

Step 4: Enjoy Your Clean Climbing Kicks!

After a few hours of drying, your climbing shoes will be ready for use. If you wish to expedite the drying process, use a hairdryer on the lowest heat setting, ensuring to keep it at a safe distance from the shoes.

Cleaning Dirty Soles:

Neglected rubber soles can result in reduced grip and a shorter shoe lifespan. To clean the soles, wipe them with water and scrub using an old toothbrush periodically. This practice will maintain optimal grip and prevent the accumulation of dirt and chalk.


By incorporating preventive measures and following proper cleaning techniques, you can effectively keep your climbing shoes odor-free and in good condition. Remember to air out your shoes, utilize odor-fighting products, and prioritize personal hygiene to minimize unpleasant smells. Hand washing your climbing shoes is recommended over machine washing to avoid potential damage. Proper care and attention will ensure that your climbing kicks remain reliable companions during every ascent.

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