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How To Dry Shoes Without Damaging Them (Or Your Dryer)

Here are the 3 best ways to dry your shoes fast, without throwing your wet shoes in the dryer and risking damaging them, from an expert running shoe reviewer.

Whether you went for a run in the rain or your shoes are simply wet and sweaty after a long workout, you’ll want to dry them. In this post, I explain how to dry shoes, without damaging them.

Wet shoes can be uncomfortable to wear, which can lead to rubbing and blisters – plus, they’ll start to stink because damp shoes can start to grow bacteria and even fungi – gross? You bet.

If you arrived at this post because you were wondering, ‘can you dry shoes in the dryer?’, then the answer is yes, you can… but you’re better off drying them a different way to avoid damaging your shoes. 

Read on to learn 3 better ways to dry your shoes easily without causing any damage to your dryer (or ruining your shoes with the dryer’s heat and tumbling action).

Believe me, I know what’s good for running shoes and sneakers, and what’s not, and that applies to your casual trainers and canvas shoes, too.

How To Dry Shoes Without Damaging Them by Trail and Kale 1
Wet running shoes are not fun to wear… here’s how to dry wet shoes the right way.

As a longtime runner, including many wet, muddy trail runs, marathon training and ultramarathon races, as well as an expert running shoe and outdoor gear reviewer here at Trail & Kale, I know how they’re made, what their weak points are, and how to care for them so they last you hundreds of miles!

Then, if you still want to know the best way to dry your shoes in the dryer then I explain how I would do it (which I’d only consider for an old pair of shoes I don’t run in), at the end of this post.

By the way, if you think it’s time you got a new pair of running shoes (or maybe the dryer ruined your favorite pair) then visit our running shoes buyers guide and trail running shoes buyer’s guide for our top recommendations, or head over to our On Running shoes buyer’s guide if you’re considering one of the On Cloud designs.

Step 1: Prepare to dry your shoes

Before you do anything else, it’s best to towel-dry wet shoes to get the worst off, using an old towel. Ideally, you’ll use a microfiber towel that is way more absorbent than a regular cotton bath towel or tea towel.

If you actually had to wash your shoes because they were really filthy (as can happen with trail running shoes or you went for a walk and stepped in dog poop that required you to wash them) then turn them upside down outside or over a bath or bucket until they’re no longer dripping wet.

By the way – if you need tips on how to wash your shoes, I’ve got you covered. Read: How to clean trail running shoes (which applies to virtually any running shoes, sneakers, tennis or other athletic shoes).

Completely loosen the laces, or remove them altogether so you can open up the shoe as much as possible.

You want to let your shoes get as much air into the enclosed toe end as possible – this will help your shoes dry out as the water evaporates.

Then, remove the insoles.

How To Dry Shoes Without Damaging Them by Trail and Kale 7
Lifting out the foam insoles from a pair of wet running shoes will help them dry quicker.

The insoles are thin, foam inserts that virtually all running shoes, sneakers and tennis shoes have. They’re usually just fitted into the inside of the shoe without glue, so you can go ahead and carefully take them out. 

This will allow more air to get in, to help dry out your shoes quickly. You can also take this opportunity to remove any dirt, stones or pet hair that may have accumulated over time and many wears.

How To Dry Shoes Without Damaging Them by Trail and Kale 8
In case you wonder what a running shoe insole looks like. Yes, that’s dog hair on it (thanks Kepler)

Step 2: Use the newspaper method to stuff your shoes

Crumple up several sheets of newspaper and stuff them tightly inside the shoes.

If you’re concerned about ink transferring and leaving marks on your shoes, then you can also use some of that brown packing paper that came with your Amazon packages, instead.

Leave them in the shoes for several hours or overnight. If your shoes are very wet then check them every hour or so and replace the wet newspaper with more dry paper.

The paper is effective at absorbing moisture, and that’s before you’ve even applied any heat to dry your shoes quickly.

Step 3: Dry shoes quickly by applying heat

You need to be careful with using excessive heat to dry your shoes, because heat can cause them to become misshapen and it may even cause the glues used to hold your shoes together to dry up, affecting the integrity of your shoe.

This is one of the reasons why putting your shoes in the dryer is not often the best way to dry them.

So, based on my extensive shoe-drying experience, here are 3 easy ways to dry shoes using heat:

  1. Using a fan
  2. Air drying in a warm room or outdoors if it’s hot (but don’t put your shoes in the sun if it’s intense)
  3. Using a dedicated boot or shoe dryer

1. Using a fan

Using a fan is an efficient way to dry shoes if your fan has a heat setting and you angle it so it blows right into the shoe. A good way to do this is to hang the shoes to dry, foot-hole down, on a clothes drying rack so the fan air can be blown up into them.

Otherwise, get creative and suspend the shoes from another suitable location, aiming to keep them facing down where possible.

I probably wouldn’t use the fan option for leather shoes as it may be a little intense and could damage the leather, but for running shoes it tends to work well.

2. Air-drying

If you’re not in a rush and want to save on electricity and air-dry them, then place the shoes somewhere warm and well-ventilated so the air flow can help take away the evaporated, moist air.

A bathroom’s heated floor is a good choice, or put your shoes out to dry somewhere outside (but not in direct sunlight if it’s intensely hot out there).

3. Use a shoe dryer

A dedicated boot or shoe dryer is a very smart investment for someone who regularly has wet shoes and boots and wants to dry them faster.

These are powered by electricity and have parts that you put right inside the shoe to heat them from the inside.

This is probably the safest way to dry shoes fast.

This DryGuy boot and shoes dryer is a great choice if you want to take this route. It’s made in the USA, has a quiet fan and timer, and you can use to dry pretty much every type of shoe or boot, including ski boots and cycling shoes. Oh, and you can also dry gloves on it!

DryGuy Boot and Shoe Dryer How to dry shoes quickly
Using a shoe dryer like this is a great way to dry shoes

If you choose to use a dryer like this then, you don’t need to stuff your shoes with newspaper.

So there you have it, three great alternatives to using the dryer to dry wet shoes! Use your judgment to determine which is the best option for your shoes and depending on what resources you have available to you.

How to dry shoes in the dryer

Ok, as promised, here is how I would (and have done, albeit rarely) dry shoes using a dryer.

Place the shoes in an old pillowcase or mesh laundry bag (like these). Place them inside the dryer but do so with a bundle of old towels.

The towels will help minimize the dryer throwing your shoes around and creating a loud banging noise and reduces risk of damaging the dryer. The towels will also help absorb moisture, and many dryers work more efficiently if they have a good-sized load rather than just a couple of shoes inside them.

Find the lowest heat setting and use that.

You probably want to check the shoes after 15-20 minutes and see if they’re still wet and whether you can let them air dry from that point.

Why you probably shouldn’t dry shoes in the dryer

The two biggest risks to your shoes of using the dryer are that:

  • The action of being thrown around inside the drum will damage them, whether that’s the seams or stitching
  • The heat from the dryer will warp or cause damage to the shoes. For example, it may cause any glues to dry out and come apart.

Having shoes in the dryer could also damage the dryer and cause it to stop working.

So again, not my recommended way to dry shoes but it’s your dryer and your choice if you take this route.

Can I dry wet shoes in the oven?

By the way, in case you were wondering about using the oven…. No. Just no. Don’t put your shoes in the oven to dry them, that’s a terrible idea.

You’ll probably ruin your shoes, your oven may smell of shoes or rubber, or worse, they could melt or ignite because whatever glues and foams are used to make your sneakers are not supposed to be cooked.

I hope these shoe-drying suggestions have been helpful – good luck!

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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