What to Do with Your Old Shoes

I have been wearing a beloved pair of Asics Tiger sneakers for the past two years. These babies have made it all the way around the world with me and are beginning to look the part.  After countless miles of walking, I have finally worn down the tread and the padding to nothing and the sole is coming apart. As sad as it makes me to think about parting with them, I think it's time.  I've gotten about as much wear out of them as any person can expect to get out of their shoes.

My daughter too has a pair of Native's that are worn on the soles and beginning to crack, as she too has literally worn hers around the world.  

But what can you do with these worn-beyond-belief tennis at the end of their life to avoid the landfill?


Well, you have a few options in the for-profit world:


I discovered that Nike has had a program in place since the ‘90s that accepts old sneakers and recycles them into athletic and playground surfaces, among other things.  Amazingly, they collect almost 1.5 million shoes every year, and in the lifetime of the program, have recycled over 28 million pairs of used athletic shoes.  

Have you ever had that experience where you learn about something new and then all of a sudden it becomes more visible to you? Like when I was pregnant, all of a sudden I began noticing pregnant ladies everywhere.  Well, just the other day we were searching for a bathing suit for my daughter and stumbled up on a department store with a section devoted to Nike products and there, low-and-behold, was a cardboard bin from Nike for dropping off your worn-out sneakers just like I had been reading about!!!  

I:CO (I:Collect)

I:CO partners with companies all over the world to organize a take-back system for the reuse and recycling of used clothing and shoes. They sort the items and either reuse or recycle them to ensure maximum reutilization of those materials. You can find a list of their partners here, Adidas and The North Face being two of those on that list:

The North Face

If you want a little sumpin’ back for those old kicks, you can return them to North Face and they’ll give you a credit toward your next purchase.  And they do take those more worn out items and any brand.  


Adidas has started a program, Make Every Thread Count, in partnership with I:CO.  Like Nike, you can drop your used shoes (of any brand) in a box at various locations.  You may need to do a little research to find your nearest drop location through their website.

While I'm not one to drop hundreds of dollars on running shoes.....I would recommend checking out Adidas' partnership with Parley for the Oceans that is creating Adidas shoes and Jerseys out of ocean plastic.  Pretty cool.  

What about those drop boxes you see around town?  

Those are generally operated by for-profit organizations that sell these donated goods to be made into industrial rags, insulation, or carpet padding.  I think it's worth it to do a little research before you toss them down that chute to make sure it's a reputable company and isn't just dumping our unwanted goods overseas and creating issues in far-flung places.  

If your shoes are still in wearable condition and you would prefer to donate to a non-profit, here are a few options:

Soles 4 Souls

Your new and gently-worn shoes help individuals start and sustain small businesses to lift themselves out of poverty. Donated shoes are a viable resource to help entrepreneurs provide crucial necessities for their families.
— Soles 4 Souls

Check out here ways that you can donate your shoes to Soles 4 Souls.  

Give Your Sole

This non-profit collects gently worn shoes at race expos and on race days for later distribution to local shelters and mission in the location where the event was held.



For me, I find it most important to buy shoes that I will actually wear on a daily basis and to keep them in use for as long as possible.  I have been guilty of owning an overwhelming number of shoes, so many that I even forgot what I had.  A few I have owned and loved, repaired and rehabilitated to keep in the rotation.  Currently, I have 3 pairs of shoes:  my old worn out Asics, sandals and flip flops.  These have been enough to get me through an entire year of travel!  This has taught me how little I actually need and I feel more encouraged to keep away from that fast consumption and disposal mentality.  Man, I seem to always keep coming back to the Zero Waste Principles which are so incredibly valuable in making everyday decisions!  

Have you found any other organizations to donate your worn-beyond-belief shoes or those gently worn that still have life left in them?  I'd love to hear about it and spread the word.  Whatever we can do to keep our shoes out of the landfill!


*As usual, none of these are affiliate links, just my opinions.