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Keep Your Mountain Bike Shoes Sparkling Clean with These Expert Tips

mountain biking in the rain

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When you’re out riding trails on your mountain bike, your shoes can get very dirty from mud, dirt, and other debris. It’s important to properly clean your mountain bike shoes to keep them in good condition for riding. A clean pair of shoes will help prevent discomfort or injury to your feet while riding.

Removing Dirt and Mud

The first step is to remove large pieces of mud, dirt, leaves, grass, etc. Use your hands, a stiff brush, stick or something similar to scrape off and dislodge chunks of dirt. Pay special attention to the tread, crevices and any engravings on the sole where mud can get compacted. Be careful when using tools not to damage the shoe material.

Once you’ve gotten all the big pieces off, remove the footbeds and laces. Rinse the shoes with water to help wash away remaining loose dirt and mud. If you have a hose, pressure washer or tap with a high pressure nozzle, hold the sole at least 6 inches away and spray at an angle to wash the dirt out of the tread pattern. Avoid directly spraying the upper shoe material.

Deep Cleaning the Soles and Footbeds

For a deeper clean, it’s best to use soap and warm water. Create a cleaning solution of dish soap, laundry detergent or a dedicated shoe cleaner and warm water. Use an old toothbrush, rag or soft bristle brush dipped in the solution to scrub the crevices of the tread and engraved areas that trap dirt. Take your time and pay close attention to problem areas. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Remove the footbeds from both shoes and clean separately if possible. Use the same cleaning process on the footbeds. Rinse them thoroughly as well, taking care to remove all soap residue so materials don’t become slippery. Allow footbeds and insoles to completely air dry before reinserting. Stuff shoes with newspaper or rag to help maintain shape as they dry.

Sanitizing and Deodorizing

After getting your mountain bike shoes mechanically clean, it’s a good idea to sanitize them as well. This will kill any bacteria or odors that might be lingering. Make a sanitizing spray solution out of white vinegar or antibacterial cleaner and water. Spray or wipe down the insides and footbeds, allowing the solution to soak in for several minutes before wiping dry with a clean rag.

Baking soda is also excellent for absorbing odors. Lightly sprinkle baking soda into each shoe, using your fingers to rub it into material. Pay special attention to the toe box area and give the baking soda at least six hours to work its magic. Use a vacuum hose with brush attachment to thoroughly remove baking soda remnants before wearing shoes again.

Caring for Uppers and Exterior

Once dirt is removed from the tread and footbeds, use a damp rag to wipe away residual dirt and stains from shoe upper material and exterior. Allow shoes to fully air dry before wearing again.

For leather or suede shoe material, use a dedicated shoe cleaner and soft brush to gently scrub. Carefully follow product instructions. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to buff the exterior once dry.

Avoid excessive moisture exposure to leather, suede or mesh shoe material which can lead to faster breakdown. Don’t submerge shoes or place wet shoes directly into sunlight or heat sources.

Maintaining Longterm Performance

Regularly cleaning your mountain bike shoes after muddy or dusty rides will help prevent buildup and keep them performing well ride after ride.

Inspect for signs of excessive wear after cleaning. Make note of cracks in the sole tread, frayed stitching around cleat mounts or damaged hardware. Address any issues promptly before they worsen.

Consider replacing worn footbeds every six months. Fresh footbeds enhance power transfer and comfort.

Store shoes properly between rides. Insert shoetrees, stuff with newspaper or dry towel to retain shape. Allow to fully air dry before storage. Keep away from direct heat or sunlight which can accelerate breakdown of material.

With proper care and regular cleaning, a quality pair of mountain bike shoes can handle hundreds of miles of rugged trail riding for seasons to come. Taking good care of your shoes will lead to better performance and protection out on the trails.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed