shoe recycling A\J AlternativesJournal.ca Photo: Jessica Kuepfer

Think about the last time that you replaced your running shoes. If you’re having a hard time coming up with an answer, chances are your shoes have stopped doing their work for you.

Shoes should be replaced approximately every 300 to 500 miles. Even if you are not a runner or athlete, but get your recommended 10,000 steps a day, your shoes can be past their prime in as little as two months after purchase. Numbers aside, you can often feel when it is time to get a new pair. When they are not as comfortable or supportive as you feel they should be, it is time to replace them.

Replacing shoes ensures that they provide the support, cushioning and shock absorption that is needed for sports and everyday movement. The problem is that while your new synthetic rubber soles are great for your health, they are not that great for the environment. The good news is that there are ways to ensure that your shoes don’t just go from stinking up your closet to stinking up a landfill.

For the running shoes with a bit of life left in them, considering donating them. If you’ve run them into the ground, they can be recycled. Old shoes don’t have to go anywhere to die when you can give them a new lease on life with these programs.

Donate:

  • There is always a local thrift store or Goodwill shop that can give them another life with someone else.
  • SolesforSouls is a company that donates new and used footwear to those in need around the world. You can donate your pair at a drop off location or host your own shoe drive for others in your area who have shoes to get rid of and ship them to SolesforSouls. A great way to have a successful shoe drive is to talk to local running groups in your area.
  • One World Running is a non-profit organization that provides shoes to runners around the world. Through collection drives, the nearly new shoes are sent overseas and the shoes that are not able to be donated are recycled, ground up and made into running tracks and playgrounds.
  • Shoe4Africa is a charity that focuses on health and education, sending running shoes to Africa, which helps prevent diseases such as hookworm. To help, simply mail your shoes to Africa.

Recycle:

  • Nike Reuse a Shoe: Nike takes donated, worn out shoes and grinds them down into a new material called Nike Grind, which is used to create sports surfaces for athletes such as courts, tracks, turf fields and more. To participate, drop off your shoes at a Nike location.
  • If you are not near a Nike location, check out Recycled Runners, an online recycling and donation directory that helps people connect with shoe recycling programs both locally and internationally. 

Right now, you can also donate your shoes to The Empty Shoes Project to help draw attention to the massive issue of impaired driving causing death and injury.

Jessica is A\J's Advertising and Outreach Liaison, and a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo with an English major and French minor. She's also a fitness instructor, marathon runner and volunteer with Greening Sacred Spaces.

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