How to Get Rid of Old Shoes Sustainably

Product Care

Reuse, recycle or donate – there are plenty of options to help you keep your old shoes out of landfills.

Last updated: April 22, 2024
4 min read
What to Do With Old Shoes

It's no secret — shoes don’t last forever. If they’re a pair you love, chances are you'll wear them until they wear out. Or your shoes will simply cycle out of regular use by getting old or going out of style. No matter the reason, when it’s time to replace old shoes, you have options. Instead of throwing your sneakers in the trash as waste, consider a more sustainability-friendly option.

Stop Throwing Out Your Old Shoes

First, rethink what to do with old shoes. You don't have to send them to the landfill, creating unnecessary waste. Because materials such as rubber and leather can take years to decompose, adding old shoes to landfills is not a sustainable solution. Thankfully, you have other options for reusing or responsibly recycling your old shoes when they’ve run their course.

Upcycle Old Shoes with A Makeover

When you’re evaluating a pair of shoes and assessing whether it’s time to let them go, make sure you’re looking closely. Even if you haven’t taken particularly good care of your shoes, it is possible to breathe new life into them with a little elbow grease. This can make a favorite pair wearable again.

Start by giving your shoes a good cleaning. The right way to clean your shoes varies based on the material of your shoe, but it’s possible to clean everything from leather to canvas to suede. And while you're cleaning, you may want to try these tips for removing creases and wrinkles from your shoes.

If your shoe needs additional upkeep or a unique refresh:

  • Swap in a new set of laces.
  • Personalize your footwear with fabric pens or paint.

Making old shoes feel like new again is easier (and more fun) than you might think.

Make a Donation

Even after a makeover, you still may feel it’s time to pass on this particular pair of footwear, and that’s OK. If the shoes are still wearable, a great way to repurpose them is to give them to someone else who will wear them. Turning shoes you no longer want into a donation helps extend their life and ensure they’ll be put to good use on somebody else’s feet. There are many organizations you can donate your shoes to, but make sure to search specific groups working in your area as well. It’s always rewarding to help your own local community through a simple (yet impactful) shoe donation.

Recycle and Reuse

Not all shoes can get reused as is. Some are just too worn down. When that happens, you can recycle your old shoes — the textile components of your old footwear can be used to make something else, even a new pair of sneakers in some cases.

Some Nike stores in the U.S. and Europe offer shoe recycling, so check your local store and see if they participate. Through these programs, the materials from old, donated footwear — including rubber, foam, fiber, leather and textiles — are collected, separated and reused or processed into new Nike Grind materials. For nearly three decades, Nike has been incorporating Nike Grind materials into product design, retail spaces and workplace environments around the globe, putting recycled materials to good use in things like furniture, skateboards and even running tracks. In fact, since 1992, Nike Grind has recycled 130 million pounds of sneaker material.

Nike Grind is one part of a larger sustainability program at Nike called Move to Zero, which is the brand’s journey toward a future with zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport. The goal is to move toward a circular future, where everything is reused and nothing wasted.

If you can’t recycle your footwear through your local Nike store, look for local shoe banks or shoe recycle collection bins to make sure your old shoes are going to the right place for reuse. You can also contact larger recycling centers to see if they process shoes.

Out With the Old

Out with old and in with the new is perfectly acceptable when it comes to footwear, but stop tossing your old shoes in the trash. Whether you sell, donate, or recycle, give your workout shoes a new purpose and keep them out of landfills.

Originally published: January 14, 2022

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