22 Creative Ways to Recycle Running Shoes

Check out these creative and environmentally-friendly ideas to recycle your running shoes.

At some point, you’ve probably thrown away an old pair of running shoes. However, keep in mind that it takes as much as an entire human lifetime for sneakers to decompose in landfills. Instead of tossing them out, what if you could give those athletic shoes a new purpose?

Let’s face it. We all need to do our part in helping the environment. Recycling your running shoes is a great way to kick off your eco-friendly habits! This post will walk you through several creative ways to recycle your sneakers:

  1. Our Favorite Way to Recycle Running Shoes
  2. Easy Ways to Recycle Running Shoes
  3. Ways to Recycle Running Shoes for Sports Teams
  4. Ideas for Recycling Running Shoes at Gyms
  5. Fun Running Shoe Recycling Ideas for Communities

However you decide to get rid of your old athletic shoes, make sure it’s eco-friendly. Someone else might need them, or you might find a useful way to repurpose them. In other words, don’t let them go to waste. Plus, nothing makes clearing clutter easier than knowing your sneakers are going to a good cause.

The easiest, most effective way to recycle running shoes is with a running shoe drive.

Our Favorite Way to Recycle Running Shoes

A running shoe drive fundraiser is a great way to recycle sneakers and can be coordinated with almost any event.Running Shoe Drive Fundraiser

Cost: FREE

A running shoe drive fundraiser can easily be coordinated with any event, but it’s also an effective standalone event. It’s great for raising funds for an organization and encouraging your community to work together. Also, it gives athletic shoes a new purpose instead of them ending up in a landfill.

When you partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds, hosting a running shoe drive is simple. Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: Collect gently worn, used and new running shoes.
  • Step 2: Place the collected pairs of sneakers in a prepaid shipping bag provided by Sneakers4Funds.
  • Step 3: Ship your bag (free of charge!) from the nearest UPS store.
  • Step 4: Within 48 hours of processing the running shoes, your check is mailed!

Chances are, you have old sneakers lying around that you haven’t worn in months just like everyone else. Make it a community effort, and host your own running shoe drive fundraiser. That way, perfectly good sneakers will have a new purpose and won’t go to waste.

For more information on recycling athletic shoes through a running shoe drive fundraiser, visit our donation guide.

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Recycling running shoes in an eco-friendly way can be simple if you use these creative ideas!

Easy Ways to Recycle Running Shoes

Recycling running shoes doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most ideas are fairly simple to execute. All it takes is a practical idea and a little planning, and you’ll be well on your way to making a positive impact on the environment.

Local retailers such as running shoe stores are great for setting up a donation bin for recycling running shoes.Partner with Local Running Stores

Cost: FREE

There’s no better place to host a running shoe drive fundraiser than a local running store. To get started, partner with your local athletic and sporting good retailers that sell running shoes. Ask them to help you collect unwanted sneakers from their customers.

Typically, running stores will agree to help out because they’re aware of social responsibility and how it impacts the business. Plus, all they’ll need to do is set up the bins and encourage visitors to bring in their gently worn, used and new athletic shoes. Since customers are looking to buy new sneakers, chances are, they’ll be more than willing to give away their current pair.

Don’t limit yourself, though. Other retailers may want to help out, too. For instance, check with local grocery stores and other businesses that have a lot of foot traffic or that cater to athletic audiences. Philanthropy is important to companies, and they want to build a positive image for their brand. You’ll never know if you never ask!

When you’re ready to replace your sneakers, recycle your running shoes by trading them with your friends.Host a Shoe Swap


Just because you’re tired of your old sneakers doesn’t mean someone else, even someone you know, doesn’t want them! Reach out to your friends and family and get as many people as possible to participate.

Once you have a decent amount of participants, have them gather their unwanted sneakers, regardless of condition. When everyone gets together, they can swap athletic shoes. Any that go unclaimed can be donated in a running shoe drive fundraiser. It’s a quick, easy way to rehome your old sneakers. Plus, it doesn’t take a whole lot of planning!

Creating a planter out of old sneakers is a creative, eco-friendly way to recycle your running shoes.Create Planters


Turning your sneakers into planters not only gives them a new purpose, but it’s great for the environment, too. Also, this works even for athletic shoes that have run their last mile. All you’ll need to do is:

  1. Disinfect them.
  2. Drill drainage holes.
  3. Add potting soil.
  4. Plant your flowers.

If you really want to get creative, buy some eco-friendly paint and decorate your new planters to make them eye-catching. Also, make sure to do regular maintenance such as watering your flowers and replacing the soil every so often.

Repairing or revamping sneakers is an easy, creative way to recycle your running shoes.Repair or Revamp Sneakers


Just because a running shoe is slightly torn, doesn’t mean you should render it useless. Instead of throwing them away, consider repairing the sneakers. There are many straightforward repair kits on the market that can help you fix a broken heel, worn soles, or even widen the size.

Alternatively, if your sneakers need a complete makeover, grab some eco-friendly paint or fabric markers and get to work! Get creative with your design and give those old running shoes a pop of color. Then, when they’re truly worn down, recycle them with one of the other creative ideas in this article.

If your sneakers are falling apart, donate the individual parts to recycle them and lessen your negative impact on the environment.Donate Running Shoe Parts

Cost: FREE

If your sneakers are falling apart, no worries! There are still ways to recycle them. While many programs repair old footwear to resell or donate to those in need, others will take unwearable sneakers and create new athletic shoes or new clothing items.

If your sneakers are still in wearable condition, look at other alternatives first. This could be anything from repurposing them yourself to giving them to a running shoe drive fundraiser. Whatever you do, make sure they don’t wind up in the garbage!

Check out these eco-friendly ideas to encourage your sports team to recycle their old athletic shoes.

Ways to Recycle Running Shoes for Sports Teams

Recycling running shoes doesn’t have to be a solo effort. Instead, get a whole team involved! Specifically, encourage local sports teams to recycle their gently worn, used and new sneakers by coordinating an athletic shoe drive fundraiser with the following events.

A league tournament is great for gathering local sports teams and encouraging them to recycle their athletic shoes.Host a League Tournament


If your team is part of a league (which it probably is), set up a league tournament and invite all the other groups. A tournament is a great way to spark a bit of competition while also giving back to the community. For entry, have attendees either pay a small fee or give you their gently worn, used and new running shoes.

Then, when the tournament wraps up, encourage participants to give away their athletic shoes. Let everyone know ahead of time, so they can bring a change of sneakers and won’t be left shoeless for the ride home.

To encourage participation in the tournament, offer a trophy or some other prize for the championship winner. You’ll want to sell concessions to thirsty and hungry fans, too. You’ll have a happy crowd, evoke competitive team spirit, and save the environment all at the same time.

Sports teams that have a partnership with a sporting goods store can encourage them to set up donation bins for recycling athletic shoes.]Make Use of Your Sporting Goods Partnership

Cost: FREE

Sports teams typically purchase their equipment from a local sporting goods store. Often, they’ll form an exclusive partnership with a specific retailer. Just like anyone can inquire about a running shoe drive fundraiser with their local running stores, teams can leverage their relationships with their equipment retailers.

Not only will the athletic shoe drive fundraiser earn an extra buck for your team in an eco-friendly way, but it will likely drive business to the store. Plus, growing companies are all about corporate social responsibility, a process that helps them develop a positive brand. To spread the word, team members can promote the fundraiser to family and friends, encouraging them to visit the business, make a purchase, and give away their gently worn, used and new athletic shoes.

Sports teams can host a field day and encourage participants to recycle their athletic shoes.Have a Field Day


Field days are another creative way to get your entire team involved in recycling running shoes. Also, they’re a great way to branch out to other sports, not just the one that team members are used to playing. If you can, use whatever sports equipment you already have, and host the event at your field or court. From there, coordinate an athletic shoe drive fundraiser, and have people bring their gently worn, used and new sneakers for entry.

Team members can either facilitate the games or participate. Either way, the team should have some input in what games are played. Then, when the day of fun and competitive challenges wraps up, remind participants to contribute any other running shoes they brought. They might even want to give away the ones they wore to the event, so let them know about this opportunity ahead of time.

You could limit it to just your team, but you should get the whole community involved. That way, you’ll receive the most running shoes possible and positively impact the environment even more.

As the season wraps up, encourage local sports teams to throw a celebration and recycle that season’s running shoes at the event.Throw an End-of-Season Celebration


The end of the season is probably the best time to encourage local sports teams to recycle their athletic shoes. Team members will want to get rid of that season’s sneakers and make room for a new pair in their closets. Keep in mind that different sports get played at different times of the year, so check in on local leagues’ schedules.

Depending on the time of the year, coaches can host a backyard BBQ, a pool party, bowling, and so on. Whatever it is, make sure to promote the running shoe drive fundraiser ahead of time actively. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with no sneakers to recycle.

Remember, recycling is always better than throwing them away and letting them end up in a landfill. Relay this information to the team, so they’ll be encouraged to donate that season’s sneakers.

A team bowling night is a great chance to collect and recycle running shoes.Host a Team Bowling Night


Your team may excel on the court or the field, but how good are their bowling skills? Spark a bit of competition between team members and supporters, and book your local bowling alley for the night. Since they’ll already have to take off their sneakers to change into bowling shoes, encourage participants to donate them to your athletic shoe drive fundraiser.

To promote the opportunity, take to social media, and have team and family members spread the word for you. Make sure to let everyone know that the team will be collecting running shoes at the event. That way, they’ll make sure to bring an extra pair to change into once the night comes to an end.

here are several ways for gyms to recycle athletic shoes.

Ideas for Recycling Running Shoes at Gyms

Active individuals usually spend a good bit of their time at the gym, wearing down their athletic shoes. If you’re a gym owner or want to see your local gyms do some good for the environment, check out these ways fitness centers can get involved with recycling running shoes.

Gyms can set up recycling bings to start recycling sneakersSet Up a Recycling Bin

Cost: FREE

Setting up a recycling bin is probably the easiest way to promote the repurposing of running shoes with minimal effort on your end. Instead of relying on local retailers, you can use your own floor space to host the eco-friendly initiative.

All you need to do is partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds, set up a bin in a prominent place (like by the front door), and watch the athletic shoes roll in! As gym members show up, check-in staff can point out the bin and let them know about recycling their gently worn, used and new sneakers. As avid exercisers, they’ll likely have an extra pair or two they don’t need anymore.

Gyms that host road races can encourage participants to recycle their running shoes and even offer a pair as an entry.Host a Road Race


For your gym’s next road race, you can choose anything from a walkathon to a marathon. Take your audience into account when deciding distance and theme. You can either accept sneakers as an entry fee or accept them throughout the race. Also, have enthusiastic volunteers collect them throughout the race. That way, participants and bystanders can donate whenever they can.

Encourage your gym members and the community to participate. The more, the merrier! Like all events with a running shoe drive fundraiser, make sure to promote the recycling opportunity actively. That way, you’ll increase your healthy impact on the environment.

For creative theme ideas for your race, visit our essential walkathon fundraiser ideas guide.

Gym employees can encourage participants to donate and recycle their athletic shoes after completing a muddy obstacle course.Host an Obstacle Course or Mud Run


Your gym members will jump at the opportunity to test their strength with an innovative obstacle course or mud run. It’s a great way to exercise while also having a blast with the whole community. You can include obstacles like:

  • A mud pit
  • A rope climb
  • Monkey bars
  • A muddy inflatable slide

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Plus, Sneakers4Funds has a unique process for collecting athletic shoes after mud runs. They’ll provide you with everything you need, even a hose nozzle to spray off the mud and a special mesh bag for gathering muddy sneakers. Participants likely won’t want to clean their running shoes after the race, so make sure to promote your running shoe drive fundraiser ahead of time actively.

A chalk or paint run represents a great opportunity for gym owners to encourage participants to recycle their running shoes.Have a Paint Run


A paint run is slightly less dirty than a mud run but is just as fun. People will most likely wear running shoes that they’re willing to part with but that are still in good enough condition to wear to a race. Purchase a ton of non-toxic, eco-friendly paint or powdered chalk, and start promoting the event!

No matter how athletic they may or may not be, your gym members will love exercising while splattering paint at one another. Plus, they’ll feel great knowing they’re benefiting the environment by donating their sneakers, too. Just make sure to announce the drive ahead of time so that runners bring a change of athletic shoes.

A dance-a-thon is fun for the whole community, and at the event, gym employees can promote recycling athletic shoes.Host a Dance-a-thon


Ready, set, dance! What better way is there to have a blast exercising than by dancing? Also, you won’t have to worry about a venue since you can use your gym.

Have your employees choose a theme, and encourage everyone to dress up. Make sure to decide whether it’ll be for a set time frame or if people will dance for as long as possible. Then, see if attendees or employees are willing to donate decorations or lights for the dance-a-thon. Get creative and have fun!

Plus, after dancing nonstop for several hours, participants will want to get out of their athletic shoes and stretch out their sore feet. Then, you can encourage them to donate their gently worn, used and new sneakers to your running shoe drive fundraiser. Make sure to leverage the idea that it’s environmentally-friendly. That way, they’ll be motivated to donate!

nvolving the whole community in your efforts to recycle running shoes will have an even stronger impact on the environment.

Fun Running Shoe Recycling Ideas for Communities

When you expand your efforts to include the whole community, you multiply your potential impact on the environment. To promote recycling sneakers to your entire town (or even just your neighborhood), try these useful ideas.

Through door-to-door campaigning, you take the sneaker recycling opportunity straight to your community.Do Door-to-Door Campaigning


The most straightforward way to get the community involved in your recycling efforts is with some good, old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning. Recruit an enthusiastic team, assign them to various neighborhoods, and have them knock on doors asking for gently worn, used and new sneakers.

Chances are, people will probably know exactly what pairs with which they’d like to part. That way, you’ll be asking them directly and not encouraging them to leave the comfort of their own homes. Because of this, your team will likely receive more donations than if you were to coordinate the running shoe drive fundraiser with an event.

A craft fair showcases local talent while it also serves as a great opportunity to collect and recycle sneakers.Have a Craft Fair


Encourage community members to show off their talent at a local craft fair. Before the event, purchase tents, tables, and a venue, or ask for generous supporters to donate these. Then, if these expenses had to come out-of-pocket, ask local artists to pay a fee to set up at the fair to sell their crafts. Depending on the price you charge, the balances should at least offset each other.

Coordinate your running shoe drive fundraiser with the art fair, and make sure to promote the opportunity in advance. Have volunteers near donation bins at the event, or have them walk around asking attendees if they brought gently worn, used or new athletic shoes to donate.

Charge a pair of athletic shoes as an entry for your community relay bike ride.Host a Relay Bike Ride

Cost: FREE

A relay bike ride is a great way to bring the community together while also burning a few extra calories. Have participants contribute a pair of athletic shoes for entry, or have them bring an extra pair along to give away at any point.

They’ll probably want to stretch out their feet after riding several miles, so take the opportunity to collect their sneakers. Remember to let them know how their contribution can positively impact the environment.

Also, make sure to map out the path and have volunteers direct the bicyclists on the day of the event. As with any activity, spread the word about the relay and the running shoe drive fundraiser well in advance. On any promotional materials, include the necessary details (i.e., date, time, location, etc.) as well as the map and distance. Make sure to advertise the eco-friendliness of the entire event, too.

Post on community message boards to find a local home for your sneakers.Post on Community Message Boards


If you want to keep your unwanted sneakers within the community, find a local recipient. Take to message boards either digitally or physically. While local Facebook pages can reach a decently sized audience, so can message boards around town or at the community center. Include a picture, contact information, and any other relevant details.

Chances are, you’ll find a new home for them, but if you don’t, you can always donate them! The point is, avoid throwing your unwanted sneakers out if you can help it, which you probably can. That way, they won’t wind up slowly decaying in a landfill.

Evoke a competitive spirit in your community by hosting a fitness challenge and encouraging participants to recycle their running shoes.Have a Community Fitness Challenge


Community fitness challenges can be almost anything! The only limit is your imagination. Consider hosting:

  • A jump rope competition
  • A rope climbing competition
  • A jumping jack challenge
  • A timed obstacle course

The goal can be to have fun, or you can form teams to compete against one another. If someone was kind enough to donate a venue, you could charge a pair of running shoes as the entry. That way, everyone’s having fun and saving the environment all at once.

Encourage others to recycle running shoes by setting up a donation bin at the community center.]Set Up a Donation Bin at the Community Center

Cost: FREE

If you don’t have free time to rally up a door-to-door campaign team, try setting up a donation bin at the community center. Alternatively, set up bins at your local farmer’s market. You can also create flyers to promote the opportunity and post them on bulletin boards around town. Make sure to advertise the eco-friendliness of the project!

When you set up a stationary spot for the running shoe donations, people can come and go as they please, ensuring you receive the most contributions as possible. Whatever location you choose, make sure there’s a decent bit of foot traffic and rely on your family and friends to spread the word to the community.

Learn more about recycling running shoes in creative, eco-friendly ways with these other articles.

Additional resources for recycling running shoes

Check out these walkathon ideas that serve as great opportunities to gather and recycle running shoes.

21 Essential Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Every Cause. Not only do walkathons make great fundraisers, but they’re also great for hosting an eco-friendly running shoe drive fundraiser. Take a look at these theme ideas to appeal to your whole community.

Read More

Learn more about recycling running shoes with this comprehensive guide on athletic shoe drive fundraisers.

Donate Running Shoes: The Step-by-Step Guide. Learn the major reasons to host your own running shoe drive fundraiser and how to get started making a positive impact in your community.

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5Ks are a creative way to gather and recycle running shoes, so look into these creative fundraising ideas.

21 Awesome 5K Fundraiser Ideas for All Organizations. Need ideas for your next road race fundraiser? Check out these engaging ideas that are sure to get the whole community involved in your recycling efforts!

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