how do i recycle old tennis shoes?

Eco Cajun friend Skyra recently asked, "Any ideas on sustainable ways to reuse or recycle old shoes that are too worn for donation? The only company I know that does it is Nike, but are are there other ways to reuse old shoes?"

Great question, Skyra! I'm happy to do some research and find some options for you.


Depending on the brand, your favorite running shoes are mostly made up of natural and synthetic rubbers and synthetic foam, which is primarily composed of polyurethane and ethylene vinyl acetate. The upper portion is usually mesh or natural or synthetic leather. Both rubber and polyurethane can be reclaimed and reused, and manufacturing with reclaimed rubbers and foams is often more energy-efficient and much less expensive than using virgin material.



Let's start with different ways you can donate your shoes for recycling.
  • Nike collects used shoes at their stores (or by mail) and grinds them up to provide material for a range of places from neighborhood playgrounds to professional athletic surfaces for the NFL and MLB, and for products like zipper pulls on their apparel. Obviously, your shoes don't need to be in good condition to recycle with Nike!
  • Recycled Runners has drop-off locations for used shoes, and they distribute the shoes for either reuse or recycling into other materials.

What about donating your shoes so someone else can have a pair?
  • Donate Your Old Shoes collects shoes through the mail and distributes them to less fortunate people around the world. They ask for shoes in good condition, but it doesn't stop at tennis shoes! They take work boots, dance shoes, dress shoes, cleats and flip flops.
  • ShoeBank is a Dallas organization that collects good condition used shoes via depositories. The shoes are then distributed to homeless shelters, shelters for battered women, refugee service organizations and hospitals around the Dallas/Fort Worth metro.
  • Shoe4Africa looks for good condition used shoes for children in Kenya.
  • Share Your Soles distributes donated shoes to Central America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, Eastern Europe and the United States. The program has helped people living on Native American reservations and in the Appalachias, as well as India, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Cameroon, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Ghana. Donated shoes must be in good condition.
  • One World Running collects shoes in Boulder, Colorado, and sends them to needy athletes and children around the world. They collect good condition and beat-up shoes; the ones too beat-up to donate are sent to Nike to be put their their Reuse a Shoe program!
  • Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based nonprofit that collects both new and used shoes for people in need. They also donate clothing. There are drop-off locations around the country, and you can search for the one nearest you. (For Lafayette residents, Brother's on the Boulevard is listed as one of the drop-off locations!)
  • Green Sneakers collects shoes through different programs for donating to those in need.

Or if you want to reuse shoes:
  • Keep them as your grody pair of housework/yardwork shoes. Spilled paint on them? Meh, doesn't matter!
  • Use them as planters for small plants. However, I would suggest if you want to grow herbs in them, wash them out first!! No one wants to eat basil that smells like your gym socks.
  • Cut the rubber from your shoes and use it as padding for legs of tables and chairs.
  • Use the soles as yard decorations, weight shoes down to make door stoppers, or use flip flops in summertime decorations.
  • Make a jewelry holder from old high heels.
  • Why not cut up the soles to make your own outdoor material? 
  • Laces can be used for so many different things! 
    • String one like a clothesline to hold necklaces or bracelets. 
    • Keep cords and cables neat.
    • Makeshift drawstrings on skirts or pants.
    • Tether shrubs together so they grow upward instead of outward.
Hope this list gives you some great ideas, Skyra!

2 comments

erinsnotions.com said...

Confession- I never considered trying to recycle my old tennis shoes. I always just threw them away because I thought they were too nasty for any use. Will not be doing that again. Thanks!

Eco Cajun Caitlin said...

Love it!! Glad I could inspire you. :)

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