How to Clean Climbing Shoes -Step by Step guide


Climbing shoes are the climber’s best friend. A good pair of climbing shoes support you through the rough and rocky mountains. But when it comes to the care and maintenance of your climbing shoes, many people fall short, which results in shoes getting worn out too soon. Clean and wash your climbing shoes in regular intervals to keep you from having to change shoes often.

Mountain Climbing is a demanding sport. You probably spend days hiking and going on mountain trails and nights in some makeshift camp. Cleaning your shoes might not be the priority then. But the smell becomes undeniable even after a few uses. So climbers need quick and easy steps to take care of and clean their climbing shoes.

Mountain climbers know the struggle to keep their shoes clean and fresh and, most importantly- odor-free. Unfortunately, there’s a reputation for climbing shoes to smell like cadavers. But not anymore! I have compiled this list of tips that will help you to clean and wash your climbing shoes. There are also tips for removing the smell from climbing shoes and how to keep that fresh and stench-free.

So let’s get started!

The Process of Cleaning Climbing Shoes Properly

Cleaning your mountain climbers is not only necessary but is also recommended. By removing the dirt and stain from your shoes, you might get better performance and better use out of them.

Here’s a guide to clean and take care of your climbing shoes.

 Removing dirt from soles

Removing dirt from soles

Be it outdoor mountain climbing or indoor gym rock climbing, having a good grip is key to maintaining balance when you’re climbing higher. Climbing shoes have rubber soles that provide the necessary grip needed for climbing. But prolonged use of the shoes collects dirt and worn-out rubber. This needs to be cleaned periodically to preserve some of the stickiness from the sole. To clean these, use some lukewarm water and a wire brush and gently clean the sole of the shoe. You can also use some rubbing alcohol to get rid of more stubborn stains.

You can prevent a scrub day for your shoes by wiping off the sole of your shoe with a cloth or rag after each climb. That will keep the sole clean and your shoes good as new for a long time.

Climbing shoe rubber repair

If your shoes get too dirty or have too many dust particles attached to the sole, it could damage the stickiness of the sole. To solve this, use coarse sandpaper over the areas that have lost their grip and revive some of it. But be careful not to be too harsh on the sole. Use a wet rag to gently wipe off the sole after each climb to prevent it from getting too dirty.

Climbing shoe sole repair

The sole of climbing shoes usually gets more damaged due to wear and tear compared to other parts. In this case, consider if the shoes can be fixed by some home remedies or a deep clean. Otherwise, leave it to the professionals and get a resole done to increase the longevity of your shoes.

Hand Washing Climbing Shoes

If your climbing shoes have a visible layer of dirt and the smell is earning you a few nasty stares from the people on the subway, it is probably time to wash your shoes. The best way to clean climbing shoes is by hand washing them. The process is not as difficult as you think it is.

We have broken down the handwashing routine into easy steps for you:

  • Step 1: Take your climbing shoes and remove all big chunks of rocks, chalk, or dirt particles from them. You can even turn the shoe inside out to remove any dirt or materials from the inside of the shoe.
  • Step 2: Grab a bucket and fill it with lukewarm water. Remember, excessively hot water will damage your shoes. The water temperature should not be too hot as it may damage the rubber sole of the shoes. Slightly lukewarm water should be enough to remove the dirt and the smell from the shoes.
How to Clean Climbing Shoes -Step by Step guide
  • Step 3: Take a small brush with soft bristles to clean the sole of the shoe. You can use an old toothbrush for this part. Don’t use brushes with hard or wired bristles as they may damage the performance of the sole.
  • Step 4: Use mild dishwashing soap to lather the water and soak the shoes for a while. Gently clean the inside of the shoes with the brush. Make sure to get the deep corners around the toes as well as the sole and outside of the shoe. Rinse with water after you’re done cleaning the shoes. Repeat the process until they’re clean.
  • Step 5: Once the shoes are clean and fresh again, Shake them off to remove excess water. Use a towel or fresh cloth to pat dry completely. Let the shoe air dry near a window. But don’t place them under direct sunlight as it might harm the material.

And thus you have squeaky clean climbing shoes in a matter of a few minutes.

How to Wash Climbing Shoes in the Washing Machine

When it comes to washing and cleaning climbing shoes, it is always recommended to clean them by hand. The soles of climbing shoes are made with sticky rubber material to ensure proper grip. Only use a machine for washing climbing shoes made from synthetic material. Regular leather shoes will get damaged by a machine wash.

Here’s how to wash climbing shoes efficiently and effectively through the washing machine.

  • Step 1: Remove all dirt particles from the shoe. Turn the shoe inside out to clean the interior part of the shoe. When the shoe looks visibly clean, it’s time to put them in the machine.
  • Step 2: Make sure the shoes are made of synthetic material before washing them in the machine. Put the machine in gentle cleaning mode and choose the synthetic option in the machine. Turn the setting to less than 1000rpm to wash the shoes without causing damage.
  • Step 3: Use a small amount of mild soap or detergent to wash the shoes. A harsh detergent or bleach might ruin the quality of the shoes. Don’t insert your climbing shoes with other leather materials like bags, shoes, etc. 
  • Step 4: Once the shoes are clean, let them dry naturally. Don’t place your shoes in direct sunlight or other heat sources. Stuff the shoes with newspaper or dryer sheets to keep them from shrinking in the drying process.

How to Remove Smell From Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are made of special rubber material that prevents them from getting any air out. Climbers usually skip wearing socks to get maximum skin sensitivity and grip while climbing, which results in really funky-smelly climbing shoes. The shoe absorbs all the sweat and dead skin cells and becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria- hence the smell.

If your climbing shoes have begun to smell bad and you desperately need to get the odor out from the shoes, then look no further because we have the perfect tips to remove the smell from climbing shoes.

Air them out

Climbing shoes get smelly as the air doesn’t get to leave the inside of the shoe. Store them in a clean and dry place to absorb the moisture. You can turn the shoes inside out so that all the sweat and bacteria get removed.

Use home remedies

If you’re on the run or need a quick fix to your smelly situation, we have some tricks that could help you.


Besides, washing your shoes often could decrease their lifespan and damage their soles. A quick and easy way to remove the smell from climbing shoes is to sprinkle them with baking powder or baking soda. It kills all the bacteria and eliminates the odor from shoes. You can also try using chalk powder on your feet before wearing the shoes to have the same effect.

Give them a wash

Sometimes no amount of powder or spray can mask the smell off of your shoes. That’s when it’s time for a good old scrub. Use lukewarm water and a toothbrush to clean the insides of the shoes gently. You can use a mild detergent but make sure your shoes are suitable for that kind of wash. Washing your shoes will remove all the dirt and sweat and make them smell fresh.

How to Prevent Climbing Shoes From Smelling


Climbing shoes are likely to smell after a few uses due to how they’re built. There’s little you can do about it. Some shoes even smell more than others. A lot of climbers believe synthetic shoes smell way worse than regular leather shoes. 

But with a bit of help and care, you can prevent your shoes from smelling.

Keep your feet clean

In addition to cleaning your shoes, It is also crucial to keep your feet clean. Clean feet mean less smelly shoes.

If you’ve been walking around in close-toed shoes all day and then slip into your climbing shoes, you’re bound to transfer the sweat and bad odor. Give your feet a quick wash before wearing climbing shoes. You can also use chalk powder if there’s no water available.

Use deodorizers

Sometimes cleaning your feet is just not enough. The sweat and grime settle on the bottom of the shoe, and over time the smell only gets worse. You need dedicated products to combat the odor. Use deodorizers and antiseptic sprays that absorb all the moisture and get rid of the bacteria inside the shoe. The shoe rentals and bowling alleys use this trick to fight the smell of shoes. Air fresheners could also do the trick!

Wear socks

You could try wearing socks to avoid direct contact with the shoe, and it would also help absorb some of the sweat and moisture. Socks can sometimes reduce your performance while mountain climbing, but that’s a small price to pay to keep the funk away. Choose thin socks with no seams around the toes to ensure maximum performance.

Let them breathe

Your shoes need a breather, too, sometimes. Always let them dry after each climbing session so they don’t trap moisture and promote bacterial growth. Put your shoes in a separate shoe bag and hang them out to dry to get rid of the smell. Make sure to avoid direct sunlight as the warm temperature accelerates bacterial buildup and will result in a worse stink.

If you’re feeling experimental, you could also stick your climbing shoes in a shoe bag and store them in the freezer. Germs and bacteria get killed in the cold, and you will have cleaner and cooler shoes at the end. Get it?

Hope this article helped you turn into a pro at keeping your shoes clean and fresh and equipped you with all the necessary tips and tricks to take care of your climbing shoes so that you never let smelly dirty shoes keep you from climbing higher!

How to Clean Climbing Shoes -Step by Step guide

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