How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes

Rock climbing shoes are essential for any climber, whether bouldering, sport climbing, or trad climbing. They provide grip, comfort, and precision on the rock, but they also get dirty, sweaty, and smelly over time. Cleaning your rock climbing shoes regularly can help extend their lifespan, improve their performance, and prevent odors and infections. In this article, we will show you how to clean your rock-climbing shoes in five easy steps.

Why You Should Clean Your Rock Climbing Shoes

There are several reasons why you should clean your rock climbing shoes periodically:

  • Safety: Dirt and dust can accumulate on the soles and rands of your shoes, reducing their friction and traction on the rock. This can make you slip or lose balance while climbing, which can be dangerous. Cleaning your shoes can help restore their grip and prevent accidents.
  • Hygiene: Rock climbing shoes are often worn without socks, which means your feet are in direct contact with the material. Sweat, bacteria, and fungus can build up inside your shoes, causing foul smells and infections such as athlete’s foot. Cleaning your shoes can help eliminate these problems and keep your feet healthy.
  • Performance: Rock climbing shoes are designed to fit snugly and conform to your feet’ shape. However, dirt and sweat can cause them to stretch or shrink over time, affecting their fit and comfort. Cleaning your shoes can help maintain their shape and size, ensuring optimal performance.

How to Clean Your Rock Climbing Shoes

Cleaning your rock climbing shoes is not difficult, but it requires some care and attention. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Brush off dirt and debris: Before washing your shoes, you need to remove as much dirt and debris as possible from the surface. Use a dry brush or a cloth to wipe off any dust, chalk, or pebbles from the uppers, soles, and rands of your shoes. You can also turn them upside down and tap them gently to shake out any loose particles.
  2. Dip them in warm water with mild detergent: Fill a bucket or a basin with warm water (not hot) and add a small amount of mild detergent (such as liquid dishwashing soap). Submerge your shoes in the water and let them soak for a few minutes. Do not use bleach, harsh chemicals, or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the material and color of your shoes.
  3. Scrub them with a brush: After soaking your shoes, use a soft brush or a sponge to scrub them gently inside and out. Pay special attention to the toe box and the sole, where most of the dirt and odor accumulate. You can also use a toothbrush to reach into the crevices and seams of your shoes. Do not scrub too hard or too long, as you may wear out the rubber or the fabric of your shoes.
  4. Rinse them with clean water: Once you have scrubbed your shoes thoroughly, rinse them with clean water until all the soap is gone. You can use a hose or a faucet to spray water on your shoes, or dip them in another bucket of fresh water. Make sure there is no detergent residue left on your shoes, as it can affect their grip and durability.
  5. Dry them naturally: After rinsing your shoes, squeeze out the excess water gently with your hands or a towel. Do not wring or twist your shoes, as this can deform them or damage their structure. Then place them in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources (such as radiators or dryers) to dry naturally. You can stuff them with newspaper or paper towels to absorb moisture and help them retain their shape.

Tips for Keeping Your Rock Climbing Shoes Clean

Besides cleaning your rock climbing shoes occasionally, there are some tips you can follow to keep them cleaner for longer:

  • Get the right fit: Ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters, abrasions, and discomfort on your feet, which can lead to infections and odors. Make sure you choose the right size and style of rock climbing shoes for your feet shape and climbing preference. You can also wear thin socks or liners to reduce friction and sweat inside your shoes.
  • Wear them only for climbing: Rock climbing shoes are not meant for walking or hiking on trails or roads, as this can wear out the rubber prematurely and introduce dirt and grit into your shoes. Only put on your rock climbing shoes when you are going for a hike. 

How to Store Your Rock Climbing Shoes

Storing your rock climbing shoes properly can also help preserve their quality and longevity. Here are some tips on how to store your rock climbing shoes when you are not using them:

  • Pack them wisely: When you put your shoes in your gym bag or backpack, make sure they are not squished by heavy or sharp objects, such as carabiners, cams, or water bottles. This can deform or damage their shape and structure. Ideally, you should store your shoes in a separate shoe bag or pouch to protect them from dirt and chalk. If you have shoes with velcro, close the straps neatly to prevent dust and dirt from getting trapped1.
  • Air them out: As soon as you get back from climbing, remove your shoes from your bag and let them air out in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry place. This can prevent mildew and odor from developing inside your shoes. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, such as radiators or dryers, as they can warp the rubber or melt the glue of your shoes12.
  • Keep them clean and dry: Before storing your shoes for a long time, make sure they are clean and dry. Follow the steps above to wash your shoes if they are dirty or smelly. You can also stuff them with newspaper or paper towels to absorb moisture and help them retain their shape. Do not store your shoes in plastic bags or containers, as they can trap moisture and cause mold or fungus growth.


Rock climbing shoes are an important part of your climbing gear, and they deserve proper care and attention. By cleaning, drying, and storing your shoes correctly, you can extend their lifespan, improve their performance, and prevent odors and infections. You can also improve your footwork and technique to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on your shoes. Remember to choose the right fit and style of rock climbing shoes for your feet and climbing preference, and enjoy the grip and comfort they provide on the rock.

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