What Do You Do With Old Running Shoes? Recycle? Upcycle? Donate?

Most runners retire a pair of running shoes every 350-500 miles. If you’re like me, those shoes may look like brand new from the top when the inner and tread are pretty worn down. What should you do with old running shoes? Do others have a use for them? Can you recycle running shoes?

Since a pair of tennis shoes will take thirty to forty years to decompose in the landfill, there have to be better options. If you’re wondering what to do with old running shoes, read on!

Dedicated Trail Shoes

My heart is in trails and sometimes, those trails are downright muddy. If you are an avid trail runner as I am, you might find that you can delegate a pair of shoes as trail shoes about 50 miles before you would normally retire them.

reporpusing running shoes

So if a pair of shoes normally last you 350-400 miles, around 300 miles convert them to trail shoes. That way, you won’t be upset if they get dirty. Turning your shoes to trail only may leave you extremely happy. Why? You won’t hesitate to head into a creek or stomp in the mud.

Once I make the transition to deciding a shoe is a trail shoe, I can get as many as 100 additional miles out of them. Of course, my trail runs don’t tend to be very long, nor are they usually close together. This gives my shoes time to dry out between visits to the woods.


Once your running shoes have fulfilled their purpose for running, many athletes find a way to get more mileage from them. An old pair of running shoes may be fine for mowing the lawn, for example. Or if you’re walking to the beach and don’t want to get your nice shoes full of sand or water, your old running shoes could be perfect!

Reusing In Non-traditional Ways

What avid runner wouldn’t be excited to see plants popping out of a pair of shoes they ran a PR marathon in? Another consideration is that when a pair of shoes had used up their time on your feet, perhaps you can use them in other ways.

repurposing old running shoes

Imagine your friends’ surprise if they were to see brightly colored shoes peppering the tree line when visiting. Yes, that’s a birdhouse!


If the shoes are not terribly worn down, you can consider donating them for another runner to use. As a coach, runners often contact me about the shoes they loved when they purchased them and then found uncomfortable. I have helped to re-home gently used shoes with less than 100 miles on them- sometimes less than 20!

Learning moment: If you don’t love the shoes right away, you probably never will.

Sometimes runners will say that their old shoes don’t have any mileage left in them. Sure, maybe not for another runner. However, if you are a child or teenager without sneakers, the broken down running shoe is better than nothing. Don’t assume that your shoes won’t be useful to someone else.

Charitable Retail Stores such as Goodwill and St. Vincent’s De Paul have donation sites. These are often conveniently located right in your own community. Goodwill typically has very generous donor hours so you can simply bag up your stuff, including shoes, and bring it to a drop site.

Recycling Old Running Shoes

recycling old running shoes

TerraCycle is a company that recycles many household items including old athletic shoes. This is not a free option, however. Some running groups pitch in to purchase a TerraCycle box and host a donation event. The shoes are collected, sent to TerraCycle, and broken into smaller, recyclable components.

Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program recycles shoes. They are ground up through Nike Grind and the resulting material is used to make sport surfaces and performance products.


Sneakers4Funds is a free program that affords programs, clubs and organizations the opportunity to make a few bucks by hosting a shoe drive. These shoes are not ground into material, however, they are packaged up, sent to small businesses to clean and repair, and then rehomed.

Soles4Souls is another free program where people can host drives, collect shoes, and send them to this organization. This group also refurbishes, cleans, and ships shoes around the world to get them to people in need.

Both of these organizations advertise sustainability by reusing items that might otherwise end up in the landfill. In addition, Soles4Souls discusses the health factors of getting shoes to people in underprivileged people in other parts of the world.

GotSneakers is another way for a club or group to fundraise and help others at the same time. This group pays out $1.00 for each pair of sneakers collected. Your group collects shoes, someone in need gets shoes, your organization receives a payout. This is a win, win, win for everyone involved.

Groups like Got Sneakers even send you promotional items so that you can let others know about your fundraising drives.

Don’t Just Throw ‘Em Away

If an athlete runs 1,000 miles in a year and their shoes last for an average amount of time, that means 2-3 pairs of shoes could potentially end up in the landfill every year. Folks, that’s not okay!

There are so many options out there from rotating your old running shoes to another purpose (such as gardening, yard work or wearing to the beach) to donating to a good cause. Your shoes can be ground down to make playground material or repurposed into decor or birdhouses.

Whether you think locally, like donating to your local Goodwill, or globally, such as donating to an international organization, your shoes can and should be put to good use. Just like we recycle bottles, plastic and other items, we should recycle old running shoes.

As a company that endorses and values sustainability, the staff at Rockay beg you to be responsible and breathe new life into your sneakers. Our planet depends on you.

How To Recycle Old Running Shoes

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