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The Best Things To Do With Old Running Sneakers

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Recycle or reuse old running sneakers instead of throwing them away. The Best Things To Do With Old Running Sneakers www.runnerclick.com

Every runner has a favorite pair of sneakers. These old running sneakers come along for every mile, a trusted friend to prevent blisters and absorb the shock of continually pounding the pavement. And then the time comes when it is time to say goodbye. It can be hard to hang up your old running sneakers, but there are still things to do with them to let these soles—and its soul—live on.

It includes the very obvious, donating them. There are multiple organizations both running and non-running related that accept old pairs. The runner needs to keep in mind that the shoes might need to be in at least decent condition. It means not being full of holes and unwearable.

There are other more creative ways to “recycle” running shoes. Runners don’t need to resolve to just throwing them away.

Cycle, Not Recycle

First and foremost, before it’s getting close to a specific pairs shelf life it’s time to get a new pair of running sneakers. The best thing to do is to throw the older sneakers into a cycle it’s last 100 to 200 miles to give enough time to break in a new pair. (This depends on how many miles typically ran in a given week.)

It also is recommended to run with more than one pair of running sneakers. This further extends each pairs shelf of life. Those specific shoes cater to particular needs such as a pair for the trails and a lightweight pair for sprinting a short distance.

Before throwing away a pair after purchasing a new pair, keep them on deck if they aren’t worn out yet.

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash.

When To Donate

Runners need a new pair of sneakers every 400 to 500 miles. For some runners, this means about every three months. Others can go longer and others need new shoes much quicker. While this is an excellent excuse to go shopping and get a new pair, it is also a necessity. Running on worn out shoes can increase injuries like plantar fasciitis or IT band syndrome.

Many running apps have a way to track how many miles are logged on a given pair. Keep track via technology or the old fashion way with good old pen and paper and know when it’s time to start looking for a new pair.

Where To Donate

“Gently Worn Sneakers”

There are large scale and smaller scale programs that redistribute sneakers. The running store Road Runner Sports, for example, allows runners to drop off their old running sneakers or unused sneakers that are then donated to those in need. These shoes often are the pairs that VIP members returned within 90 days after finding they weren’t a good fit for their needs. The shoes donated generally have to be in good shape. The running store donates the old running sneakers to organizations like Project Sole, which is an organization that helps provide footwear for those who can’t afford it, as well as those who lost everything in natural disasters.

One World Running is a nonprofit that also collects shoes that aren’t worn out to be distributed to runners in Africa as well as in weak areas in the U.S.

Soles 2 Souls is another non-profit organization that redistributes shoes for those in need. The company works with non-profits to proves shoes for the poor and those impacted by natural disasters. This non-profit looks to break the cycle of poverty and helps create jobs through the distribution process. Runners can drop shoes off at one of their participating locations or start their shoe drive for the program.

Other organizations that collect sneakers include Give Your Sole, Share Your Soles and Shoe4Africa. Local Goodwill and other clothing drives often accept gently used sneakers as well.

“Worn Out Shoes”

Nike has a program called Reuse-A-Shoe that reuses materials from the sneakers for other sports applications. This includes the rubber shoes being melted down to be used for tracks, and the midsole being turned into material for basketball courts. To donate to this program, contact your local Nike store to see if they participate to drop the shoes off. This is an excellent option for the pairs that are too worn out to be reused by a new owner.

Other options for recycling sneakers to be transformed into tracks, playgrounds and basket courts include Planet Aid and World Wear Project.

Photo by Greg Tockner on Unsplash.

How To Clean Old Shoes

Before donating, it is smart to clean the shoes first. Brush the outsoles to remove dirt and then rinse and scrub, repeat until clean. Remove the laces and insoles and wash the sneakers on a gentle cycle in the washing machine. Brush the laces to remove dirt. Or gently wash in the sink with water and mild soap.

To dry the sneakers, place newspaper or paper towels inside the shoes and leave out to air dry. Do not place in the drier.


There are also other creative ways to repurpose old running sneakers. Some people use them as part of a costume for Halloween or a party by painting them or decorate them. Others use them plant potters. Fill the sneakers with soil to grow herbs in your backyard.

Another idea to nail the sole to a tree and place bird seed to serve as a bird feeder. The soles can be taken out and used as a walkway to your garden or through the backyard.

Finally, the old running sneakers can be transformed into a work of art by those who like to create things.


  1. Road Runner Sports, Your Used or Unwanted Shoes Can Change Lives: Give Back This Season With Project Sole and Athletes Helping Athletes, Running Store Website
  2. Jacquie Cattanach, 2 Ways to Recycle Your Running Shoes, Fitness Website
  3. soles4souls, Providing shoes to people who need them most., Organization website
  4. World Wear Project, Why a World Wear Project Bin?, Organization website
  5. Courtney Constable, 15 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Shoes, Crafts Website
  6. Rei Coop, How to Clean Running Shoes, Company Blog

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