How can I reuse or recycle old shoes?

Two pairs of shoes slung over a telephone wire in LeedsWe’ve had an email from John K:

I wonder could you help me with an issue I have with disposing of old footwear. I know there are some programs that accept old footwear and the different parts are separated and some are recycled as astro turf, basketball court surfaces and the like. If you do not have access to such a program, what can you do with your old footwear? I live in an apartment so using them for outside activities like gardening can not provide the solution.

I asked this question on my blog last month but nobody left a comment, I’m hoping your readers can come up with some interesting solutions.

We have a similar problem – if they’re in good condition then we charity-shop or freecycle them, but you only need so many pairs of scruffy decorating/gardening shoes. So anyone got any suggestions?

Any details of the programmes John K mentions would be great too.

Best Suggestions

  • Reduce: Buy good quality shoes to start with – and make sure you try them on the shop. Pick shoes that you’ll wear for years instead of fashion ones that will fall apart.
  • Reuse: If they can be reused, let someone else reuse them as shoes – give them to a charity shop or organisation that takes them for redistribution overseas.
  • Recycle: Many charity clothes bins often accept battered old shoes – they’re broken down and the parts recycled as appropriate. Charity shops might be willing to accept them for the “rag man” too.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas. Particular types of shoe are also covered in other posts.

(Re: the photo. I received the email from John K first thing yesterday morning then, while walking to the shops at lunchtime, spotted that a pair of shoes had been thrown over a telephone wire near my house. When I went back to take the picture mid-afternoon, another pair had joined it. On one hand, a waste of perfectly good shoes; on the other hand, a very conveniently timed photo opportunity for me…)

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34 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle old shoes?”


  1. John says:

    Depending on the shape, you can screw them to the wall (sole to the wall, toes to the ground) in your garage/cellar and store tools in there.

    Never tried it though, just thought of it.

  2. Mush says:

    If you’re a golfer, how about using the toe ends of trainers for golf club protectors?

  3. Mike says:

    I wonder if birds would nest in them if you nailed them to a tree? I guess it depends on how bad the owners feet smelled.

    The idea of strolling through the park and noticing old trainers nailed up high in trees makes me chuckle.

  4. Johnny K says:

    Haha, I like the nailing them to a tree idea, I guess it would get out of hand pretty quickly though.

    Not too sure about the tools idea. I kinda like it but I’d have to see it in action to decide whether it was useful or not. Seeing that I don’t have a garage or cellar I can’t give it a shot unfortunately.

    As for golfing, can you image the looks you’d get from the golfing elite as you stroll around the course! Haha, genius.

    Love the photo Louisa very opportunistic. The reason kids do this is to short the wires (well it used work like that in the 80s anyway) and see the huge sparks that were generated.

  5. bev says:

    There are recycling bins for shoes at my local tip: the good quality ones are reused by charities in the third world and the scruffy ones are stripped down and the individual parts recycled so my post-gardening shoes go in there.

    I,, of course, strip them for parts I can used first – old shoes laces always come in handy and buckles too.

  6. sarar says:

    I used an old pair of flip flops to make a pair of slippers once, well the soles of them at least. I doubt it would work very well for anything with a heavy or rigid sole though.

    SaraR

  7. Shaun Thomas says:

    i have used a coup,e of old walking boots as plant pots for my geraniums!

  8. Shaun Thomas says:

    i have used a couple of old walking boots as plant pots for my geraniums!

  9. Donna says:

    Go to Nike.com and search Nike Reuse a Shoe Program which takes old sneakers. Not sure about shoes, though. But they do accept old sneakers and recycle them to build such things as playgrounds, etc.

  10. Christina says:

    blue peter have teamed up with clark’s to collect old shoes, but they need to be in fairly good condition. i think most clark’s are taking part and have bins in their shops so you can deposit old shoes. all money raised goes to help poor children in malawi.

  11. I like to give those types of things directly to the homeless. In San Francisco, that is not an issue.
    The only time I can never find one is when I have take out.

  12. American says:

    In America, a pair of shoes slung over wires is a signal for where drugs are being sold. I just stumbled upon your website when I was googling a picture of shoes for a project~

  13. Elouise says:

    When you go on a trip to a developing country, e.g. somewhere in Africa, take along old shoes to give away. If you can’t pluck up the nerve to actually hand out old shoes, you can quite literally put the pair on the pavement and walk away. Somebody will rescue them from their homeless plight before you know it. My family in South Africa puts old shoes on the pavement outside their back gate. Within a half an hour, they are usually gone.

  14. Caz says:

    You can donate them to Liverpool Biennial for a forthcoming art installation in 2008, we will be collecting pairs of old shoes from now until early 2008.

  15. Terra Plana says:

    I suggest taking them to your local charity shop. You can buy high quality recycled shoes from many retailers online.

  16. nelly says:

    IN art we brought in old shoes nd made an animal out of them

    • Renu Kapur says:

      Hi

      what did you make – my son has the same project and made a swan using paper mache but has been told he cannot do this, any ideas on what he can make??

      thank you

  17. Shorty says:

    I always repair my shoes at the little repair shop. Again, and again, and again. I say strip them down for leather and salvage any useable parts.

    I do have a major predicament, though. I like keeping white, white laces, so I pull them out of the loops, scrub them, bleach them, and loop them back. But what do I do when the little tips have worn off and it’s impossible to put the laces back?

  18. If you feel the shoes with cement you could use them as an outdoor door stop especially if its a big boot.

    • ~Debra says:

      Love this idea. I have a pair of shoes I love but cant wear because they are stupid in design and have hurt my feet. Dont want to leave them for someone because of the design will probly hurt their feet too. A door stop is a ‘great idea’. Love it. Thanks.

  19. Adam says:

    Leather tears and scuffs can be mended easily with careful use of super-glue and a bit of shoe polish to mask the repair ,ive recently mended a leather jacket and pair of old army boots this way;this is a very effective way to bond skin ,so don’t get your hands stuck too

  20. Michelle says:

    If the shoe still fits & just needs some TLC, then why not just fix them or hide the damaged area with some sparkle or something. I came across a site a while ago that gives handy tips on updating your shoes & not breaking the bank to do it. I will have a look for the site then post the address if i find it.

  21. Michelle says:

    Me again I found the link, it is http://cindyfullerhome.co.uk/home/Fashion/Altering-shoes-and-boots.aspx. I also placed the site name in the “your website” section(not sure if there is a better place for it.

    enjoy! :)

  22. Danni says:

    Does anyone know of a Perth based organisation that is participating in the Nike “reuse a shoe” program?

    I emailed Nike 2 weeks ago to find out directly from them but still haven’t had a response. I’ve also emailed Melbourne University as they were running the program in Victoria last year but haven’t heard from them either.

    I only have one pair of shoes to donate and as they are held together with nothing more than good luck, they are well beyond repairable.

    I am loathe to put them in the general waste bin and like a number of friends, am looking for a responsible recycling alternative.

  23. If you want to recycle your shoes but don’t want them ground into pieces, consider donating to us at Soles4Souls. Our shoe recycling program focuses on Reusing shoes and giving them (not selling them) to people in need. GiveShoes.org has all the details — looking forward to hearing from you!

  24. tim says:

    soles4soles sounds like a good and worthwhile charity many charities collect any shoes regardless of condition, many charities dont care about condition because they are simply paid per kilo. Big global exporters then sell them to markets around the world with the real s*** going to africa. The truth is bare foot is best and certainly when the shoes you have on are causing more health problems than you had before. Charity = $$$$ who cares about their feet.

  25. Chs pupil says:

    I am a pupil at cholera one high school and I have to make a recycled shoe with old materials and I don’t know what to do when I made my recycled bag project I used coke cans so I can’t do it again I was thinking on making my shoe with fake nails that are all different colours? D you think this is a good ideas ? Maybe you could do the same or do you have any other ideas i would like to get a good grade so I can do well on my exams! Thank you :)

  26. callum says:

    how about using the old shoes to replace bick tyres :0


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