My FiveFingers

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De-funking your FiveFingers in 3 easy steps

by Corey Nagle » on Oct 18, 2011 13

I love my black Classics. I wear them constantly. And as soon as you get within five feet of them after a hard week’s wear, you know it. A year or so of almost non-stop wear has left them a bit on the ripe side, no matter how many trips through the washing machine they take. Until the other day.

Two words: laundry soap and a nail brush.

This works fantastic. I promise.

1. Throw them in the sink

Soak ’em down. I don’t recommend hot water, although if you want your shoes to shrink just a bit, go ahead. I do, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt anything (yet). I like to fill ’em up, then dump the water out a couple times before I move on to the laundry soap.

Warning: This might be kind of gross if yours are particularly funky.

2. Laundry soap

Laundry Soap in Scoop

Tip for the guys: don’t let your wife see you walking out of the laundry room with a heaping scoop just for your shoes. Trust me. Also, she’s right. It only takes a little. A big tablespoon full should be more than plenty for both. Sprinkle the soap in, then add a little water. A once-over with the fingers usually doesn’t hurt, either.

3. The Nailbrush

Grab your nailbrush and scrub.

For those of you that don’t know (I’m talking to you, Brian Patterson), a nail brush is a small stiff-bristled brush used to scrub the gunk out of your fingernails. You can find these at Walmart, drugstores, grocery stores, or check your junk drawer. There’s probably one stuffed in the back. Just scrub the soles until they turn the right color again. If you want to get really serious about scrubbing them, you can use an old toothbrush to get down in the toes. It can be a bit difficult to tell when the soap is rinsed out because of the microfiber footbed feels a bit slimy when it gets wet, even without the soap on it. The best bet is to just rinse them until the water runs clear.

That’s all there is to it. This has cleaned my shoes better than anything else so far. The dirt and nasty bits I pick up throughout the week disappear, and they smell SO much better.


I have found a couple of [small] problems cleaning my FiveFingers this way.

  1. After a few scrubbings on an older pair of FiveFingers, the microfiber will start to ball up. I don’t notice it during wear, but some folks may take issue with this. If you really can’t stand it, a razor will fix this in a jiffy.
  2. They take forever to dry. Not having a spin cycle to run through tacks on a couple extra hours of drying time.

Like I said, small problems, but some might find this a bit irritating. YMMV, of course.

Bonus tip: Wear them in the shower with you. You can do the same thing with your body wash for an in-between-washing freshening up. Two for one! (hat tip: Tyler Hurst)

Submitted Comments

  1. Laura says:

    I scrub mine with baking soda and leave it in a bucket of water (with more baking soda) overnight. Rinse them the next morning and let it air dry.

    Not a quick way, but hey, they are not smelly for several wears! :)

  2. Losech says:

    I use warm water with some vinegar (or baking soda, but never together) and use an extra toothbrush to scrub with. I soak my KSO’s in the vinegar water for about 10 minutes then give ’em a good scrub. After a rinse in war water I let them dry over the air vents in the floor. I do this once a week or so. It’s worked well so far.
    I also wear toe socks since my feet sweat real bad. I rinse those every other day and wash them once a week.

  3. Corey says:

    Can’t believe I never thought of baking soda! *facepalm* Gonna have to try that.

  4. Corey says:

    The vinegar smell doesn’t linger?

    I love the floor vents for drying shoes.

  5. Tyler Hurst says:

    Mine dry in a few hours. One of maybe five benefits of living in the desert.

  6. Nate says:

    I used to spritz mine with Odoban before throwing in the laundry. That works pretty darn well on smell, but only OK on dirt.

    This last time fingerscrubbed and soaked in water with Oxyclean. Then (without rinsing or drying) tossed them into a laundry load with a smidge more oxyclean. That seems to work pretty well.

    In the future I’ll prob switch b/n Odoban and Oxyclean depending on what levels of odor/dirt are present.

  7. Corey says:

    Surely there’s at least seven.

  8. Losech says:

    Nope! For an hour or so maybe, but after they dry I don’t notice anything.

  9. Melanie says:

    You can approximate a spin dry by holding the heel of the shoe firmly, standing outside or in the bathtub, and swinging your arm in long, fast arcs up and down. The centrifugal force drags the water right out of the shoe with very little effort, and they dry in a fraction of the time. It’s like shaking down a mercury thermometer.

  10. Chris Allen says:

    To extend the time between washings, try a (very) light sprinkle of foot powder in the shoes (not every time). I like Dr. Scholl’s. Seriously, don’t be too liberal with the powder though, or you’ll come back from your next run looking like you’ve been mixing cake batter with your feet.

  11. Cassie says:

    I wear my VFF’s on an everyday basis. I’m not a runner but they are soo comfortable that I don’t want to wear anything else. I have 3 pairs of socks, which I have to share with my wife. So most times no socks. My question is can they be run through the dryer? If they shrink a bit it’s fine, but is there any other reason I shouldn’t. Thank you for any information.

  12. Corey says:

    Vibram says no, but I put mine in the dryer almost every time I wash them. They might shrink just a bit, but nothing crazy. Low heat is better, though.

  13. Stephen says:

    Avoiding being “that smelly guy with the Vibrams” is tough haha. Luckily, you only need to focus on two main things– using effective sports cleaning products, and following fundamental care instructions. You have some great stuff here! We added a few more of our own here– — hope it helps!

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