Recycle Running Shoes: 14 Ways To Recycle And Donate Used Shoes

If your old running shoes could talk, they could surely tell a story of grit, determination, and hard work. They could chronicle the rainy runs, the tough workouts, and the time you ran your last PR.

In many ways, your running shoes are your most reliable training partner. As inanimate as they may be, running shoes still warm their way into our hearts, and you build some type of relationship with them.

However, running shoes aren’t designed to last forever.

Their suggested lifespan is only about 300-500 miles (500-800 km) of use before it’s time to replace them with a new pair, so if you’re running regularly, you’re bound to accumulate quite a collection of old running shoes over time.

This leaves runners wondering what to do with old running shoes. Can you donate running shoes? Can you recycle running shoes? What is the best way to get rid of old running shoes?

Fear not: there are numerous ways you can donate or recycle running shoes, giving them a new home and giving you more room for new pairs.

So, say your last goodbyes to your trusty training companions and keep reading for the best ways to donate or recycle running shoes.

We will cover: 

  • Why You Should Donate or Recycle Running Shoes
  • Is It Better to Donate or Recycle Running Shoes?
  • Best Places to Recycle Running Shoes
  • Best Places to Donate Running Shoes
  • Repurposing Old Running Shoes

Let’s jump in!

The reduce, reuse, recycle emblem.

Why You Should Donate or Recycle Running Shoes

It might be easiest to simply toss your old running shoes in the trash can, but this will just render them as yet another piece of refuse in a landfill.

Most conventional running shoes are made almost entirely from synthetic materials (though some running shoe companies are now making a concerted effort to incorporate eco-friendly materials or use recycled post-consumer products).

This means that running shoes are typically not biodegradable, so throwing them out just adds to the environmental burden and makes all the carbon emissions that went into making them all the more inefficient.

Therefore, finding a way to repurpose or recycle running shoes extends their life, keeping them out of landfills and reducing the need to make even more shoes.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best places to donate old running shoes and best ways to recycle running shoes.

An old pair of running shoes.

Is It Better to Donate or Recycle Running Shoes?

You can reuse, recycle, or donate old running shoes.

In terms of reusing old running shoes, they might be too worn out to actually run in them, but still be totally fine for walking or wearing around town.

When it comes to deciding whether you should donate or recycle running shoes, the main factor to consider is how worn out the shoes are. What kind of shape are they in?

If your old running shoes still have some viable life left in them, but they’re just beyond their life in terms of supporting serious training, they can be donated and reused by people in need.

Donating running shoes allows less fortunate runners and non-runners to have safe footwear that they otherwise couldn’t afford.

For this reason, it is actually best to donate gently-used running shoes rather than recycle them through programs that will grind them down and repurpose them from square one.

The symbol for recycle.

Best Places to Recycle Running Shoes

#1: Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe/Grind Program

If your old running shoes are particularly worn out, it might be best to recycle them instead of donating them.

One of the more popular ways to recycle running shoes is through Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe/Grind Program.

This athletic footwear giant has addressed the problem of what to do with old running shoes by taking on the burden themselves.

Nike created the Reuse-A-Shoe program, which allows runners to drop off their old running shoes at any of the participating retail locations. 

Better yet, your running shoes can be any brand, Nike or otherwise.

Nike aggregates all of the donated running shoes and transfers them to their Grind program, where the used shoes are reprocessed and the materials are ground down to make running tracks, basketball courts, turf fields, apparel, shelving in their retail stores, and new running shoes.

It’s a fantastic way to recycle your old running shoes and reduce the environmental impact of future products.

A pair of running shoes to recycle.

#2: TerraCycle Zero Waste Box

Although this option costs money, you can recycle your old running shoes through the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box program.

For $129, TerraCycle will send you a box measuring 11 x 11 x 20 inches (larger boxes are also available).

You can fill the box with used shoes of any kind—running shoes included, of course—and then you use the prepaid label to send the box back. 

After they receive your box, they strip the shoes to separate the materials by type (rubber, foam, plastics, fabrics, etc.), and then repurpose them or recycle them accordingly.

#3: Schuh Shoe Stores

In the UK, you can recycle your old running shoes at Schuh retail shops through the Sell Your Soles scheme.

You can bring in used running shoes and will receive a £5 discount on a brand new pair.

#4: Local Council Recycling Centers

Runners in the UK can actually recycle old running shoes at most local council recycling centers

An old pair of running sneakers.

#5: Runners Need

The UK-based running shoe retailer Runners Need was running a running shoe donation program called Recycle My Run. 

This program permitted runners to recycle old running shoes at any of the store’s 51 branches in exchange for a voucher for £20 off a brand new pair of shoes purchased at the store.

Unfortunately, this program ended in March 2022, but it’s worth keeping your eye out for a return of similar running shoe recycling programs.

Alternatively, you can contact your local Runners Need shop and see if they will still take donations of used running shoes even if you don’t get a voucher.

#6: Organize a Running Shoe Drive

A running shoe drive is a great way to help other runners in your running club or area have a convenient way to donate old running shoes.

You can even partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds, which will help you organize your running shoe drive and will send you a free, prepaid shipping label for all the shoes once you are done.

The used running shoes are then donated or recycled depending on their condition.

A cardboard box full of clothes to donate.

Best Places to Donate Running Shoes

#1: One World Running

One of the best places to donate used running shoes is through One World Running, a nonprofit organization based out of Colorado that has been collecting and donating used running shoes since 1986.

You can drop off your used running shoes at various running shops around the country as well as at some races and other athletic events.

One World Running then washes the shoes and sends them all around the world to areas in need, such as Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, and shelters and Native American reservations around the United States.

Donating your used running shoes gives them a second life and gives a very welcomed gift to someone who might otherwise have to go without.

Plus, any donated running shoes that are “too worn” get shipped to Nike for their Reuse-A-Shoe/Grind Program. 

Therefore, no matter what, you can be sure your old running shoes are being used for good.

A person holding a small sign that says donate.

#2: Soles4Souls 

Soles4Souls has donated more than 83 million pairs of used running shoes and apparel since its founding. 

According to their website, through their collection and donations of used running shoes, Soles4Souls has kept 71 million pounds of refuse out of U.S. landfills.

They donate shoes to people in need all around the world. For example, right now, there’s a collection going on for people living in Ukraine.

You can either drop off your old running shoes at any of the participating locations (search here) or you can ship them for free via the Zappos for Good program.

#3: Shoes for Planet Earth

Shoes for Planet Earth is an Australian-based charity that takes donations of used running shoes either in person at drop centers or by mailing them in.

Recycle Running Shoes: 14 Ways To Recycle And Donate Used Shoes 1

#4: Your Local Running Shop

There’s a good chance that your local specialty running store has some sort of system or partnership to recycle old running shoes.

Sometimes, they’ll even give you a coupon or discount on the purchase of a new pair if you donate your used running shoes.

#5: Goodwill and Salvation Army

Consignment shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army are a great place to donate used running shoes locally.

These places will either sell the shoes at an affordable price or donate them to homeless shelters in your area.

#6: Races

Many road races, trail races and marathons have a collection bin at the event where you can drop off old running shoes.

Your used shoes are then donated or recycled, depending on the partnership or organizing charity responsible for the shoe drive.

A person underlining the word reuse.

Repurposing Old Running Shoes

You can also extend the life of your old running shoes or give them a reinvented second life by repurposing them.

Here are a couple of ideas for how you can repurpose old running shoes:

  • Wearing them for walking or general life.
  • Wearing them for a color run or mud run.
  • Wearing them when you mow the lawn or do outdoor work.
  • Wearing them when you paint or do other sorts of dirty chores and housework.
  • Turning them into planters or flower pots.
  • Turning them into bird feeders or birdhouses.
  • Painting them and then using them for some other craft.

Honor your old running shoes by recycling or donating them. These simple acts protect the planet and help others in need.

If you need some help deciding whether or not it’s time for you to switch out your running shoes, check out our tips for when it’s time to change them, here.

Colorful pieces of paper that spell out donate.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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