My family and I were at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom when a rainstorm blew in. It wasn’t one of those short or gentle rains that last maybe an hour, and then it’s a beautiful sunny day after that.
No, this was an actual storm where the sky got really dark and the wind was blowing sideways. Then the rain came in a downpour, not letting up for several hours.
Although we had our rain ponchos, our legs and feet weren’t protected. The rain came down so quickly that the puddles were like pools and rivers washing across the concrete paths of the theme park. There was no way to avoid them. We basically had to wade right through them as we sought shelter.
Needless to say, our shoes were soaked. Not just our shoes, but our socks and our feet. When we took off our shoes several hours later back at our resort, we actually had to wring out our socks and let everything dry overnight.
We were all wearing our newest athletic shoes because we needed the support and comfort for the many miles we were walking that week at all the Disney parks. We were concerned about how well they would recover so we could continue using them for walking the rest of the week, as well as for workouts once we got back home.
How well did our shoes dry? I’ll tell you more about that later. But right now, I want to point something out.
If you wear athletic shoes for running, walking, playing tennis, cross training, softball, basketball, or even just everyday errands, at some point you’re going to be wearing them in the rain.
Whether you get caught in an unexpected shower when you’re out for a run (or visiting an amusement park), or your tennis match or softball game gets interrupted by a huge downpour, you don’t want to miss out on your workout or fun activities because there’s a chance of rain.
To help you keep your athletic shoes in the best shape for continued use, I’ve put together some tips from experts about caring for them when you can’t avoid the rain.
The number one tip that you’ll hear about drying out your wet athletic shoes is to stuff dry, crumpled up newspapers into each shoe. Hopefully you still have newspapers around, unless you read solely from a digital platform.
First remove the insoles if they are removable and let them dry separately, and then let the papers soak up the water. Stuffing them like this will help the shoes keep their shape while they dry. If the shoes are really soaked, you may need to replace the newspaper with dry sheets again if they don’t fully absorb the first time.
Take a look at this video from Runner's World about drying out your athletic shoes with newspapers.
You can also wrap newspapers around the outside of your wet sneakers and secure them with a rubber band. This will help speed up the drying process from the outside.
What if you don’t have newspapers? You may be able to try other types of paper, such as printer paper, but you may not want to waste it. It’s also thinner and less absorbent than newspaper, so you’d probably have to use a lot more of it.
If you don’t read the newspaper or don’t mind spending a little money to get your shoes dry, there is a product specially made to stuff into your wet athletic shoes to help dry and deodorize them. They’re called Stuffitts. They have cedar filling and can be molded to fit the shape of your shoes. Similar to using newspapers to dry, these will help keep the shape of your shoes intact.
Check them out below:
But what about drying your athletic shoes the same way you dry your clothes?
It’s important NOT to put your athletic shoes in a clothes dryer to dry them. Most athletic shoes use some sort of water-based cement or glue to hold parts together, and the heat of a dryer can cause this material to come apart. A dryer can also shrink or warp your sneakers, and if they’re leather, the heat can dry them out to the point of cracking the material and ruining the shoes.
You could try using a hand-held hair dryer to dry your athletic shoes, but you’d certainly want to use a low or cool setting to avoid the same problems that a clothes dryer would cause. You could also put them in front of a running fan, which will be faster than letting them air dry. But it will not dry them as quickly as newspaper, and you’d still need to stuff the shoes with something to guarantee they don’t lose their original shape.
Another option that involves heat and air is an electric shoe dryer. This option is safer than putting your athletic shoes in a conventional dryer because the heat is not as high and the shoes don’t bounce around. There’s less chance of damage or shrinking.
There are a couple different kinds of electric shoe dryers that you can use to dry your athletic shoes. One type is like a rack that you place your shoes over to dry.
This version is good for one pair of shoes:
This one can dry two pairs at a time:
Another type of electric shoe dryer is actually fully inserted into your shoes, like this one:
A different way of dealing with wet athletic shoes is to buy a “waterproof” pair so they don’t get so wet in the first place. Several brands make styles that are considered waterproof because they are either made of materials that cause water to bead up and fall off the shoes rather than soaking through, or they feature a waterproof, sock-like foot liner that keeps your foot dry even when the outside of the shoe gets wet.
You may still need to let this type of shoe dry a little bit if you get caught running in the rain. But the materials that make up the shoes should dry much more quickly than styles that are not considered waterproof. And your feet would be dry even if the shoes are not.
Here are some examples of “waterproof” athletic shoes:
These tips about how to dry athletic shoes can also be used for sneakers that are wet from sweaty workouts. They may not be as soaking wet as when you get caught in the rain, but your foot health depends on keeping your shoes dry.
However you decide to dry your athletic shoes, keeping them that way for the next time you wear them is important for several reasons. Wearing wet athletic shoes can cause bacteria to grow inside, leading to foot odor, Athlete’s Foot, or other funguses. Wet athletic shoes can also cause blisters and other injuries because your shoes may improperly slide or rub against your feet or even fit differently when they’re wet.
So, now that I’ve covered several ways to dry your athletic shoes, let’s go back to the beginning of my story…
How did our wet shoes fare at Disney World?
Well, let’s just say that I wish I had written this article before our trip. We all left our shoes to air dry in our hotel room overnight, trying to keep them as close as possible to the blowing air conditioner. My Adidas dried by the next morning, but since I didn’t have anything stuffed inside them, they were a little misshapen. It took several times of wearing them before the knit uppers regained their natural shape.
My daughter also had Adidas, and the light gray mesh retained its shape better, but the rain left some stains on the tops of the shoes. They were still a little damp the next morning as well.
My husband was wearing black mesh Asics. His shoes were also a little damp the next day, but there were no stains or marks, and they sprang back to their normal shape fairly quickly. He felt uncomfortable walking around in them until they fully dried though.
So the next time we go on a vacation where we might get caught in the rain, I’m going to pack some newspapers.
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Related: For information about products you can use to keep your athletic shoes clean, see Athletic Shoe Gift Ideas.