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(Approximately) 20 Ways To Recycle Your Running Shoes

By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | January 8, 2008


Inspired by Karina’s post on collecting hard-to-recycle items, I’ve compiled a listing of various ways to recycle running shoes. Some programs are based in the United States and others are located overseas. Some programs have websites and/or email addresses for further information; many do not. Nearly all of the programs are small, volunteer-run organizations which pair up used-but-usable sneakers with runners who need them.

Of course, an easy way to recycle sneakers is to donate them to a local thrift shop, which will put them up for resale. The nice thing about the charities listed here is that you are assured (as long as the charity is legit, which I haven’t verified) that the trainers will go directly to a runner in need. Runners helping runners– what’s more philanthropic than that? And if you’re a runner, you know how quickly shoes need to be replaced– if yours have some mileage left in them, and/or if they’ve just never fit you quite right, hand them off to someone else who will put them to good use.

If you know of a collection agency or program not listed here, or if you’re affiliated with any of these programs directly, please feel free to add further information in the comments:

Shoes4Africa.org: It’s a bit difficult to get information from the site, but here are some facts: they shipped their first pair of running shoes to Africa in 1995 and began sponsoring running events, camps and races. Shoe recipients start setting records all over the world, running legends start supporting the cause, and an amazing program is born. They also sponsor Aids awareness programs at the races, and host women-only running events. Click for a really inspiring YouTube promotional video of the Shoes4Africa program. They also welcome donations of running shirts, shorts, new socks, and periphals such as watches, hats, etc, though running shoes with 100+ miles left in them are the clear priority. There’s no clear information on where to ship the shoes, but contact tobytanser@aol.com for further information, and there’s a dropoff point in Manhattan if you can’t afford to send the shoes directly to Africa. My favorite quote from the site:

“We send the shoes to trusted coaches who have a proven track record to distribute the shoes amongst athletes. We have a fabulous record so far with the boxes arriving (non returned), but the idea is if (and that is an if not happened yet)a box did not arrive at least it would have been stolen enroute by people who need the shoes!”

RecycledRunners.com lists 10 U.S. charities and/or shops which accept donated sneakers, including programs in: Little Rock, Arkansas; Phoenix, Arizona; Trabuco Canyon, California; Coralville, Iowa; Northern Cook County, Illinois; Central Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Rockwall, Texas; Planet Aid, US; Finger Lakes, New York.

RecycledRunners.com International lists 6 non-U.S. programs, including: Cuzco, Peru; One World Running (more info below); Team Barrios, Mexico (via Colorado); Up & Running, United Kingdom; Okengates, United Kingdom.

One World Running:

“Since 1986, a group of runners in Boulder, Colorado, has collected, washed and sent to Third World countries new and “near-new” athletic shoes, T-shirts and shorts, along with medicine and school and art supplies. Shoes for Africa was started after sports journalist Mike Sandrock returned from a coaching and racing trip to Cameroon, West Africa, sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency… Since then a group of runners in Boulder has collected, washed, and sent shoes, T-shirts, and shorts to needy athletes and children around the world… Now called “One World Running” the group is a 100-percent volunteer organization, and the program has now expanded globally… In a recent addition, soccer cleats are now collected, as well as baseball equipment.”

For more information, call (303) 473-1314 or (720) 304-2878: or email: anaweir @ yahoo.com or sandrock @ boulderrunning.com. Click here for drop-off locations in Boulder, CO and Ontario, Canada.

Recycled Runners, Australia: they’ve donated 115 pairs of runners thus far, with 250 more pairs awaiting distribution. Click for donation information. The site hasn’t been updated since 2006– anyone have further information on them?

Nike’s “Reuse-A-Shoe” program: This scheme collects worn-out athletic shoes of any brand and converts them into material for athletic court flooring– so if your sneakers have life left in them, donate them to one of the charities listed above or a local thrift shop for reuse– and when they’re totally dead, ship ‘em off to Nike so they can grind them up:

Reuse-A-Shoe, part of our Let Me Play campaign, is one of Nike’s longest-running environmental and community programs, where worn-out athletic shoes of any brand are collected, processed and recycled into material used in sports surfaces like basketball courts, tennis courts, athletic fields, running tracks and playgrounds for young people around the world.

Of course, Nike is infamous for all kinds of environmental and ethical infractions, including moving its sweatshops to countries where union labor is banned and paying their third-world workers less than minimum wage… but the Reuse-A-Shoe program is a great way to keep these sneakers, which would otherwise be trash, out of the landfills, and prevent new athletic-field material from being produced. And if we all don’t buy new Nike products but just keep shipping our dead kicks to them for reuse, then I think we’re one step ahead of them.

Crocs: Not quite running shoes, but Crocs are popular with athletes (as after-sport shoes), so I thought they’d fit here. According to a commenter on this Treehugger post, the company is developing a program to collect old Crocs and refashion them into shoes for shoeless people. The program, called Soles United, is not up and running yet and there’s really no info on the site. On the one hand, the purported recycling program is good– they’d be collecting shoes which would otherwise go to a landfill and pollute the soil/water, and putting the material into use for a second go-round. On the other hand, once those shoes are worn through the second time, and in a third-world country (presumably with no way to send them back to Crocs for further recycling), they’ll just go to the local landfill and pollute their soil/water. I can’t decide if this is just a case of do-gooder greenwashing or not.The fact that it’s not mentioned on their own website makes me not take it very seriously. But if the recycling program is for real, here’s a tip: if you pump out a petroleum-based/off-gassing/chemical-laden product by the millions, and it is actually recyclable in a real way? SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS.

Know of any other sneaker recycling programs?

[Image by jellie_mac on Flickr, via a Creative Commons license]

Topics: Waste | 15 Comments »

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Comment by Karina
2008-01-08 21:55:26

you’ve inspired my next post! this is turning into unofficial sneaker week here at tiny choices.

2008-01-09 06:03:46

[...] (Approximately) 20 Ways To Recycle Your Running Shoes [...]

Comment by Bidelia
2008-02-18 07:47:32

I found at Eastbay store good variety of shoes with coupon….

2008-02-18 22:35:47

[...] additional sources, check out Tiny Choices’ article that includes international sources as [...]

Comment by Rita
2008-02-20 17:22:07

these projects look awesome. i’m in canada though-whats the best way to send shoes from here? who can i get in touch with?

Comment by Jenn
2008-02-20 22:36:37

Hi Rita! I’m not sure what the best resource for Canadians is– look through the listing and see which cause tugs at your heart the most, and go with that! Or, perhaps you can start a local program near you…

2008-03-04 22:54:11

[...] adminnHInspired by Karina’s locate on assemblage hard-to-recycle items, I’ve compiled a methodicalness of assorted scheme to reuse streaming shoes. Some programs are based in the United States and others are effected overseas. Some programs impact websites … [...]

Comment by Bunda
2008-05-07 03:33:29

Good project. Hope we can do it too in Bali.

2008-08-18 11:39:53

[...] we had sneakers week at Tiny Choices earlier in this year, with a post about recycling sneaks and another post about the true sustainability of Nike sneaks. I read on Treehugger about an [...]

Comment by Jim
2008-12-19 17:13:39

I just stumbled across this site looking for a way to recycle old shoes, and I obviously found what I was looking for.

As a civil engineer who designs landfills, I did want to say that what you say about Crocs going to landfills and polluting the soil/water is not accurate. At least in the US, there are a lot of regulations and advanced engineering systems in place that do a great job of keeping the soil and water near landfills clean. So while in the past this might have been a concern, it isn’t as much of one now. If anything, it is possible that in those third world countries they might not have the same oversight we have and the shoes could pollute the soil/water.

I’m not trying to say that people shouldn’t still send their shoes to people who need them, I just wanted to clear up the misconception that landfills pollute everything and anything around them.

Comment by Karina
2008-12-20 00:17:55

Hi Jim! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m a civil/environmental engineer and I totally agree with what you say – for new landfills. I have worked on or read about a lot of older landfills, however, that are still in operation and which were not designed with the same stringent requirements as current I’d recent landfills. So while we can’t say that the contamination is a sure thing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

I’m glad we could help with your shoe recycling needs! Hope you keep reading!

Comment by Silvana Calrk
2009-01-27 15:57:34

Check out Soles4Souls. This non-profit donates a pair of shoes every 17 seconds. They have three warehouses around the country. Collect your gently used shoes and send them to Soles4Souls. They’ll be distributed free of charge to peoepl in need. http://www.soles4souls.org This is a great school or scout project also.

2009-12-23 01:20:11

MBT stands for Masai Barefoot Technology. The company that makes MBT Shoes (also known as the anti-shoe) is Swiss Masai. The uniquely-designed, multi-layered, cured sole is designed to simulate walking in sand (similar to the natural walking environment of the Masai in Kenya). This creates a natural, uneven walking surface and forces the body to use all the major and stabilsing muscle groups, thus training the whole body to move correctly.

Comment by Sam
2010-06-01 13:37:04

A quick call to your local running store might also yield good results. I just called RunningFit and they told me they’d love to reuse/recycle my old pair of kicks.

2010-09-07 17:40:47

[...] (Approximately) 20 Ways To Recycle Your Running Shoes | Tiny Choices 8 Jan 2008. “We send the shoes to trusted coaches who have a proven track record to. The site hasn’t been updated since 2006– anyone have further information on them?. tennis courts, athletic fields, running tracks and playgrounds for young. Pingback by Update on Sneaks and Yoga Mats | Tiny Choices.tinychoices.com/2008/01/08/recycle-your-running-shoes/ – (Approximately) 20 Ways To Recycle Your Running Shoes | Tiny Choices [...]


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