The world loves sneakers. How many of you have more than one pair? Sneakers help you do amazing things. Do you think Michael Jordan can jump that high without his Air Jordans? Even Superman had red sneakers to help him take off. Er. Maybe those were boots.
I love my sneakers and can’t live without them. I prefer them any day to regular shoes. Consequently, I wear mine out a lot. Actually my sneakers look a little shabby chic right now (short for pretty trashed.)
Let’s not forget our children. When my children were younger, I must have bought 2 to 3 pairs a year for them. When I was not so green, the salesman would always offer to take my old sneakers and dispose of them. I use to hand them over without thinking. Later, out of necessity, I started to keep the sneakers because my kids would always step in the biggest mud hole or puddle there was or play in the grass after a monsoon. Do you know any kids who do not like puddles or mud? Their shoes and socks would be soaking wet and they would be forced to wear their good shoes until their sneakers dried out.
A couple of years ago, my youngest started to outgrow all of his brothers’ old shoes. I thought it was a shame to throw out the shoes. They were not gently worn by any stretch of the imagination. More like trashed and soleless. (My kids take wearing out their sneakers as a serious sport.) At the same time I was pondering what to do with the old sneakers, I also had to find a religious school project for one of my children. Why not start recycling sneakers, I thought? Who would want worn out sneakers?
Right away,I found the Nike Re-use a Shoe program. I solved two problems with one solution since I could recycle the shoes, and at the same time my son could be in charge of collecting them. I figured he could relate to this project since he loved playgrounds.
When I started this program a couple of years ago, you could sign up with a recycling coordinator who was running the project. All you had to do was abide by their rules and collect sneakers except ones that had metal on them. Nike takes the recycled shoes and makes Nike Grind out of them. Nike partners with sports surfacing companies to incorporate the Grind into sports surface products such as basketball courts, tennis courts, and playground safety surfaces for children all over the world.
Since the program’s 1993 inception, Nike has saved over 20 million sneakers from being thrown in landfills, and created more than 250 sports surfaces as part of the Let Me Play, Nike’s global community investment program.
Of course, this project became mine and my husband’s. (Does this sound familiar to any of you??) I would collect the shoes at the elementary and middle schools and then my husband would drive them about a half an hour away to the central collection point. In this case, it was
Once I even received about 6 pair of shoes from a woman runner. She was given my name from the state coordinator and after we spoke she dropped them off at my house. She did not want to throw them away. I wish that others would have taken the time to search out who was collecting sneakers.
At the end of the year, my tiny district gave me at least 300 pairs of athletic shoes. When I went to re-new my application, I was told that the program was stopped and I would have to send my sneakers to Nike in
The cost to send 300 sneakers each year would have been very expensive. Therefore, I had to stop the program despite the parents at the schools asking for its continuation. I even sent an email to Nike protesting their discontinuation of the collection, but no one responded.
This summer, I had 14 pairs of sneakers that I had to recycle and did not have the heart to throw them out. I shelled out $25 and mailed them to Nike. Remember, my children shoes are not gently worn!
So, what is a parent or sneaker lover to do? Don’t despair. They are still collecting the sneakers but at their Nike store locations all over the world. I have been keeping a pile to take into NYC when we go in. At the time, this was the closest site for me. However, I noticed the other day that the outlet location in
There are restrictions as to what kind of sneakers they will take:
Athletic shoes only (any brand)
No shoes containing metal
No cleats or dress shoes
No wet or damp shoes
Just to give you an idea how this program benefits our youth, the company donated five basketball courts at the NORD facility in
Take to heart Nike’s slogan, “Worn Out, Play On.” By taking the time to collect our worn sneakers we can all make a difference in the lives of children all over the world, and reduce our impact on our landfills. Collecting and donating your sneakers, helps give those sneakers a second life that helps other children run and play.
Other sources for re-use for gently worn athletic shoes:
Note, even if these organizations do not have drop off locations in your area, call them to see if you can mail them your shoes.
Recycled runners list both international and domestic collections of gently used running shoes. If you need to restock new running shoes, this organization has partnered with Running.zappos.com. 50% of the proceeds are donated to the charity of the month.
Via Runner’s World:
One World Running has collected, washed and sent to
The Shoe Bank provides shoes for twenty thousand people every year – primarily children, both here and abroad. They collect the following: 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. (Based in Texas.)
Heart and Sole provides new and gently used shoes to the poorest of the world’s people. This program is run by Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Warren Striders Track Club, Inc. provides running shoes to local and area low/moderate income families who often are unable to purchase adequate running shoes for their children. (Based in
Sole Responsibility, A non-profit organization formed by a group of runners in
Project Shoe Assist:
Clarks and UNICEF Shoe Biz Appeal (
For additional sources, check out Tiny Choices’ article that includes international sources as well.
Salvation Army and Goodwill
Any thrift shop
Do you have any other suggestions of how to dispose of worn out or gently used athletic shoes?