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Transform old soles into stories of hope & sustainability. Dive in to discover how each pair can leave a lasting footprint!

Did you know that the United States is home to the biggest footwear market on the globe? 

It's a bustling, vibrant industry, bringing in more than $34 billion in revenue back in 2021 – that's a lot of shoes!

The global footwear market was about $382 billion in 2022

Now, take a moment and think about all those shoes.

Ever wonder where they all end up? 

Well, most are unfortunately destined for landfills, where it takes them about 40 years to decompose. And during that time, they could be leaking chemicals into the soil. Not a pretty picture, right?

But hey, don’t worry! It’s not all doom and gloom. 

We have some fantastic and responsible ways to say goodbye to our beloved worn-out pairs that can be kind to our planet, help out others, and even put a little extra change in our pockets.

So, grab a comfy seat (and maybe your favorite pair of slippers), and let’s discuss all the smart, eco-friendly shoe recycling options. 

Who knows? You might discover some inspiring ideas that are right at your feet!

Can You Recycle Shoes? 

So, you're probably looking at that mountain of shoes by your door and thinking, "There's got to be a better place for these than the trash bin, right?" You've hit the nail on the head! 

Yes, you can absolutely recycle shoes. Most footwear can be broken down and repurposed, with materials like rubber, fabric, and leather being reused in various ways. Specialized recycling programs and centers exist to take old shoes and transform them into playground materials, new clothing items, and even construction materials.

can you recycle shoes

To recycle your shoes, check with local recycling centers or shoe stores with recycling programs to ensure your old pairs find new life in eco-friendly projects.

While it's a tad more complicated than recycling your morning newspaper, thanks to some nifty programs and dedicated organizations, it's possible to give those old sneakers or even dress shoes a second life in some really cool and unexpected ways.

It's All About the Material

Different parts of your shoes are made from various materials, and each has its own recycling path. The rubber from soles can be ground down and used in playgrounds, athletic fields, or even new footwear. 

The fabric can be repurposed for insulation or stuffing. Even the metal from those flashy eyelets has a place in the recycling world.

Finding the Right Spot

"But where do I take my shoes to be recycled?" I hear you ask. 

Great question! 

Many local recycling centers have specific guidelines for shoe recycling, and some shoe stores even offer take-back programs. It's like a trade: you give them your old shoes, and they ensure the materials get a second chance.

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

You might need to do a bit of legwork, like removing the laces or separating the sole from the upper, but it's totally worth it. Just think about the positive impact you’re making! Plus, it’s a fantastic excuse to get a little messy and have some fun. Who doesn't enjoy a good DIY project now and then?

So next time you're about to toss those old joggers in the trash, pause and remember: your shoes could be zipping down a slide as part of a playground or cozying up homes as insulation.

Let's get those shoes on the recycling runway instead of in a landfill!

Why Donating Your Shoes Is the Best Option

why should you donate shoes

Have you ever opened your closet and noticed a growing collection of seldom-worn shoes?

Whether they no longer fit, have fallen out of fashion, or you’re simply streamlining your space, donating your shoes is often the best route to take. 

Here's why.

Even shoes that seem 'worn out' to you may still have plenty of life left for someone else. If your shoes aren't completely ruined or overly dirty, think twice before throwing them away. 

They could still be in good enough shape for someone else

Imagine someone bracing for cold weather without sturdy boots or someone who simply can't afford to buy new shoes. Your gently used footwear could be exactly what they need.

Consider this: The average American updates their shoe collection every seven weeks, adding up to over seven pairs a year. It’s likely you have at least one pair that's barely seen the sidewalk because you’ve found another that better suits your style.

When you donate, not only are you clearing out your space, but you're also contributing to a larger cause. Many charities sell a portion of donated goods to support their initiatives, while the remainder often supports developing economies. 

These donations can bolster local markets and provide jobs in refurbishment and repair—like Guatemala’s sneaker-cleaning operations or Pakistan’s facilities that specialize in resoling men’s dress shoes.

In fact, repairing shoes is one of the most sustainable choice you can make for your old shoes. 

By choosing to donate, you're not just decluttering—you're making a meaningful impact on the lives of others and empowering economies across the globe. So why not take a peek in your closet and see what potential lies within? 

Your contribution could step up someone’s shoe game and support a cycle of sustainability and opportunity.

Where Could You Donate Your Old Shoes?

There are tons of great options out there for shoe donation. Here’s my selection of the best ones.


Ah, Goodwill, the go-to place for giving your pre-loved shoes a new adventure! It's like a treasure trove for donors and shoppers alike, and it's super easy to contribute to this cycle of kindness.

Donating shoes to Goodwill is an act of kindness with multiple benefits. 

Firstly, it's environmentally responsible. Instead of landing in a landfill, your shoes can find a second life on someone else's feet. Secondly, the proceeds from selling your shoes at Goodwill's retail stores go towards funding employment training and job placement programs.

This means your old sneakers could play a part in helping someone secure a new job and a fresh start.

Quick steps to donate shoes at Goodwill:

  • Quick Shoe Check: Just a little spruce-up to make sure they're cozy and presentable.
  • Find Your Nearest Goodwill: A simple online search, and you're on your way.
  • Swing By and Drop Off: Pop into your local Goodwill and say hello to the friendly folks there while you hand over your shoes.

Your once-favorite kicks could be the ticket to job training for someone in need. So, keep the good going and let those shoes walk the talk at Goodwill!

Shoe donation

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a familiar sight in communities across the nation. But did you know they're also champions of shoe recycling? That's right! Your gently worn shoes could join The Salvation Army's march towards making a difference.

When you donate your shoes here, you're stepping beyond charity into the realm of sustainability and support. It's a simple act with a powerful impact, ensuring your shoes walk on in the world, providing comfort and dignity to others. 

You can:

  • Find a drop off location near you
  • Find a thrift store near you
  • Schedule a free pick-up

Of course, before you do any of these, make sure your old shoes are either gently worn or thoroughly cleaned.


Soles4Souls, a compassionate force based in Nashville, has been warming hearts and soles since 2004. They've proudly delivered over 53 million pairs of shoes across all 50 US states and to 127 countries, making a footprint of generosity around the world.

This caring charity welcomes all types of shoes, whether they're solo or part of a pair, as long as they're new or gently loved and free from holes.

Ready to make a global stride with your spare shoes? 

Locate a Soles4Souls drop-off near you, or take advantage of their free shipping option to send off your shoes.

Soles4Souls has extended its helping hand even further, reaching a remarkable milestone of donating over 83 million pairs of shoes and pieces of clothing to date. 

That's enough to circle the Earth if laid side by side! Every shoe you donate continues this incredible journey of support and sustainability.

Share Your Soles

Step into giving with Share Your Soles, a compassionate charity right in the heart of Chicago. They welcome your new and gently used shoes with open arms, focusing on ensuring that each pair you donate is given with dignity and respect to those in need.

While doorstep pick-up isn't on the menu just yet, you can easily swing by their main distribution center in Chicago to drop off your donation. Plus, they've got a network of convenient drop-off spots sprinkled around the area.

Check out their website to find the drop-off location closest to you and help Share Your Soles keep the cycle of kindness going. Your shoes could be the support someone needs to take their next step forward in life.

Pickup Please

Pickup Please makes giving back to those who've served our country as simple as a click or a call. This unique program hosts a significant fundraising event each year, selling donated items to support a range of programs for US veterans and their families — from job training to health services.

Donating your shoes is a breeze:

  • Schedule It: Use their easy online form or give them a ring to set up a free pick-up time that works for you.
  • Box It Up: Tuck your shoes into a box, label it 'VVA' for Vietnam Veterans of America, and set it out on your doorstep.
  • Wave Goodbye: A Pickup Please driver will swing by to collect your box, and just like that, you've made a difference.

Your spare shoes can march on to support our veterans in meaningful ways. Get started by visiting Pickup Please’s website and scheduling your pick-up today. It's an effortless act with a powerful impact!

Dress for Success

Dress for Success is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering low-income women by providing them with professional attire for job interviews. They're on a mission to boost confidence and open doors to new opportunities.

If you have women’s shoes that are in good shape and professional — the kind that would make a strong first impression at a job interview — they would be perfect for Dress for Success.

You can make a tangible difference in another woman's career journey by dropping off your shoes at any Dress for Success location nationwide or by mailing them in.

Find your nearest drop-off point and join us in kicking up confidence one pair at a time. Your gently used shoes could be the foundation for a woman's new future.


Dress for Success is an international organization with 145 offices spread across 24 countries. Till now, the organization has helped more than 1.2 million women.  

One World Running

For over three decades, One World Running has been on a marathon mission to provide running shoes to athletes both in the US and in developing countries. Since 1986, their efforts have equipped budding and professional athletes with the proper gear to chase their dreams.

Do you have running shoes that are still in great shape but gathering dust? 

Lace-up for a good cause and send them over to One World Running. Whether you're mailing them in or dropping them off at one of their many US locations, your contribution could be the starting block for an athlete's success.

To ensure your shoes hit the ground running, please make sure they're gently used, with good treads and no tears.

Ready to pass the baton?

Visit One World Running's website for more details on where to send or drop off your sneakers. Your support could help someone cross their finish line!

Sneaker Freaker

Are you a sneakerhead with a heart for giving? 

Sneaker Freaker, the quintessential magazine for sneaker lovers, isn't just about the latest trends and releases. They've laced up a comprehensive list of charities that are a perfect match for your beloved kicks.

If you want to step up your donation game and the charities we've discussed don't quite fit the bill, Sneaker Freaker's got you covered. Dive into their curated selection and find a home for your sneakers where they'll make the biggest splash.

Check out their list online or grab a copy of their latest issue to explore a world where fashion meets philanthropy. 

Your perfect charity pairing is just a page flip away!

Have Completely Worn Out Shoes? Go for Shoe Recycling

how to recycle shoes

Ever wondered what to do with those once-favorite shoes that now collect dust? 

Well, before you toss them out, let's talk about giving those kicks a new lease on life through recycling!

Recycling shoes is more than a kind gesture—it's a step towards a healthier planet. Every shoe saved from the landfill is one less item taking up precious space. Plus, those materials—like rubber, leather, and fabric—get to come back in style as playgrounds, running tracks, or even brand-new shoes!

By recycling, you're joining a global movement of eco-conscious folks who believe in second chances. So, the next time you're eyeing that worn-out pair of sneakers, remember: Your small step to recycle could lead to a giant leap for our environment. 

Moreover, many soles are made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, which can release toxic compounds into the air.

However, there are some programs that do shoe recycling in a responsible manner. 

TerraCycle's Zero Waste Box: A Premium Shoe Recycling Solution

shoe recycling

TerraCycle, nestled in the heart of New Jersey, is not your average recycling company. They’re wizards in giving any old pair of shoes a brand-new purpose. 

Ready to join the magic? Here's how it works:

Hop onto TerraCycle’s website and pick out the Zero Waste Box that fits your shoe recycling needs. They’ll mail the box straight to your door. Pack it with your old shoes, send it back, and just like that, you’re a recycling hero!

Your shoes get a second act in the world of design, transformed into chic flooring or trendy furniture. Plastics aren't left behind either; they're reborn as soundproofing wonders, handy containers, and more.

A heads-up: this eco-friendly spell has a price tag starting at $129 for the box. But don’t let that stop you! Rally your friends, family, or co-workers and turn it into a community effort. It’s not just recycling; it’s a group stride towards a cleaner planet.

Nike Grind: Turning Your Sneakers into Sustainable Victories

nike shoes recycling

Nike isn't just about creating champions; they're also about championing sustainability with their innovative Nike Grind program. It's a win-win: you get to declutter, and your athletic sneakers get to embark on a second, eco-friendly life.

Here's the play-by-play: take any brand of athletic sneakers to your local Nike store—just make sure they're free of metal and not boots, sandals, or dress shoes. 

Find your nearest drop box on their website, and let Nike take it from there.

Your old kicks will then start a new journey, not to the landfill, but to playgrounds and sports fields as part of Nike's commitment to reduce waste. They'll be transformed into everything from springy surfaces that cushion tiny feet to padding that lines your home, and yes, even into the next generation of Nike products.

TevaForever: Step into Sustainability with Teva and TerraCycle

In April 2021, Teva stepped up its eco-game by teaming up with TerraCycle to kick off the TevaForever recycling initiative. This program is a game-changer for your beloved but worn-out sandals, offering them a future beyond the closet shelf.

Sending your Teva sandals into a new life is as breezy as a walk on the beach:

  • Box Up Your Sandals: Snugly fit your old Teva sandals in any cardboard box you've got lying around.
  • Label It: Print out a free shipping label from Teva’s website and secure it on your package.
  • Mail Them Off: Drop the box off at the post office, and you're all set!

Once Teva receives your sandals, they'll embark on an incredible transformation, potentially becoming part of playful playgrounds or resilient running tracks. And that's not the final destination—Teva's vision includes crafting new sandals from your recycled ones, closing the loop in true sustainable fashion.

Join the TevaForever movement now and help pave the way for a greener tomorrow, one step at a time.

Runners Roost: Colorado's Pathway to Shoe Recycling

Attention, Colorado residents! Got a pair of shoes that have crossed the finish line? 

Swing by any Runners Roost store and they'll take those tired trainers off your hands, recycling them at absolutely no cost to you.

But where do your donated shoes go? 

They're given a second run as part of athletic tracks, vibrant playgrounds, and even as much-needed footwear for the homeless and veterans in our community. It's a full-circle moment, from your closet to creating comfort and joy for others.

So, don't let your old kicks collect dust. Head over to your local Runners Roost and make a positive footprint on the world. Your retired running shoes could just start someone else's journey.

Got Sneakers: Step Up and Give Back

Got Sneakers? More like, got a heart for global change? 

Got Sneakers specializes in turning your once-treasured tread into hope for underprivileged communities worldwide.

Join the cause by participating in a sneaker drive fundraiser or, even better, spearheading one yourself. Got Sneakers makes it a breeze by providing all the materials you'll need. Plus, they offer a bonus — they'll pay you for each pair you collect, making it rewarding in more ways than one!

They're on the lookout for gently used sneakers to pass on to those in need. But don't worry, even the well-loved pairs that have seen better days won't go to waste; Got Sneakers recycles them responsibly.

Find Your Soles a New Home with GreenCitizen's Green Directory

Looking to step up your green game? 

The Green Directory from GreenCitizen is your go-to guide for discovering local shoe recycling stations with ease.

Our user-friendly directory is the quickest way to turn your eco-intentions into action. Just pop 'shoes' into the "search for" bar, add your locale in the "location" bar, and—voilà!—you'll have a handy list of recycling spots at your fingertips in mere moments.

green directory

So don't let those old sneakers gather dust. Find the perfect recycling match in your neighborhood with the Green Directory, and give your shoes the sustainable send-off they deserve.

Let’s walk the walk when it comes to recycling!

5 Creative Ways to Reuse Your Old Shoes

If you don’t know what to do with old shoes, here are five creative ways to recycle a shoe or a pair of shoes.

1.Baby Shoe Pin Cushion

If you’re a seamstress, you’ll love this idea.

There’s nothing cuter than baby shoes. Now, you don’t have to get rid of your baby’s first shoes. Instead, turn them into a pincushion. 

You’ll stop losing the pins everywhere. Plus, it’s small enough, so it’ll fit into any space you use for sewing.

Shoe recycling

Image and Idea Courtesy:

2.High Heel Coat Rack

Don’t know what to do with worn-out heels? Here’s a brilliant idea.

Attach the shoes to a wood plank so the heels stick up.

Hang the wood plank on the wall, and you’ve got a stylish coat rack.

Don’t stick to hanging coats only. This can be used to hang scarves and bags too.

shoe recycling

Image and Idea Courtesy:

3.Kids Flip-Flop Wind Chimes

Here’s another great idea for old kid’s shoes.

You’ll need one flip-flop, a pair of scissors, string, and chimes, which you can get from the craft store.

Use scissors to cut holes in the flip-flop for the string. Then use the string to attach the chimes to the bottom part of the flip-flop.

Once you’re done, place your new wind chime somewhere with a breeze.

shoe recycling

Image and Idea Courtesy:

4.Flip-Flop Welcome Sign

There are more wonderful flip-flop ideas.

  • Glue 7 brightly colored flip-flops
  • Make sure they’re overlapping
  • Spell W-E-L-C-O-M-E on each shoe

If your flip-flops are heavy, find something for the back, such as thin wood or cardboard.

You don’t have to stick to welcome signs, but you can also say anything!

DIY shoe recycling

Image and Idea Courtesy:

5.Old Shoe Birdhouse

Here’s how to use your old shoes and help the environment.

First, build a simple birdhouse with a shade with two small planks. You could just nail this shade on another plank.

Then, nail the shoe sole down to the base plank. Finally, attach the complete birdhouse to a tree trunk!


Put some bird seeds in the toe.

Birds will love coming to snack, or they might even take up residence in the shoe.

Shoe recycling DIY ideas

Image and Idea Courtesy:

What To Do With Your Old Shoes?

I'm thrilled to have shared this guide on shoe recycling with you and hope it sparks some ideas.

When it comes to old shoes, my first tip is to donate if they're still in good shape. It's a chance to tread lightly on the earth while stepping up to help someone walk a little easier in life.

But if your shoes have more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese, let's talk recycling. Any choice you make from the options we've discussed is a step in the right direction.

You can even choose plant-based sneakers which has hit the mass market recently. 

I'm eager to hear your shoe stories! Drop a comment below with your go-to strategy for old footwear, or pitch any shoe recycling queries you might have. Let's kick off a conversation and keep the cycle of giving and sustainability going!

Marina is passionate about sustainability and works to help ensure our planet stays as our home for a long time. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and not buying single-use plastic. When not writing, she can be found with her nose stuck in a book or trying out new baking recipes.

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