14 Things You Can Do With Old Shoes (Don’t Throw Them Away!)

things you can do with old shoes

It’s hard to part with old shoes. You love how they feel and how they look, and, well, you may have spent a lot of money on them.

But what if, instead of tossing them away, you gave them to a charitable organization? It not only solves the dilemma of what do with old shoes, but it also helps people in need. Or, you can repurpose them in a variety of ways that may have never crossed your mind.

We’ll explore some of the organizations that take used shoes, including where to recycle running shoes, and discuss ways for repurposing and restoring them. And we’ll take a look at the many benefits of recycling shoes.

Let’s begin by taking a look at some of the charitable groups and initiatives that accept and re-distribute used shoes.

1. Reuse-A-Shoe (Nike)

reuse a shoe

Image Source: https://purpose.nike.com

Nike’s commitment to recycling old running shoes began 26 years ago and remains strong thanks to its Reuse-A-Shoe program.

Reuse-A-Shoe takes old running shoes and breaks them down into their parts, which are recycled for new applications. For example, a shoe’s rubber sole gets melted down and then used in rubberized surfaces for playgrounds, running tracks, and footpaths.

The foam of a shoe’s midsole is converted into underlay material for basketball courts (and other surfaces), while the shoe’s fabric upper gets recycled and used for padding for football field goal posts and basketball courts.

Donating your shoes to Reuse-A-Shoe is easy: you can drop them off at any Nike or Converse store in the U.S., or in participating Nike stores around the world. If you wonder what to do with old running shoes, Reuse-a-Shoe is an excellent option.

2. Planet Aid

planet aid

Image Source: https://www.planetaid.org/

Planet Aid accepts old shoes – while helping to keep them out of landfills – of any condition. The best quality shoes are resold in developing countries where the demand for them is high.

On its website, Planet Aid explains that allowing shoes and clothing to be resold through local vendors saves jobs, while the funds generated get used for projects that help families escape the cycle of poverty.

Anyone wishing to donate shoes to Planet Aid can drop them off in the company’s yellow boxes located throughout the United States.

3. Shoes for Planet Earth

shoes for planet earth

Image source: https://www.shoesforplanetearth.com

Australia-based Shoes for Planet Earth is a non-profit organization started in 2009 that collects worn running and athletic shoes and then packages and ships them to homeless shelters, orphanages, flood and other disaster victims, female and youth crisis centers, churches, and much more.

Shoes for Planet Earth collects shoes from a variety of sources, and locations around the world. They ask that the shoes have no holes, good soles, are clean, are tied together in matching pairs, and include shoelaces and inner soles.

4. One World Running

one world running

Image source: http://oneworldrunning.com

One World Running, based in Boulder, Colo., dates to 1986 and collects running shoes that are still in decent shape. For instance, if your shoes don’t feel right after a few runs and are beyond the warranty period, you can donate them to One World Running.

In turn, One World Running takes those shoes and donates them to Africa and other areas of the globe, including Central America, where the need for athletic shoes is greatest. They also donate them to some of the poorer areas of the U.S., as well.

5. Dress For Success

Image source: https://dressforsuccess.org

The goal of Dress For Success is to give low-income women access to professional, business attire to wear as they seek employment opportunities. Founded in New York in 1997, Dress For Success accepts new or good condition work-appropriate shoes that women can wear to a job interview.

You can donate or drop-off your shoes to any of Dress For Success affiliate locations in the United States and around the world. Dress For Success has 150 locations in over 30 countries.

6. Soles4Souls

soles4souls

Image source: https://soles4souls.org

Soles4Souls provides relief throughout the world through the distribution of shoes and clothing. The organization recently distributed nearly 10,000 shoes to students in need within the Nashville (Tenn.) Public School System.

7. Share Your Soles

share your soles

Image source: https://shareyoursoles.org

Chicago-based Share Your Soles accepts all types of gently-worn and new shoes. The shoe’s condition is important to the organization because it wants to honor the dignity of those receiving them.

Share Your Soles deliver clean shoes in good condition to people in need worldwide. Shoes that are a bit tattered or impractical are sold in an annual shoe sale with the funds used to help impoverished countries and people.

Share Your Soles founder Mona Purdy started the organization after she traveled to and participated in a road race in Guatemala. She saw children wearing road tar for shoes, and also spoke to a doctor who performed leg and foot amputations on children affected by their lack of footwear.

Today, Share Your Soles as delivered more than 3 million shoes to families all across the globe in its 19 years of operation.

8. Pick Up Please

pickup please

Image source: https://pickupplease.org/

Pick Up Please accepts new and gently-used shoes of all sizes and styles, and for all genders. It offers a free pick-up service and it supports the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Shoes donated to Pick Up Please are sold to private companies with the profits used to fund VVA programs on the national, local, and state levels.

It also offers easy online scheduling and fast service that picks up donated shoes within as little as 24 hours.

9. Shoeman Water Project

shoeman water projects

Image source: https://www.shoecrewwater.org

Similar to Soles4Souls, Shoeman Water Project provides shoes that help support businesses in developing countries. It operates in Haiti, Kenya, and South America and funds generated from it help to maintain freshwater wells through purification systems, pump repair, and drill repair.

10. Green Sneakers

crown ministry group

Image source: https://www.crown.org

Green Sneakers, a non-profit organization run by the Crown Ministry Group, strives to reduce the impact on landfills worldwide while providing an answer to the question of what to do with old sneakers. It redirects shoes destined for the landfill to people in need. It also helps support micro-businesses.

11. Donation Town

donation town

Image source: http://donationtown.org

Donation Town, like some other charity organization, makes it easy to donate your men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes. The group will help you to locate a charity in your area and schedule a fast, free pickup of your donation.

12. I:Co

ico

Image source: https://www.facebook.com/icospirit

I:Co has partnerships with countries all over the world to organize donation systems for the re-use and recycling of used clothing and shoes. Adidas and North Face are among the many companies that partner with I:Co.

13. Restoring old shoes

You can extend the lifespan of your favorite shoes through a variety of methods. While you may have them targeted for donation down the road, you can delay their send-off for a bit longer.

For example, you can restore leather shoes that have weathered the elements and, in turn, become a little rundown. Use a brush with soft bristles to remove surface dirt, mud, dust, and other debris. You can also wash them with a saddle soap that moisturizes the leather while also removing excess shoe polish.

You can even dye your leather shoes a different color; apply the shoe dye with a small, fine brush while focusing on smaller areas of the shoe at a time. Let the dye dry for at least 24 hours before you wear the shoes again. Use a quality shoe polish to lock in the color.

There are many other products and methods for restoring shoes, such as the TriNova Cleaning kit that has everything you need to rub away stains while cleaning shoes properly. The TriNova kit, includes a spray bottle and wooden brush, and works for any shoe, whether it’s made of leather, vinyl, fabric, etc.

Anyone who wears sneakers or athletic shoes understands that their support begins to wane over time, but that’s no reason to get rid of them, either. You can find premium insoles almost anywhere; choose the ones with high-density foam that absorbs shock, cushions the foot, and – preferably – also has an anti-bacterial lining to keep the inside of your shoe sanitary and odor-free.

Even a new pair of laces can spruce up older shoes, and you can sew patches to cover tears on canvas shoes.

Or, you dye your used canvas shoes with a new shade to give them a new look.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to donate or recycle them when you’re finally ready to bid them farewell.

14. Re-Purpose Them

Why toss away old shoes when you can use them in a variety of DIY ways around the house and yard? For instance:

  • You can fill old shoes and boots with sand to convert them into doorstops or bookends.
  • You can turn an old shoe into a one-of-a-kind trendy planter.
  • Old flip-flops can become a summer door wreath.
  • You can use the rubber soles of old sneakers and running shoes as stepping stones in your yard and garden.
  • Nail an old shoe to a tree, sole down, and turn it into a bird feeder/birdhouse.

There are many, many other ways to re-purpose old shoes while enabling you to extend their lifespan uniquely.

What are some benefits of recycling your old shoes?

The reasons for not recycling old shoes are few and far between, especially with all of the ways to donate them while supporting good causes worldwide. But it’s also an eco-friendly thing to do, because it reduces landfill waste, and it prevents shoes from decomposing into the soil. Decomposed organic materials such as leather release methane which, in turn, contributes to climate change.

You’ll also decrease your carbon footprint, and you’ll potentially give new life to a product you no longer need while supporting the world’s developing and impoverished nations.

Meanwhile, donating shoes has a major impact worldwide in many ways, including that it helps prevent soil-transmitted infections such as hookworm and threadworm. People without shoes develop lacerations and are at a higher risk of developing infections that can lead to larger medical issues.

Even a new pair of laces can spruce up older shoes, and you can sew patches to cover tears on canvas shoes.

Or, you dye your used canvas shoes with a new shade to give them a new look.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to donate or recycle them when you’re finally ready to bid them farewell.

Conclusion

There always comes a time when we have to part with a favorite pair of shoes. But that doesn’t mean tossing them in the trash for delivery to the nearest landfill. From donating to charitable groups that help provide footwear to impoverished people worldwide – and there’s more than we’ve listed here – to re-purposing and restoring them, there’s a use for your shoes even when you think you’re done using them.

We’d love to hear from you, too. What do you do with your old running shoes and sneakers? Have you donated to any of the organizations listed above? We always welcome your input and suggestions.


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