clean Climbing Shoes

How to clean Climbing Shoes – Complete Guide

If you are an avid climber and have been wearing rock climbing shoes for quite a while now, you will be perfectly aware of the stink that starts to arise from them once you have worn them for a reasonable amount of time. This smell not only takes from the whole climbing experience but also is unpleasant to climbers who are climbing with you.

But most climbers are unaware of the hygiene rules of the rock climbing shoes and are often seen asking the questions “How to clean climbing shoes?” and “How to wash climbing shoes?”. The amount of such users is staggering, and this lack of knowledge contributes to the decrease in the quality of the shoes that many users face.

We are aware of this problem of the users and thus have found the just solution to this adversary. We tested various cleaning techniques used for rock climbing shoes over the years and have seen some of the best ones, which not only get rid of the smell but are also helpful in improving the overall quality and the wearing experience of the shoes.

Should You Wash Your Climbing Shoes in The Washing Machine?

The first thought that comes into the users’ minds when they think of cleaning climbing shoes is can they wash climbing shoes in the washing machine. This question has also come to the attention of the climbing shoe manufacturers, who all have their own opinion regarding the washing.

Evolv does not recommend that you machine wash climbing shoes in the washing machine altogether. They think that synthetic climbing shoes are not meant to be washed in the machine as this decreases the overall fiber quality of the shoes. This statement is justified to some extent because the synthetic shoes use sensitive fiber, and the rugged wash of the washing machine sure puts the synthetic shoes at risk of wear and tear

On the other hand, some other brands do recommend hand washing the shoes. People over at Scarpa think that passing the shoes with running water is exemplary and should be done to remove the odor and clean the inside of the shoes. La Sportiva thinks that washing the shoes with a damp cloth is a good idea, while Butora prefers putting the boots in a soapy solution of water followed by cleaning is better. 

How To Keep Your Climbing Shoes From Smelling?

Many users also wonder how they can prevent their climbing shoes from smelling. We have also found several ways to eliminate the smell of climbing shoes. Here are some of the most valuable solutions we found to clean your shoes so they can be kept fresh and smell-free.

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Let The Shoes Rest

One of the primary reasons the shoes start smelling is that we wear them continuously, and there is not enough time for the sweat to dry off completely. This sweat from the sweaty feet of the wearer is the prefect breeding ground for bacteria, and the smell produced is due to these bacteria.

Once you allow the shoes to rest for several days, the sweat will dry off completely, and this resting will also reduce the smell to a great extent

Use A Cleaning Product

If the smell isn’t going off after not wearing the shoes for a couple of days, use some product to de-stink them. For this purpose, there are several options available in the market. You can also use factory-made products specific for this purpose, or you can also go for a DIY approach.

For the already made products approach, use odor-eliminating products. Many options are available in the market. Use these products to spray the inside of the shoes, the shoes will be disinfected, and the smell will be gone instantly. Moreover, you can also use dryer sheets for this job. Just leave one inside for a short time, and the sheets will absorb all the bad smells.

Smelly shoes can be Irritating.

For a more DIY approach, you can use baking soda. Place the soda inside using some packaging, killing all the bacteria producing the smell, leaving the shoes fresh and odor-free. Be careful not to spill the soda, or it will leave a mess inside the shoes.

Keep Your Feet Clean

Another solution is to keep your feet clean and fresh. As we have already said, the smell comes from the bacteria, which thrive on the lousy sweat of dirty feet. Ensure that the feet are kept clean and that there is no dirt on them. Properly clean them before putting the shoes on, and there will be less sweat and consequently less smell produced.

How To Clean Your Climbing Shoes

Since we have already established that the best way to clean the shoes is hand washing them, we will now move on to a comprehensive guide on how to proceed. Stick around to the end, and your shoes will be clean like never before. 

Step 1. Get Your Cleaning Equipment

It would help if you used some equipment and running water to get the best cleaning job done. You will need a new toothbrush; we recommend a new one, but an old but soft brush one can do the job just fine. You will also need a clean damp cloth and soap if you prefer a soapy bath.

Step 2. Use Warm Running Water To Clean The Shoe

In the next step, place the shoes under warm running water for a minute or two and get to rubbing. Wet the soft brush a little to gently scrub off any dirt or chalk from the shoes and clean them all around. Use the brush to reach the hard-to-reach inside parts of the shoes and clean them thoroughly.

The water will become muddy and almost black during the first few washes. Don’t let this stop you because you are cleaning the shoes you have not cleaned for a long time. The water is bound to be dirty at first. Then as you continue cleaning, the dirt will start to remove, and the water will begin to get less muddy.

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On a side note, some people use rubbing alcohol or a weak alcohol mixture to clean the shoes. We do not recommend this method as it can also mess with the fiber quality of the shoes.

Only use warm running water or a soap solution.

Step 3. Drying

Once you have washed the shoes, use a clean microfiber cloth and dab the surface of the wet climbing shoes lightly to remove the moisture. Give the whole shoe a thorough wipe down. Use the microfiber cloth and reach inside the shoes to get rid of the water

Next, you should place the slightly dry climbing shoes in direct sunlight or a well-lit area to allow further drying. Don’t forget to stuff the shoes gently with paper or any other cloth to preserve the original shape of the shoes

Step 4. Voila, Enjoy Your Fresh Kicks

Now that you have done the cleanup and the shoes are completely dry, you can wear them fresh on your next climbing adventure. The feeling you get after wearing a clean and new pair of kicks can not be described. 

Now you won’t have to worry about any smelly climbing shoes, your feet will feel good, and you will have peace of mind when climbing. 

How To Clean Dirty Soles

The soles are one of the most important parts of climbing shoes, and a dirty and worn-out sole can have disastrous effects during climbing sessions. This is because the soles are the shoe parts used to hold and lift the person when climbing. Dirty soles become slippery and can pave the way to some fatal mistakes.

To avoid this, you must keep the soles as clean as possible. You can also clean the soles by washing them with running water and using a soft brush or a toothbrush to give them a good scrub. You can also use rubbing alcohol to clean some resistant stains, but as we have already said, alcohol is not the best preference as it can destroy the fibers of the shoes.

How to Take Care Of Climbing Shoes:

Climbing shoes are just another product that needs a lot of care and maintenance to get the most out of them. This is especially important when you use them frequently or for extended periods. Without the proper maintenance, you can get the most of them and use them for as long as you want without worrying about them giving up on you. 

Here are some tips and tricks on how to take proper care of your climbing shoes.

Wear Climbing Shoes Only For Climbing

Most people get only one pair of shoes and use that single pair for daily jobs, including going to the gym, jogging, or wearing them on casual strolls. The same is the case with climbing shoes. People wear the same climbing shoes for all sorts of jobs.

Nothing is more detrimental to a climbing shoe than wearing it for jobs other than climbing. The dirt and other rocks on trails or the asphalt on roads or pavements cause the soles to wear out much faster than the rocks in mountain climbing. This can interfere with the normal function of the shoes and can wear them out faster. Thus it would help if you only used the climbing shoes for climbing

Use A Shoe Box:

A shoe box can keep unnecessary dirt and harsh sunlight away from the shoes. Keeping them away from the dirt and sunlight can maintain the quality of the shoes and can increase their lives by a significant amount. This is especially important in the case of leather climbing shoes.

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Air Them Out:

Regularly placing the shoes outside in a shaded and dirt-free area and airing them can help you deal with smelly climbing shoes. Doing this in fresh air will also keep the bacteria out and improve the shoes’ life span.

Clean The Shoes Regularly

We have listed various benefits of keeping your climbing shoes clean and fresh. Clean, new shoes last twice as much as dirty, unkempt shoes. Thus it would help if you cleaned your climbing shoes as regularly as possible.

Resoling And Repair:

Another method of getting the most life out of your climbing shoes is to repair their parts when worn out or damaged. Most often, the entire shoe is intact while one of its parts, such as the sole, is damaged. In this case, resolving the shoe and repairing the sole can prevent the expenditure of a hefty sum while simultaneously keeping the shoe up and running.

Read How to destink shoes? stinky shoes in the easiest way.

Buy More Than One Pair:

Another way to get the most out of your climbing shoes is to buy more than one pair. Buying more than you need seems a little harsh on the budget, but when you compare the uses one can get out of several pairs, you will deduce to spend the extra money.

When you have more than one pair of climbing shoes, you can use them alternately on each climb. This gives the used ones ample time to rest. Giving the shoes resting time improves each pair’s life span and keeps your mind at ease because you don’t have to worry about one pair getting damaged or worn out.


Are cleaning shoes machine washable?

You cannot machine wash most climbing shoes. Machine wash can deteriorate the overall quality of the shoe fibers and make the boots prone to wear and tear. Our advice would be to clean climbing shoes by hand only.

Does water damage climbing shoes?

No, the water does not ruin the climbing shoes. Most brands recommend using clean running water to hand wash climbing shoes.

How do you use baking soda to clean the shoes?

Baking soda can kill bacteria and prevent the shoes from getting smelly. Use 1-2 tablespoons of soda, package it into a small ball, and put it inside the shoes for a short time. Be careful not to spill any.

Why do climbing shoes smell?

The smell is due to bacteria and sweat. To avoid the smell, clean the shoes regularly and use smell-removing products.

How to de-stink climbing shoes?

Use different products like smell-removing sprays, charcoal, and dryer sheets to absorb unwanted smells.


Now you know how to clean your climbing shoes and can quickly answer the questions we asked at the start, “How to clean climbing shoes?” and “How to wash climbing shoes?”. The most important thing is letting your shoes rest and keeping your feet clean when wearing them. This will keep the shoes clean, prevent nasty smells, and add to your overall climbing experience. Happy Perfect climbing.

leah Leonard

Leah Leonard

Leah Leonard is a renowned author and seasoned climber, best known for her captivating book, “Perfect Climbing.” Her experiences scaling the world’s most formidable peaks have not only shaped her adventurous spirit but also lend a unique authenticity to her compelling narratives.

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