I have been a recreational runner (I think I’m also known as a jogger) for several years.Following the advice of every running magazine and runner with injuries, I buy new shoes every 500 miles or six months (if I haven’t kept very good track of mileage but have been running consistently).The old shoes don’t offer adequate support to absorb the impact of foot-meets-pavement after that much use, but they’re okay for wearing to the zoo, my parents’ farm, or out in the garden. So I usually save and “repurpose” them, as they say. It’s an in-house recycling program.After several years, however, one ends up with a lot of running shoes.And there are only so many pairs needed for the zoo, farm, or garden work. Sometimes my in-house recycling program needs to be augmented by an outsourced recycling program.Once solution is the trash can. But that’s not recycling.There are, as you can imagine, other options. Old running (and athletic shoes of various kinds) can be put to good use after they’ve outlived their original purpose.First off, I was interested to learn more about Nike’s recycling program called “Reuse a Shoe”.They take worn-out athletic shoes (any brand) and grind them up into a material called “Nike Grind” which is used to form sports surfaces.One of their processing centers is in the United States, and the other in Belgium (a detail of personal interest to our family)!They ask that the shoes fit the following guidelines:
- Athletic shoes only (any brand)
- No shoes containing metal
- No cleats or dress shoes
- No wet or damp shoes
That doesn’t seem to be asking too much. After tossing my oldest gardening and zoo shoes into the washing machine and air drying them (thoroughly), this is a great way to give them a new and useful second life–as a cushy basketball court, for example.Finding a recycling location is a bit trickier for me, as my state has none. But I saw that there are two in the Chicago area, so if we plan a trip there (or to any other city with a store that accepts donated shoes) in the next few months, I can save them up and take them along.Otherwise, I can pack them up in a box and ship them to this address:Nike Recycling Centerc/o Reuse-A-Shoe26755 SW 95th Ave.Wilsonville, OR 97070This interactive map can help you determine if there’s a donation center of some kind located near you.Another program called One World Running accepts donations of nearly new and new running shoes, which they distribute around the world to aspiring runners in countries where many people train barefoot for lack of resources. Limited drop-off locations listed here. If you send them too-used shoes, they simply send them off to Nike, where you probably should have sent them in the first place.Another neat program is a Texas-based organization called The Shoe Bank. In their own words:
The Shoe Bank had just one goal when it was founded in 1989 – to put comfortable shoes on a few hundred homeless men living on the streets in downtown Dallas. The program today provides shoes for twenty thousand people every year – primarily children, both here and abroad.Here’s how it works. Good used children’s shoes, men’s and women’s athletic shoes, and men’s dress shoes can be donated at schools, athletic facilities, and retail stores displaying Shoe Bank depositories. The shoes are carefully inspected and then delivered to local social service agencies for distribution.
If you’re in Texas, this is a neat program getting kids (and adults) into comfortable shoes.Recycled Runners (recycledrunners.com) has attempted to consolidate various options for shoe donations. If you have time to dig a little bit, you can have some fun finding a place near you and an organization that fits your personal “giving” mission statement, if you have one. Do you have one? If so, please share it in the comments, because I don’t have a personal giving mission statement, and now that I wrote that, I’m wondering what it might be.So, whether or not you have a personal giving mission statement, you probably have some old athletic shoes that nobody wanted to buy at your last garage sale and are sitting on the bottom shelf waiting for a new lease on life.Send them off.Who knows?Perhaps the shoes that never did fit you quite right and have barely been worn to the gym will fit someone in a developing nation–someone who is wearing a duct-taped pair of shoes plucked from the trash two years ago and is just waiting for something with laces. And soles.Or maybe our shoes will simply be turned into the safe surface for an inner-city basketball court.No matter how humble or noble an old shoe’s future turns out to be, it’s better than tossing it in the trash, don’t you think?