This website is designed to help you choose the right athletic shoes for you. But once you find them, what do you do with all your old, worn out athletic shoes when you start wearing the new ones?
You can keep your old shoes, obviously. Or donate them, or recycle them. These are all options, depending on the condition of your shoes.
I like to keep a couple older pairs to wear just for comfort or style when I’m not exercising, and a really old pair for yard work, painting, or camping.
My shoes tend to wear out on the inside first, or the support is no longer ideal, while the outside still looks pretty good. But I can only keep so many pairs before my closet gets out of control.
I have donated my used athletic shoes to places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and there are other non-profits like Soles 4 Souls and One World Running that distribute shoes to those who need them. I think many homeless shelters would take them as well.
But what if your old shoes are just too worn out (or smelly!) to donate, or you’re looking for another option?
With all the emphasis on green initiatives and environmental sustainability these days, it only makes sense to consider recycling our old athletic shoes. Most of our shoes are made with recyclable materials like natural and synthetic rubbers, leather, foam, cotton, plastic, and mesh. Many of these materials can be used again in new shoes and other products.
The most well-known athletic shoe recycling initiative is Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, which began in the early 1990s. The program collects worn out athletic shoes to be recycled so they don’t end up in landfills.
The recycled material is turned into a product called Nike Grind that is then used to create tennis and basketball courts, tracks, fields, playgrounds, and new equipment, apparel, and footwear. More than 1.5 million pairs of shoes are collected and recycled through this program each year.
Most Nike and Converse retail stores will accept your old shoes for the Reuse-A-Shoe program if you want to drop them off. They take any brand of athletic shoes for recycling except for those that contain metal, such as spikes or cleats.
Store locations can be found on the Nike website through the store locator.
If you don’t have a store nearby, you can mail your shoes directly to the Nike recycling center in the United States at this address:
Nike Grind Processing
3552 Avenue of Commerce
Memphis, TN 38125
Rather than having individuals mail one pair of shoes at a time to the recycling center, many communities have organized shoe collections so they can send them to Nike Grind in bulk to save on shipping. Or volunteers drive to the nearest retail location to drop them off.
Do you know of any other athletic shoe recycling programs? Have you donated or recycled your athletic shoes, or organized a shoe recycling drive? Send me a message through the comment form at the bottom of this page and I will share your story.
I think what it comes down to is how worn your shoes are. If they are only “gently” worn and still in decent condition, it would be generous to donate them to a non-profit organization that can use them to help the needy. But if they are really beyond wearable condition, then recycling your athletic shoes seems like the best bet.
Who wouldn’t want to know that their old shoes are being used for athletic fields and equipment or on playgrounds for children?
Whatever option you choose for your old athletic shoes, please do some research in your community and don’t just throw them in the trash. Maybe you can even organize your own used athletic shoe drive.
Taking care of our planet is “solely” our responsibility!