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How To Recycle Old Running Shoes How To Recycle Old Running Shoes


How To Recycle Old Running Shoes

Discover eco-friendly ways to recycle your old running shoes. Our featured guide will show you how to repurpose, donate, or recycle your worn-out footwear, reducing waste and supporting sustainability.


Do you have a closet full of old running shoes that you no longer use? Instead of letting them gather dust or tossing them in the trash, consider recycling them. Recycling old running shoes not only helps protect the environment but also gives them a new lease on life.

As runners, we often go through several pairs of shoes each year. Running shoes are designed to provide cushioning, support, and stability to protect our feet and minimize the risk of injury. However, as we log miles, our shoes inevitably wear out and lose their effectiveness. Instead of throwing them away, recycling offers a sustainable solution that benefits both the planet and the community.

In this article, we will discuss the environmental impact of old running shoes, the common challenges in recycling them, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to recycle your worn-out kicks. Whether you choose to donate them, repurpose them, or explore local recycling programs, there are numerous ways to give your old running shoes a new purpose.

By recycling your old running shoes, you can minimize waste, reduce reliance on natural resources, and contribute to a more sustainable future. So let’s dive in and explore the different avenues available for recycling your beloved running shoes.


Environmental Impact of Old Running Shoes

Just like any other consumer product, running shoes have an environmental impact throughout their life cycle. From the manufacturing process to disposal, each pair of shoes contributes to resource extraction, energy consumption, and waste production. By understanding the environmental impact of old running shoes, we can better appreciate the importance of recycling them.

One significant environmental concern is the carbon footprint associated with the production of running shoes. The manufacturing process involves extracting raw materials, such as rubber, plastic, and textiles, which require energy and resources. The extraction and processing of these materials contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.

Furthermore, the production of running shoes often involves the use of toxic chemicals, including adhesives and dyes. These chemicals can pollute the air and water during the manufacturing process, posing risks to both human health and ecosystems.

When running shoes are disposed of in landfills, they contribute to the growing problem of solid waste contamination. Running shoes, with their mix of synthetic materials, take a long time to decompose, and their decomposition process can release harmful substances into the soil and groundwater. Additionally, the landfill space taken up by discarded shoes contributes to waste management challenges and the need for more landfills, which often encroach on natural habitats.

By recycling old running shoes, we can help mitigate these environmental impacts. Recycling allows us to divert the shoes from landfills, reducing the amount of waste and preserving valuable resources. Additionally, recycling initiatives often involve the repurposing of materials, minimizing the need for virgin resources and further reducing the carbon footprint associated with production.

Recycling also provides an opportunity to support sustainable practices and raise awareness of environmental issues in the community. By making a conscious effort to recycle our running shoes, we can inspire others to take similar actions and contribute to a more sustainable future.


Common Challenges in Recycling Running Shoes

While recycling running shoes is a commendable endeavor, there are several challenges associated with the process. These challenges can make it difficult to find suitable recycling options for your old kicks. Understanding these obstacles can help you navigate the recycling landscape more effectively.

One common challenge in recycling running shoes is the complexity of their materials. Modern running shoes are often made up of a combination of different materials, including rubber, foam, textiles, and plastic components. The varied composition of the shoes can make it challenging to separate and recycle each component properly.

Additionally, some running shoes contain specialized technologies and cushioning systems that may not be easily recyclable. These features, while beneficial for the runner, can complicate the recycling process. Recycling facilities may lack the necessary equipment or expertise to handle and process these unique shoe components.

Another challenge is the lack of accessibility to shoe recycling programs in certain regions. While some areas have established recycling initiatives for shoes, others may have limited options or none at all. This lack of accessibility can discourage individuals from pursuing shoe recycling as a viable option.

Furthermore, the lack of awareness and education surrounding the importance of recycling running shoes can hinder recycling efforts. Many people may not realize that their old shoes can be recycled or how to go about the process. This lack of information leads to a higher likelihood of shoes being thrown away as trash instead of being recycled.

The issue of hygiene and cleanliness also presents a challenge in recycling running shoes. Many recycling programs and organizations have specific requirements regarding the condition of the shoes. Some may require them to be cleaned, while others may not accept shoes that are too worn or damaged. Meeting these criteria can be an additional obstacle when trying to recycle your old running shoes.

Despite these challenges, it is important to remember that every effort to recycle running shoes counts. By staying informed, exploring different recycling options, and making an effort to clean and prepare your shoes, you can overcome these challenges and contribute to the sustainable management of footwear waste.


Steps to Recycle Old Running Shoes

Recycling your old running shoes is a great way to reduce waste and give them a new purpose. Below are several steps you can follow to properly recycle your beloved kicks:

  1. Clean and Prepare the Shoes: Before recycling, clean your shoes to ensure they meet the requirements of recycling programs. Remove any dirt or debris and let them dry completely.
  2. Explore Local Recycling Programs: Research local recycling programs in your area that accept old shoes. Contact recycling centers, shoe companies, or environmental organizations to inquire about their recycling initiatives. Some programs even offer drop-off locations where you can deposit your old running shoes.
  3. Donate to Shoe Recycling Organizations: Consider donating your old running shoes to shoe recycling organizations. These organizations often collect old shoes and send them to developing countries or areas in need where shoes play a vital role in everyday life. Check with local charities, community centers, or online platforms to find organizations accepting shoe donations.
  4. Repurpose the Shoes: If your shoes are still in good condition and can be worn, consider repurposing them by donating them to friends, family, or shelters. Alternatively, you can set up a shoe swap with other runners to exchange shoes that still have life left in them.
  5. Consider Upcycling Projects: Get creative and find ways to upcycle your old running shoes. Turn them into planters, create artistic displays, or repurpose the materials for crafts and DIY projects. There are endless possibilities for breathing new life into your worn-out shoes.

Remember, the key is to find a recycling option that aligns with your preferences and local resources. It is essential to keep in mind the specific guidelines and requirements of each recycling program or organization to ensure your old running shoes are properly recycled or repurposed.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your old running shoes continue to make a positive impact rather than ending up in a landfill. Let’s embrace the opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable future by recycling our beloved running shoes.


Clean and Prepare the Shoes

Before recycling your old running shoes, it is important to clean and prepare them properly. This step ensures that the shoes meet the requirements of recycling programs and helps maintain hygiene standards. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Remove Dirt and Debris: Start by removing any dirt, mud, or debris from your shoes. Use a brush or cloth to gently scrub the outer surfaces, making sure to reach the crevices and soles. This will not only improve the appearance of your shoes but also make them more presentable for recycling or donation.

Dry the Shoes: After cleaning, allow your shoes to dry completely. This is crucial to prevent the growth of mold or mildew during storage or transportation. Place them in a well-ventilated area at room temperature and avoid exposing them to direct heat sources like radiators or sunlight, as these can damage the materials.

Remove Insoles and Laces: Take out the insoles and laces from your shoes. This step helps ensure that the different components of the shoes can be recycled or repurposed separately. Insoles, for example, can be recycled as foam or cushioning material, while laces can be reused or repurposed in various ways.

Fix Any Damages: Inspect your shoes for any visible damages, such as loose stitching or detached soles. If possible, repair these damages before recycling or donating the shoes. Simple fixes can extend the lifespan of your shoes and make them more suitable for reuse.

Check the Guidelines: Different recycling programs or organizations may have specific guidelines regarding the condition and cleanliness of donated shoes. Some may require shoes to be washed and dried, while others may not accept heavily worn or damaged shoes. Thus, it is essential to review and follow the guidelines provided to ensure your shoes meet the criteria.

Cleaning and preparing your old running shoes not only ensures they are in good condition for recycling or donation but also promotes better hygiene and reduces the risk of contamination during the recycling process. Taking the time to properly clean and prepare your shoes will increase their chances of finding a new purpose and minimize waste in a sustainable way.


Explore Local Recycling Programs

When looking to recycle your old running shoes, it is important to explore local recycling programs and initiatives that accept footwear. Here are some steps you can take to find suitable recycling options in your area:

Research Online: Start by conducting an online search for shoe recycling programs in your locality. Look for recycling centers, organizations, or companies that specifically mention accepting old shoes. Visit their websites or contact them directly to gather information about their recycling processes and requirements.

Contact Local Environmental Agencies: Reach out to your local environmental or recycling agencies to inquire about shoe recycling programs in your area. These agencies often have up-to-date information about recycling initiatives and can guide you to appropriate resources.

Check with Shoe Companies: Some shoe manufacturers offer recycling programs for their own products. Research the brands of your running shoes to see if they have any recycling initiatives in place. In some cases, they may provide drop-off locations or instructions on how to send your old shoes back to them for recycling.

Visit Recycling Centers: Look for recycling centers or facilities in your vicinity that accept footwear. These centers may have designated drop-off locations or collection bins specifically for shoes. Contact the centers to inquire about their acceptance criteria and operating hours.

Connect with Local Running Stores: Reach out to running stores or sport specialty shops in your area. These stores often have connections with local recycling programs or may offer their own shoe recycling initiatives. They may be able to guide you to the right resources or provide collection points for old running shoes.

Participate in Community Programs: Stay informed about community events or programs that promote recycling or sustainable practices. These programs may include shoe recycling drives or collection events where you can drop off your old running shoes for proper recycling or donation.

By exploring local recycling programs, you can find suitable options for recycling your old running shoes. Each program may have specific guidelines, so make sure to inquire about their requirements regarding shoe cleanliness, condition, and any necessary preparations. Embrace the opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable future by participating in these local recycling initiatives.


Donate to Shoe Recycling Organizations

If your old running shoes are still in wearable condition, you can choose to donate them to shoe recycling organizations. These organizations collect donated shoes and give them a new life by redistributing them to those in need or repurposing them. Here’s how you can donate your old running shoes:

Research Local Charities and Non-profit Organizations: Look for local charities or non-profit organizations in your area that accept shoe donations. These organizations often have programs that distribute shoes to individuals or communities in need. Contact them to inquire about their specific shoe donation requirements and drop-off locations.

Check for Shoe Drive Events: Keep an eye out for community events or shoe drive campaigns organized by charitable organizations. These events often have designated drop-off points or collection drives where you can donate your old running shoes. Participating in these events not only helps those in need but also fosters community engagement.

Explore Online Platforms: There are online platforms dedicated to connecting donors with individuals or organizations in need of shoes. Research and utilize these platforms to find opportunities to donate your old running shoes to someone directly or to shoe recycling organizations. Be sure to review the platform’s guidelines and safety measures before making a donation.

Consider Sports Outreach Programs: Look for sports outreach programs that focus on providing athletic opportunities to underserved individuals or communities. These programs often accept donated sports equipment, including running shoes. Reach out to them to see if they are in need of running shoe donations and to find out how you can contribute.

Check with Local Schools and Youth Programs: Schools, sports teams, and youth organizations may accept donations of old running shoes. These institutions often have programs or initiatives that provide sports equipment to students or community members who may not have access to it. Contact them to see if they are interested in accepting your shoe donation.

When donating your old running shoes, ensure that they are clean and in good condition. Some organizations may have specific guidelines regarding the condition of the donated shoes. Following their requirements will ensure that your donated shoes can be effectively distributed or repurposed by the shoe recycling organization.

By donating your old running shoes, you contribute to the well-being of others and support sustainable practices by extending the life of your shoes. Each pair of donated shoes makes a difference in the lives of individuals or communities, providing them with the opportunity to have proper footwear for their daily activities and sports endeavors.


Repurpose the Shoes

If your old running shoes are no longer suitable for donation or recycling, you can get creative and repurpose them in various ways. Repurposing allows you to give your worn-out kicks a new life and prevents them from ending up in a landfill. Here are some ideas to repurpose your old running shoes:

Garden or Planters: Fill your old running shoes with soil and use them as unique planters in your garden. You can plant small flowers, herbs, or succulents in each shoe, adding an interesting touch to your outdoor space while giving your shoes a second life.

Artistic Displays: Use your old shoes as artistic displays or decor pieces. Hang them on a wall as a quirky focal point, create a shoe mobile with hanging shoes, or arrange them in an interesting pattern for an art installation. Let your imagination run wild and transform your old shoes into captivating works of art.

Storage Containers: Remove the insoles from your old running shoes and use them as storage containers. They can hold small items like keys, paperclips, or even jewelry. Place them on your desk, vanity, or bedside table to add a unique touch of organization to your space.

Children’s Toys: Repurpose your old running shoes into fun toys for children. Attach strings to the shoes and create makeshift roller skates, or glue some fabric or felt to the shoes to transform them into mini monster or animal puppets. Let your creativity guide you in designing enjoyable toys for the little ones.

Donate for Art Projects: Some schools or art programs may accept shoe donations for educational art projects. The unique shapes, colors, and textures of running shoes can be used in various art installations, sculptures, or mixed media projects. Reach out to local schools or art institutions to see if they are interested in using your donated shoes for creative purposes.

Reuse the Materials: If you enjoy DIY projects, consider dissecting your old running shoes and reusing the materials. The shoe components, such as the soles, shoelaces, fabrics, or foam cushioning, can be used in crafting projects like jewelry making, textile art, or even as padding for furniture or pet beds.

Repurposing your old running shoes not only allows you to give them a new purpose but also unleashes your creativity and gives you a chance to experiment with different art and DIY projects. Let your old shoes become a canvas for your imagination and enjoy the satisfaction of breathing new life into them.


Consider Upcycling Projects

If you’re feeling crafty and adventurous, consider upcycling your old running shoes into unique and useful items. Upcycling involves transforming old or discarded materials into something of higher value or function. Here are some creative ideas for upcycling your old running shoes:

Shoe Art: Use your old running shoes as a canvas for artistic expression. Paint, draw, or customize the shoes with different designs, patterns, or motifs. You can create wearable art or showcase them as decorative pieces.

DIY Flip Flops: Transform your old running shoes into comfortable and unique flip flops. Remove the upper parts of the shoes, leaving just the soles. Attach ribbons, fabric, or even cut pieces of your old t-shirts to create straps. Customize your flip flops to match your style.

Key Holders or Wall Decor: Cut out a section of the shoe’s sole and attach hooks or pegs to create a key holder. Hang it by the door for a practical and stylish way to keep track of your keys. Alternatively, attach hooks or clips to the shoes and use them as a wall-mounted storage solution for small items like sunglasses or hair accessories.

Pet Toys: If you have furry friends, repurpose your shoes into pet toys. Securely attach strings or ropes to the shoes to create interactive toys for your pets to chase or chew on. Ensure that no small parts or materials are easily detachable to avoid any potential hazards.

Bookends: Cut the shoes in half vertically and mount the halves on wooden bases to create unique bookends. The shoes’ distinct shapes and sizes will add character to your bookshelf, keeping your books organized and displayed in a creative manner.

Plant Hangers: Cut off the toe portion of the shoes, leaving the heel and part of the upper intact. Insert small pots or cups into each shoe, securing them with adhesive or rope. Hang the shoes upside down to create a distinctive and whimsical way to display your small plants or herbs.

Handbags or Tote Bags: With a little bit of sewing and creativity, transform your old running shoes into stylish handbags or tote bags. Cut out the desirable sections of the shoes, such as the sides or tongues, and sew them together to create unique and eco-friendly accessories.

When upcycling your old running shoes, let your imagination run wild. There are countless possibilities to give your shoes a new purpose, from fashion and home decor to functional items. Embrace the process as a fun and sustainable way to showcase your creativity and contribute to a greener lifestyle.



Recycling old running shoes is not only beneficial to the environment but also gives them a new lease on life. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can make a positive impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.

We explored the environmental impact of old running shoes and the challenges associated with recycling them. Understanding these factors helps us recognize the importance of finding sustainable solutions for our beloved kicks.

We discussed the steps to recycle old running shoes, including cleaning and preparing them, exploring local recycling programs, donating them to shoe recycling organizations, repurposing them, and considering upcycling projects. Each of these steps presents unique opportunities to reduce waste, support local communities, and unleash your creativity.

Remember, even if your old shoes are no longer suitable for donation or recycling, there are still ways to repurpose and upcycle them into unique and practical items. Embrace the chance to give your shoes a new purpose and contribute to the circular economy.

By recycling and repurposing our old running shoes, we can minimize waste, reduce our carbon footprint, and inspire others to do the same. Let’s make a difference by taking responsible actions towards a greener and more sustainable future.