Ever wondered what to do with your old running shoes? You don’t have to throw them out—with a bit of creativity, you can repurpose them and give them a new lease on life.
Reuse, repurpose, donate, recycle… There are many options to keep those old running shoes out of the landfill!
Here are some unique ways to keep your running shoes going when they’re no longer good for running.
1. A Second Wind for Daily Activities
Just because shoes are no longer good for running doesn’t mean they can’t be used for other activities! Use old running shoes for:
If your running shoes are still in decent condition and can be cleaned up to look good, you can wear them casually. While the cushioning and support are ideal for running, they should be fine for doing errands, shopping, visiting friends, etc.
Yard Work or Dirty Jobs
If your old running shoes are not clean or in good enough condition to take out in public, keep them for dirty work. Use them for yard work, gardening, building, painting, oil changes, or other dirty jobs. Personally, I’ve been using my old shoes while coaching my son’s little league team!
Emergency Spare Shoes
Keep your old running shoes in your trunk or by the back door for those moments when you need them. You never know when you might need to do something you don’t want to do in your dress shoes or fancy sneakers!
2. Transforming Old Running Shoes Into New Treasures
If you don’t want to wear your old running shoes again, you can repurpose them into something completely different. Get creative—nothing is off-limits! Here are some ideas to get you started.
Funky Door Stop
Fill an old shoe with sand or rocks, tie them up, and use them as a doorstop! This is a fun way to showcase your love of running and serve a practical purpose simultaneously. Plus, you get two doorstops out of one pair of shoes.
Turn Them Into Planters
For a quirky and running-related garden addition, fill your old shoes with soil and plant something! Make sure there are drainage holes so water can seep out of the bottom and not contribute to mold in the mesh.
Create Sturdy and Unique Bookends
You can fill the shoes with something heavy and use them as bookends. Use a wooden base, place a wooden stick on it, and run it through the shoe to mount it on its heel. The sole will become the end that keeps your books in place, but make sure it’s clean!
If you love birds or want to attract more to your yard, hang shoes in a tree and fill them with bird seed. It’s a cute way to reuse your shoes and feed the birds at the same time.
A Fuzzy Creature Home
Pad the inside with something soft, hang it in the tree, and see what comes to make their home in it. Keep the camera handy because you might be surprised at what you find!
3. Social Strides: Donate Your Shoes
Donating your running shoes is an option if they’re still good enough quality to be used. This is a way of giving back and providing your shoes with a second life.
Shoe Donation Programs
Many organizations accept used shoes to donate to those in need, both here and abroad.
They must still be wearable and in decent shape, or they can’t be repurposed. If your old shoes fit this category, it’s a great option. Here are some you might want to consider.
Soles4Souls’ mission is to provide clothing and shoes to people in need. Whatever the reason someone needs shoes, your old running shoes could be a life-changing gift for someone else.
They accept “gently worn” shoes, so it’s a good option if you’ve got an old pair that’s still in good condition. You can find drop-off locations throughout the US or ship your shoes to them for free.
One World Running
One World Running has been around since 1986! They distribute athletic clothing, shoes, school supplies, and medicine to third-world countries, shelters, churches, and Native American reservations.
Aside from donating, they hold run/walk events in these places to promote a healthy lifestyle and bring people together through running.
Share Your Soles
Share Your Soles collects and distributes shoes in good condition to impoverished areas like Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. You can also host a shoe drive to collect from your local community and donate a whole bunch.
Local Homeless Shelters and Charities
If there’s no way for you to donate shoes to specific programs, or if you simply want to make a difference in your local community, you may be able to drop your old shoes off at a local charity or a homeless shelter.
Running Specialty Stores
Some running stores have bins that you can drop your old shoes in and they’ll recycle or donate them for you. Check with your local stores and see if you can bring your old shoes while buying a new pair.
4. Environmental Footprint: Recycling Options for Runners
If your shoes are too worn-out to be donated or reused, recycling would be a better option. It can be tricky to recycle shoes on your own, though, because they consist of various materials, so try some of these organizations.
GetSneakers’ program is free to join and shipping to their locations is also free. You’ve got nothing to lose here—in fact, you can actually earn money by sending them shoes!
Once you sign up, you’ll receive a special Sneaker Recycling Bag with a prepaid shipping label, and you can request more bags at any time. The bag also contains your unique account code, so once they receive your shoes, you earn some cash.
Are you wearing Nike shoes that include Nike Grind materials? These are materials made from recycling other shoes—and if you have old shoes that you’d like to recycle, you can send them in to be repurposed into new Nike shoes.
Just drop your old shoes off at your local Nike store, and they’ll be sent off to be broken down and made into new shoes.
Knowing When to Retire Your Running Shoes
Now that you have some ideas for what to do with your old running shoes, here’s how to tell when it’s time to replace them.
Signs Your Running Shoes Need Retiring
The outsole is the easiest sign to spot wear and tear on. Once the rubber starts wearing down, the shoes no longer provide the best traction. Other signs of wear and tear include flattening of the foam inside the shoe and damage to the mesh or inner lining.
Another sign that you might need new shoes is if you start to experience aches and pains—especially in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back—that you didn’t have before.
How Often Should You Replace Your Running Shoes?
There’s no specific answer on how long running shoes last. Although most shoe manufacturers recommend replacing your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles, it depends on a range of factors, including:
- Your mileage: the more miles you run per week, the fewer weeks your shoes will last.
- Your weight: the more weight on the shoes, the faster they will likely flatten.
- The terrain: rough terrain may wear down the outsoles faster.
The manufacturers’ guidelines are a good estimate of how long running shoes should last, but you might need to adjust up or down a little based on the points above. Examine them often for signs of wear and reduction of support.
How Can You Extend the Life of Your Running Shoes?
Rotating your running shoes is a good way to help them last longer. This gives each pair a break so that wear and tear happens more slowly. Giving them a break between runs also gives the insole and midsole foam a chance to “bounce back.”
Take good care of your running shoes. Dry them out thoroughly after they get wet, keep them away from direct sunlight, and make sure they stay clean and debris-free.
You should also only use your running shoes for running… And preferably only for the type of running they’re intended for. Don’t use road running shoes for trail running or vice versa—they may wear out faster.