How To Recycle Your Running Shoes
Instead of sending your shoes to landfill, use one of these recycling or reuse services
The running shoe industry is in the early stages of a sustainable revolution. Brands are more aware than ever that they need to do more, and most of them are now releasing shoes made at least partly with recycled materials. Allbirds takes it a step further by using sustainable, natural materials instead of synthetic petroleum-based, while the On Cloudneo stands apart as a completely recyclable running shoe that you send back to On to be remade into another shoe. Unfortunately, none of these shoes have been able to reach the levels of performance set by shoes made from virgin materials.
However, even if all the best running shoes become more sustainable in the future, that doesn’t change the fact that many runners are already sitting on piles of old shoes. Right now, the best way to be more sustainable is to make sure you look after your running shoes to get as much use out of them as possible and then recycle them.
In the UK, many recycling centres have dedicated bins for shoes, and if they are still in good condition you can also check if your local charity shops are accepting donations.
Running chain Runners Need also operates its Recycle My Run (opens in new tab) promotion at various points throughout the year. This is done in partnership with recycling service SOEX and arranges for your old shoes to be either sent to one of 90 countries to be used (if still wearable), or broken down into raw materials to be reused. As a bonus, you get a £20 voucher to put towards some new shoes at Runners Need.
You can also send your shoes to charity JogOn (opens in new tab) to be recycled, and it’s easy to do so thanks to an arrangement with SportsShoes.com and Evri that allows you to send a large box of shoes for just £2. JogOn will sort your old shoes and any that still have life in them will be sent on to partners around the world. JogOn’s primary aim is to keep one million pairs of shoes out of landfill by finding them a new home.
Some Nike stores across Europe and the US also accept old athletic shoes (of any brand) that the company will then recycle as part of its Nike Grind (opens in new tab) programme.
Two great charities in the US that will take your old, but still usable, running shoes are Soles4Souls (opens in new tab) and One World Running (opens in new tab). Soles4Souls will send your (gently worn) shoes to people in developing countries setting up small businesses selling the second-hand gear, while One World Running donates shoes to African countries, as well as military recruits in the US looking to get in shape before their training.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.