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How to Clean Your Kicks and Keep Them Fresh

After months of salted roads, melting snow and muddy trails, your shoes probably need a cleaning.

Chase Pellerin

After months of navigating streets lined with exhaust-blackened snow banks, salt-dusted sidewalks and trails better suited for mud wrestling, your sneakers have been to hell and back and it’s not even summer yet.

A trusty high-mileage sneaker is always good to have, but you owe it to yourself (and others around you) to clean them every once in while. Good maintenance not only keeps them looking close to new, but can also increase their lifespan. There’s a few easy cleaning tricks that can be done in the time it takes to do the rest of your laundry. Trust us, your feet will thank you.

1Start with the laces. Laces tend to get the dirtiest, so it helps that they’re the easiest to clean. Simply throw your dirty laces in your next load of laundry. Or, if you’re the type to go whole seasons in between laundromat visits, just go buy a new pair for a few bucks.

2Look to the insole. The insole is usually the main source of stink, so remove the insoles from the shoes and store them in a box with baking soda. It’ll have the same effect as it does in your fridge, absorbing moisture and odor. If the funk is excessive, try soaking the insoles in a shallow bath of vodka. Go for the college-grade stuff in the plastic bottle; no need to waste the good stuff. The 40 percent alcohol content of vodka is actually the minimum needed to sterilize a surface, so it has no problem getting rid of any funky fungus or odorous bacteria in your shoes.

3Get soapy on the outsole. Outsoles get the most mud and grime, so get some soap, water, a dish-cleaning brush or toothbrush and a small pick (for stones and rocks); they’re the best tools to clean them out. But if you’re lazy and don’t want to start an archaeological dig on a shoe, just toss them in the washer and dryer. You can also add in a load of towels to soften the tumbling chaos.

4Store and protect, properly. Proper storage and protection can increase the life of your kicks. It may seem old fashioned, but putting cedar shoe trees in after wearing them helps your shoes keep their form. And use a protective shoe spray for preventative measures.

Scientifically Speaking, Vodka’s the Solution
If your funking problem is your feet and not your shoes, go straight to the source. Try using the ‘cheap vodka bath’ trick directly on your feet. Scrubbing your feet combined with a vodka bath will work wonders when you’re putting miles on your sock-less summer slip-ons.
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