How to wash gym kit and running shoes to make them last longer

There’s nothing worse than having a favorite gym kit only to pull it out of the wash after a while and find it’s lost its shape. Most of us don’t have the time or energy to separate our laundry, throw everything in a quick 40°C spin and hope for the best. But if you live in activewear, how you care for your clothes and shoes is important. having to regularly replace sports bras and leggings is both expensive and incredibly bad for the environment (even if you’re wearing a kit made from recycled plastic).

In fact, a new study from Runners Need shows that 44% of us don’t know how to properly maintain our equipment. It’s no surprise when you look at the range of washing instructions that come with an outfit. So what’s the best way to keep the kit clean without making it sag?

How to wash sweaty shirts, shorts and leggings

After a sticky summer run or a sweaty spin class, it’s tempting to strip down as soon as you get home and wash up hot. But according to Christian Allen, product expert at Runners Need, this would be a mistake: “It’s a recipe for disaster. The fabrics used in the performance kits are not designed to be immersed in hot water, so follow the care instructions and if in doubt select a colder temperature. You’ll need detergent to break down body fat and sweat, but too much can leave a residue that bacteria and mildew love.

It’s worth saying that you can now get detergents specially designed for washing sports equipment, such as Gymspin. You’re not supposed to use it on other fabrics, and for best results you don’t want to have an overly full drum; it’s worth having a wash a week just for lycra and racing tops.

Sports bras require specialist treatment

New research suggests that too many of us wear sports bras long after they’ve stopped supporting us – and that they can lose their supportive properties after as little as 25 washes. If you wear several different sports bras each week, you may need to buy a new one every six months. While it’s just a fact that technical fabric loosens with each cycle, making it less effective, there are things you can do to prolong its life (even if that means wearing your old bras. high-impact for low-impact activities like cycling or pilates).

Allen recommends using a protective laundry bag, washing in cold water, avoiding fabric softeners, and never using a dryer, as this tends to accelerate elastic breakdown. But eventually, once your bra reaches its six-month anniversary, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it.

Don’t machine wash your muddy running shoes

As an avid runner, I tumbled through endless puddles and muddy paths — and my sneakers went from stark white to encrusted brown. And when my mom sees them, she often takes them out to wash with a ton of bleach. That, Allen says, is a rookie mistake.

“If they need a little cleaning, avoid the washing machine at all costs. This is because some shoe materials should not be exposed to heat or immersed in water, otherwise they may be damaged. Instead, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or use a sponge with soapy water to keep the shoes clean and hygienic.

Woman doing running trainers
If you want to keep your running sneakers super clean, don’t put them in the washing machine no matter what.

While most trainers can last up to around 800km (not as much as you might think, if you run longer distances or train almost daily), you can extend their lifespan by :

  1. Only wear your running sneakers for running – walking or working out in them will only wear them down faster and add empty miles
  2. Undo and retie the laces rather than trying to put them on and take them off; you will wear out the heel and stretch the shoe
  3. Wear proper running socks with your sneakers. Allen says low-quality socks can damage the inner material, while lower-cut socks can cause premature wear on the inside, so it’s best to stick with longer pairs.

Running socks are an essential piece of gear that deserves more attention

Speaking of socks, don’t think you can get away with throwing them away with the rest of your daily life. They can be an expensive (but necessary) investment against bulbs, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of them. To do this, turn them over before putting them in the washer and avoid fabric softener. “Be sure to air dry them, as the heat from a clothes dryer could damage some of the specialty materials,” says Allen.

Walking shoes need to be cleaned after every walk

If you’re more of a hiker than a runner, your walking shoes will undoubtedly be covered in all kinds of mud. While that’s fair, Mark Skelton, store expert at Cotswold Outdoors, says it’s really important to give your boots a good scrub after every walk. “Using warm water and a semi-rigid brush, clean off any mud, grass and grit that may have accumulated on your boot. It is also worth removing the insole of your shoes from time to time and cleaning the inside of the boot thoroughly. You will be amazed at how many fine grits and small stones can accumulate inside your shoes which, if left, can damage the waterproof membrane.

Woman stepping over mud in walking boots
You should clean your boots after every ride, especially if they get wet.

If your boots got wet on a rainy hike, it’s even more important to pay attention to them when you get home. By drying them thoroughly, you reduce the risk of them smelling bad and losing their shape.

“Resist the temptation to speed up the drying process by placing them next to the radiator, as this can cause the lining to crack,” warns Skelton. “Instead, let them dry naturally in the sun, and if they’re particularly damp, stuff them with newspaper to increase moisture absorption.”

TL; DR: Wash your kit on low heat, without fabric softener and away from your normal clothes and be very careful how you treat things like socks and shoes. The better you take care of it, the more your feet will thank you.

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