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Little Known Ways to Recycle Your Old Shoes

Little Known Ways to Recycle Your Old Shoes

Little Known Ways to Recycle Your Old Shoes


Shoe components can take up to  1000 years to decompose. Only  1% of sports shoes that are imported to Australia are to be recycled each year


Ever wonder what happened to that beloved pair of running shoes that you let go of 10 years ago? Chances are that they're sitting in a landfill somewhere waiting a thousand years to decompose. 

Why should we care? Recycling shoes can meanreducing landfill, decreasing the carbon footprint, and providing shoes to those who are in need.

Unfortunately, running shoes tend to not last as long as our other shoes with all the bashing, sweating and absolute torture we put them through. Inevitably, as much as we try to hold onto them, we eventually have to replace our runners at some point.

It may surprise you to know that recycling our old runners is easier than it seems. Let’s dive into some ways you recycle your old kicks.

Donate and Feel Great

Needless to say, this option is for those kicks that haven’t fallen to bits yet. 

If you’re the type to replace regularly or perhaps the kids have quickly outgrown them,you should consider donating your lightly worn runners to your local charity shops or programs. Here are some helpful programs who will accept your shoe donations:

  • Soles4Souls take donations of lightly worn shoes to help entrepreneurs in developing countries the opportunity to start small businesses. Thus far the program has prevented 59 million pounds of textiles from entering U.S. landfills
  • Shoes for Planet Earth are an Australian not-for-profit organisation that provides donated running shoes to various communities in need
  • Sal’s Shoes collect kid’s outgrown shoes and donate them to those without in developing countries

But what if I have an emotional connection to my shoes and just can’t let go?

Refurbish, Repurpose, and Reuse

Don’t throw out those old shoes just yet! I am sure that we have all had those moments in our lives that we just cannot bear to use those shiny new runners for mowing the grass or washing the dog. You can most definitely find good use while wearing your old runners, doing some dirty work. Take for instance, the foam run that the Shoes For Feets team participated in where we took our old kicks out for one last spin (as you can see in the photo above). 

Consider refurbishing old shoes with a bit of DIY magic by:

  • Gluing soles 
  • Filling ripped lining with some  moleskin
  • Replacing the  inner soles or reusing some from your other shoes
  • Replacing old laces
  • Refreshing with a  dry warmer using ultraviolet light to sanitise those nasty germs
  • Deep cleaning with a toothbrush

Just think of all those beautiful new shoes you could save from sole destroying gardening by keeping the old tarnished ones. 

But what if my shoes have been used and abused to the max and there is no way to save them? Here’s what you can do.

Saving the World One Shoe at a Time

There have been programs implemented over recent years to tackle the issue of shoes ending up in a landfill. Amazingly shoes can be transformed into things you’d never expect.The outsole of a shoe can be transformed into a playground, basketball courts, and tennis courts, who would have known? All you have to do is drop off your old shoes and the recyclers will take care of the rest.

  • Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program offers consumers the chance to drop-off any unwanted shoes at Nike stores to be recycled. In Australia, you can take them into a Rebel Sports.
  • The  Save Our Soles Initiative aims to collect, process, and reuse worn sports footwear in Victoria. They have collection bins statewide and have garnered partnerships with leading sports brands such as New Balance, Rebel, Adidas, Converse, and ASICS.
  • Australian Clothing Recyclers provide collection bins around Australia and reuse/recycle 95% of what is collected. The other 5% is converted to Fuel Cells, meaning zero waste.
  • ReShoe collects used shoes from Australia to send to developing parts of the country

Knock Your (old) Socks Off

Just the thought of looking into my sock drawer gives me anxiety. The accumulation of one too many pairs of socks has greatly impaired my ability to organise them in a tidy manner.

Did you know that you can actually donate your socks? You might be thinking “no way, that’s gross” but it’s not what you think. 

You can send your socks to  Manrags to be recycled. They will sort through ones that can be donated to those in need and will recycle the rest.And what can socks make? The fibers can be used to create new yarn and insulation for garments. 


Whether it’s a pair of old kicks or that outfit from year 12 formal that will never fit again, reusing and recycling has become an important way for us to contribute to a sustainable way of life. 

Let’s face it: we could all do a little more to decrease our carbon footprint on the earth. Our challenge for everyone is to never throw away another pair of shoes again and participate in the reuse, recycle movement.

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