How to Recycle Running Shoes – Quick Guide

The footwear industry is undoubtedly a massive waste creator along with the textiles industry as a whole. As a matter of fact, Statista shoes that over 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced worldwide every year and around 300 million are thrown away.

What’s even more mind-boggling is that the average person uses more than 4 pairs of shoes a year which means the world must be littered with barely worn running shoes, old high heels, broken trainers, and stinky hiking boots.

A lot of people might think that all those old running shoes just get tossed in the trash but thankfully for you, this is not true.

You can recycle your old running sneakers by donating them to charity or a recycling center.

How to recycle your running shoes

According to EPA estimates, about 13% of footwear and clothing is recycled.

This means all the rest somehow ends up in landfills as textile waste polluting the land, water, and air.

As you probably already know, the lifespan of your running shoes depends on how often and how far you run.

According to the experts, the average pair of running shoes will last for about 500 miles.

This means that once your old shoes hit that milestone, it’s time for them to retire in peace.

So what’s the best way to deal with this huge influx in footwear?

Use these ideas to recycle your running shoes.

Donate them to charity

So your old running shoes are truly worn out and you no longer want anything to do with them.

Sure, they may not be fashionable anymore but they’re still very much useful! Donate them to a shoe bank or other charity organization that will use them in good purposes.

For example, charities like Soles 4 Souls ship shoes overseas so that upcoming entrepreneurs in some of the developing countries can start their own businesses.

You can also donate them to charity if they’re still in good and playable condition.

Donate them to local organizations like Women’s League of Chicago who helps homeless women recover from domestic violence, others help women and girls get back on their feet after quitting the program or deals with issues like homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, or HIV/aids.

Reuse them for gardening or decorating

Once your old running shoes have reached the end of their lives, you could use them for other purposes.

You can use them for gardening so that you get fresh and organic veggies in the garden.

Wear the shoes whenever you’re out gardening to prevent dirt and fungus from accumulating and ruining your footwear.

Alternatively, you could take them apart and use the soles for your patio or even to decorate your home.

Just cut off the heels, laces, and leather straps, put all of them in a bag or a box, and then ship it to your nearest recycling center.

The soles would make great material for crafts or decorations so use them to your benefit!

Sell them for cash

Maybe you don’t have the heart to donate your old running shoes because you’re not really a big fan of charity but are still not ready to toss them into the trash.

What can you do with your old running shoes?

You can sell them on eBay and on your local classified ads to gain some extra cash.

Just check with your local neighborhood associations and see if it’s okay to sell the used sneakers in their streets or sidewalks.

As long as the running shoes have been gently used and still comfortable, you can sell them to local stores and online.

You might earn a small profit from this and use it for something else in the future.

Gift the shoes to a loved one

Sometimes you’re just not keen on donating your old running shoes but still want to do something nice for your loved ones.

You can gift them to your best friend, your sisters, or even your husband.

They can use the shoes for their work or hobbies like gardening in their yard, walking the dog, or even working out at the gym.

In this case, the run sneakers should be in decent condition so your loved ones won’t have to spend too much time fixing them up.

Recycle them back into the shoe industry

Another way of how to recycle running shoes is to turn them back into the shoe industry towards creating new footwear.

Each pair of run shoes contributes to approximately 30 pounds of carbon emissions as a result of manufacturing, transportation, and disposal.

By recycling your old running shoes, you could cut down on that number dramatically.

Recycling is an environmentally friendly process that removes waste from the natural environment and turns it into useful products.

Run show brands are aware of the impact that the running shoe industry has on the environment and encourage their customers to recycle sneakers whenever possible.

In fact, majority of the big brands have their own recycling programs.

A good example is the Nike Grind program.

They accept all kinds of footwear except those with metal and use the material for an array of products such as carpet pudding and turf fields.

Runners can drop off their footwear at designated Nike retail stores for their Reuse-a-shoe recycling program.

Another brand with a recycling program is Adidas.

It’s called the Give Back Program and it encourages customers to drop off their old athletic shoes at the company retail stores.

The company recycles the shoes into new materials and uses it to create new shoes.

They also sanitize some of the footwear so that it’s refurbished and sold at decent rates.

Final Thoughts

Running shoes lose durability after a while but they’re still quite useful and can be recycled in many ways.

Keep them as long as they still function properly, donate them to a charity organization, or sell them for cash so that you can help others.

You could also turn back running shoes into the shoe industry with your own participation.

Just make sure that the shoe meets certain requirements before you drop it off to the recycling center because they have strict rules on what footwear they accept.


What is the life expectancy of running shoes?

Generally speaking, running shoes last for about two to three years.

But there are exceptions with some premium running sneakers lasting up to three or four years depending on how they’re cared for.

How can I tell if my running shoes are really worn out?

You can tell whether your running shoes are really worn out or not by giving them a quick test run.

If they’re still holding up, then it means they’re still wearable.

However, if they start to bend or give out, then you know that they’re officially done.