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What To Do With Old Running Shoes (And Other Fitness Gear)

If you're a runner, you are a hoarder of many things. Water bottles, recovery tools, much-coveted Nuun tubes. And of course, running sneakers.

Are you even a runner if you don't trip over a pile of these items at least once a week?

It's the name of the game, especially when it comes to running shoes. Runners are supposed to exchange their old running shoes out for new ones every couple of hundred miles!

As you can imagine, life as a professional runner involves a lot of miles- especially for some of my long-distance teammates. This means that a new pair of shoes is necessary every couple of months. Factor in the different types of shoes we wear for workouts, and you use a lot of shoes each year.

Sustainability is something we should always be thinking about—no matter how much of something we use. We're all on this Earth together after all!

So in the spirit of #GivingTuesday, I wanted to talk about some ideas for what to do with old running shoes. There are many ways to give back as an athlete, and donating or recycling gear you're not going to use anymore is a great one.

Not only does it combat excess waste, but it could also really make a difference in someone's life!

What Can I Do With Old Running Shoes?

You might be thinking if you can't use a pair of shoes anymore why anyone else would want them. Your thought process is partially correct because it definitely depends! You can't just donate any old shoe—it's actually usually preferred that you don't. (More on that later.)

But that doesn't mean the next step is the trash, either. Here are some things you can do with old shoes:

Donate Old Running Shoes

There are many organizations that formally work to distribute used running shoes. Some options are

These organizations will have drop-off locations in various cities or provide you with an address/shipping label to ship a box.

A quick Google search gave me several places accepting used shoes, including national organizations with drop-off locations near me and other local charities. Local running stores take shoes sometimes, such as Fleet Feet shoe recycling.

If there are no specific shoe donation options near you, you can even look into local youth programs, high schools, or the Salvation Army. (type your zip code in).

My track team formed a relationship with a nearby school that wanted shoes to distribute to their kids. We collected our shoes when we were done with them and passed them on to kids who otherwise probably wouldn't have had proper track running footwear.

And that's what I mean by someone maybe wanting your shoe. As pro runners, we have to get rid of shoes before a recreational runner might. Because we need them to be perfect for all the daily running. Just because it's too worn for you, doesn't mean it's too worn for someone who doesn't run at the same level.

That said, you cannot just donate anything. Make sure to check the section in this post with tips for donating old running gear if you're not sure when to donate.

Where To Recycle Old Shoes

For the shoes that aren't wearable, there are still plenty of easy options that don't involve the dumpster.

Organizations can do so much with old shoes!

Planet Aid has bins all over the place. They use old clothes to support a variety of amazing initiatives all over the world. And because they accept stuff that others wouldn't, this is a better option for those really worn-out running shoes or workout gear.

They recycle your textiles for you (phew, because it's so hard to know what to do right!)

Search for textile recycling or clothes recycling options in your area. Literally go to search and type in, where can I recycle old shoes near me, and you're likely to find a bunch of donation centers that focus on textile recycling.

Some thrift shops (like Goodwill for example) recycle donations that they can't use.

This Recycling Locator is an amazing tool for finding a spot!

And finally, have you ever heard of the Nike reuse a shoe program? Old, unwearable sneakers can be turned into new shoes and athletic surfaces like turfs and playgrounds. Which is unbelievably cool.

I currently know that the stores Asics, Nike, and Adidas do collections, so ask your local store if you can bring them in.

Secondhand for a Second Life

Extending the life of a pair of shoes or article of clothing is an amazing way to reduce its carbon footprint. Sometimes it feels like passing on an item that will end up in a landfill anyway is a waste of time. But it's not true.

WRAP did a study and found out that extending the life of a garment by just two months can lead to a 5-10% reduction in carbon, water, and waste footprints. Sounds worth it to me!

Plus, you can make a little cash by going through your closet and selling what you know you're going to toss soon. Here are some great options for giving your running shoes or clothes second life:

Don't throw out gently used runner's clothes or fitness outfits! Give them a second life with one of these great thrift options (virtual, it's easy peasy.)

Donate Used Equipment

If you're wondering what to do with old running shoes, chances are you have some other sports equipment that you're not sure what to do with either. Many of us with the means to buy new, updated items...well, buy new, updated items when we want them.

However, a lot of used equipment works just fine and could be of great use to others. These are some great ways to pass that stuff on that doesn't involve the garbage can:

  • Reaching out to schools or community teams in your area

  • Searching for youth programs, such as a local Boys & Girls Club, that could use athletic donations

  • Find nonprofits that focus on distributing athletic gear to underserved populations.

  • Sell to used equipment stores like Play it Again Sports, which accepts a large variety of used sports gear

You’re making a huge difference for someone, de-cluttering your own space, and avoiding the build-up of unnecessary trash. You go!

Tips For Donating Old Running Gear

People tend to think that anything is donate-able. But you should make sure your items meet the charity's requirements, often listed on an organization's website.

They usually explain exactly which items they are and are not currently accepting and the expected quality. If there is no list, it may also be a good idea to contact someone at the organization who can give you this information.

The last thing you want to do is drive your stuff to an organization that can't use your stuff. They may not have the means to get it where it should go...and we're back to the landfill. And if they turn you away at the door, you'll probably be grumpy and throw it out or not want to try so hard next time.

Not Sure What To Do With Old Running Shoes and Gear? Get Creative.

I hope this post inspires you to put a little extra effort in to help the world out a lot. I know it seems like your 2 (or 10 even) pairs of shoes don't make a difference, but if we all think that way there will be way too many shoes in the landfills before they need to be.

Always consider the state of your running gear and how someone else might perceive it. Just because it's old to you, doesn't mean someone else won't love it. (With limits!)

And if it's not acceptable for donation, remember that there are a ton of initiatives out there recycling old shoes into new products or athletic surfaces. And if all else fails, there are textile recycling centers that will handle it for you.

Don't be afraid to get creative! For example, local pet shelters all have unique needs, but many of them take certain things like hoodies, shirts, and towels to use for the pets' cages. I know you have more raggedy sports shirts than you can count...give 'em to a pup.


madeline kopp blog

Hi, I'm Madeline

Welcome to Madeline Kopp— your source of inspo for finding a balance between healthy living and going after everything that you want! Here you'll find balanced, healthy lifestyle hacks that keep things simple and stylish. Learn more. x, MK
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