The Ultimate Guide: How to Clean Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are essential equipment for climbers, providing the necessary grip and precision on various surfaces. Over time, climbing shoes can accumulate dirt, sweat, and odor. Proper cleaning and maintenance not only extend the lifespan of your shoes but also ensure optimal performance. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore effective methods on how to clean climbing shoes:

Understanding Climbing Shoe Materials

Climbing shoes are typically made from two primary materials: leather and synthetic. The cleaning methods vary depending on the material, so let’s take a closer look:

1. Cleaning Leather Climbing Shoes

Leather climbing shoes offer excellent breathability and stretch to fit the shape of your feet. Here’s how to clean them:

  • Start by removing excess dirt and debris from the shoes using a soft brush or cloth.
  • Using a mild soap or specialized leather cleaner, apply a small amount to a damp cloth or sponge.
  • Gently scrub the surface of the shoes, paying attention to any stained or soiled areas.
  • Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water.
  • Allow the shoes to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area, away from direct heat sources.
  • Once dry, apply a leather conditioner to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking.

2. Cleaning Synthetic Climbing Shoes

Synthetic climbing shoes are known for their durability and quick-drying properties. Follow these steps to clean them effectively:

  • Remove any loose dirt and debris from the shoes using a soft brush or cloth.
  • Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add a small amount of mild detergent.
  • Submerge the shoes in the soapy water and use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub the surface.
  • Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  • After rinsing, gently squeeze out excess water and allow the shoes to air dry.

Additional Tips for Cleaning Climbing Shoes

Here are a few extra tips to enhance the cleaning process and maintain the performance of your climbing shoes:

1. Removing Stubborn Odors

If your climbing shoes have developed a persistent odor, try these odor removal methods:

  • Fill a small bag with baking soda and place it inside each shoe overnight to absorb odors.
  • Using a spray bottle, mist the inside of the shoes with a mixture of water and vinegar. Let them air dry.
  • For extreme cases, consider using odor-neutralizing sprays or specialized shoe deodorizers.

2. Drying and Storage

After cleaning, it’s crucial to properly dry and store your climbing shoes:

  • Avoid exposing your climbing shoes to direct sunlight or excessive heat, as it can damage the materials.
  • Stuff the shoes with crumpled newspaper or shoe inserts to help maintain their shape and facilitate drying.
  • Store your climbing shoes in a cool, dry place, away from moisture and extreme temperatures.


Regularly cleaning and maintaining your climbing shoes not only keeps them looking and smelling fresh but also ensures optimal performance on the rock. By following the appropriate cleaning methods based on the shoe material and implementing additional tips for odor removal, drying, and storage, you can extend the life of your climbing shoes and enhance your climbing experience.